Today is ride your motorcycle to work day. The annual ride is scheduled worldwide on the 3rd Monday of June. The goal is to create awareness, whether to the public or government entities, of the positives of riding a scooter or motorcycle. Whether it is fuel efficiency, less space required for parking, safety, etc. But, after 25 years, is it working?
When it comes to “awareness,” I consider myself an expert. I started a motorcycle riding group called M.S.A.R. (Motorcycle Safety & Awareness Riders, but I will be changing the name to M.A.R.S. which is Motorcycle Awareness & Rider Safety). You can find my group under the group page section on Facebook. The goal was simple enough: to create awareness of motorcycles and toughen the laws regarding texting/driving. How effective was I in reaching my goals?
Well, I started with several motorcycle rides to create awareness. Our biggest ride was 177 motorcycles, 7 cars, and one 18 wheeler. First, it started with disagreements and egos within the group of people I assembled to get this done. It got nasty when one of them didn’t want “colors” as part of the ride. I said no problem. You tell them, especially the Vets. I have always been friendly and have relationships with the clubs because I am a believer that we share a common bond and unfortunately, the same issues as independents when we ride. For this ride, we had independents, riding groups, motorcycle clubs and law enforcement motorcycle clubs riding side-by-side. To avoid further bickering, from then on forward, I went solo, just the way I like it.
The ride was scheduled to end at Chester’s Harley Davidson motorcycle dealer, now known as Alligator Alley Harley Davidson. They blew me off the day before at a scheduled meeting which is part of the problem. Safety isn’t sexy. It doesn’t sell. Of course, when I showed up with 177 bikers, I got their attention. In return, I blew them off. Respect is earned.
From there, I reached out to a senator that knew of me as his constituents had good things to say about me as an attorney. He already knew about the rides as it made an impact in Miami and it was all over social media and the news, so he was on-board. Of course, the funny thing is I will never forget when he said this would be difficult with a Republican house/senate since Republicans as a general rule do not like restrictions (he is a Republican). It’s always political isn’t?
Fine I replied, “until their child gets killed by someone texting.” Unfortunately, tragedy is always a great way to get things done in bi-partisan politics. So we started working together, only to have an incredibly weak law pass in Florida before we were done which makes texting only a secondary offense, with no points issued against your license.
It wasn’t even a driving distracted law which gives it more teeth. Basically, if you want to do your taxes, blow dry your hair, or make a sandwich while driving, you’re good. Just don’t text while committing another infraction, as texting alone is not enough for a traffic citation. Well, the good senator called me and said our goals are dead. It will be years before we can pick this up again.
As a result, I focused on giving motorcycle riders free advanced motorcycle riding classes. I tried to become certified, but the powers that be did not want someone giving out free lessons since that is their bread/butter. That would be like a McDonald’s opening up across the street from another McDonald’s.
So now I’m not certified but I still give out free lessons and trust me, I ride as well as anyone else. The next problem I encountered was everyone thinks they know how to ride already, so those interested in classes were far/few in-between. Others are terrified of dropping their bikes, or worse, their ego being injured. For me, it’s simple: if you ain’t scraping the floor boards, then you ain’t riding. We’ll leave 18 foot circles for another day. So what’s next?
The reality is without strict laws on the books that law enforcement is willing to enforce, we will continue to face this situation. Awareness is fine, but that is only one step of many. You don’t curb behavior simply with an awareness campaign. Look at M.A.D.D. (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving). It was a combination of public education, stricter laws and enforcement. Without that, we just have rides.
By the way, June in south Florida is no time to ride. If it is not 90 degrees before 10 a.m. with 80% percent humidity, then there is a strong storm passing through just like right now as I write this sentence. Not to mention regardless of the time of year, I have to dress up for work, so I could never ride to work.
Be safe and take care of yourselves.
For more information on ride to work, click ridetowork.org.