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Common Tread

Adopt a rider

Jun 19, 2018

I can’t be the only one doing this. Maybe you’ve already tried it yourself. Next time you’re behind the wheel, consider adopting a motorcyclist.

In addition to being attractive, fun-loving folk, it’s no secret that motorcyclists are also ignored, mistreated, and endangered. So what can you do about it? In the United States, it's unlikely that your motorcycle is your only mode of transportation. That doesn't mean you stop being a motorcyclist when you're driving a car, though. Your license still has that "M" on it, right? Help out the moto community and put the best possible driver (that’s you!) behind a motorcycle in traffic. For just your attention and maybe a lane change, you can adopt a motorcyclist.

Why behind? Driving ahead of a motorcyclist means you can’t really see your newly adopted friend well and you can’t do much to help, either, besides using your turn signals and not slamming on the brakes, which is actually just called basic driving. Likewise, you can’t do much from the side except “not commit reckless or criminal acts in traffic.” Driving like a reasonable person is appreciated by motorcyclists, but covering their six is really where it’s at.

Think about it: Even the most aware street rider can’t know for sure what kind of driver’s on her tail. Is he tired? Distracted? Texting? Lost? Drunk? Some combination of all five after a strange and terrible morning? All the "WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLES" stickers in the world aren’t going to make a difference to that guy, so get out there and watch them yourself.

Riding behind your adoptee means you see the motorcycle in your normal field of vision without having to look somewhere you’re not supposed to. Also, you two share problems. A car that moves to cut her off should be on your radar as well. But which of you has the louder horn?

A few pointers: Don’t be creepy. Please, don't be creepy. Don’t endanger yourself to “protect” a vehicle that’s faster and more maneuverable than you. Don’t expect any sign of gratitude in exchange for not crashing into a motorcyclist. If you’re even thinking of texting/drinking/sleeping/putting your Tesla on autopilot and climbing into the passenger seat, pull over and reconsider your life.

I followed a fellow Zillan when we left the office one day last week, not just so he could ride knowing the driver behind him wasn't eyeballs-deep in social media, but also because his Street Triple has a great exhaust note (unintentional LPSL?). Did the thankless jerk abandon me the moment an opening appeared in a faster, adjacent lane of traffic? You bet. But for some of his commute, a very slight change on my part gave him more peace of mind about his surroundings.

So, next time you see a bumperless, impact zone-deprived little creature, uniquely delicate on two wheels, crank up some Sarah McLachlan and adopt the little guy or gal. You're guaranteed to get the good-deed warm fuzzies, and you just might save a life.