Discourse, it can seem, is dead.
I feel that the people most interested in doling out opinions are pretty resistant to considering differing viewpoints. Even Common Tread, regretfully, is not immune to this, even with topics as benign as motorcycle stuff. There’s a pretty wide variety of opinion to be heard regarding safety, crime, and responsibility in the motorcycling subculture. Subjects like lanesplitting and helmet use seem to evoke heated opinions — along with plenty of prescriptive advice.
All of this has led me to spend some time thinking about a question that keeps coming to my mind: Why do some criminal acts elicit harsh words from total strangers, but others receive no comment at all, or perhaps even a humorous or positive response?
I’m not promoting outlaw behavior, nor am I asking forgiveness. Instead, I’m asking you to consider how many of the following laws you find yourself violating. Then, the next time you say that the law ought to come down on a fellow motorcyclist for doing something you don't approve of, maybe do some soul searching, and, if possible, try to pardon the other rider, even if he’s doing things a bit differently than you would.
There are about a million ways to commit a crime on a motorcycle, even when operating it well within the abilities of the motorcycle. Gross speeding and reckless driving are common enough that it’s nearly laughable to most riders. There are many areas where pacing traffic will put you a cool 30 mph or greater over the speed limit.
Ever pass on a double yellow behind that car that’s moving slowly? That’s verboten in most places. And if you’ve ever gotten a little throttle-happy and lofted the front wheel, you could very well be preparing for a dip into some seriously hot water. Some of you may recall musician Meek Mill got popped for felony reckless endangerment charges last year for performing a wheelstand in New York. Felony. Felony.
Skid stops and stoppies might fall into the more extreme realm of offenses one can commit while operating a motor vehicle, but they’re also commonplace and easily executed acts for some. Have you ever really thought about the ticket that could potentially come from jumping off a curb or riding up onto the sidewalk to park your bike in the city?
Beyond riding, let’s look to our machinery itself. What’s legal for some bikes in some places won’t fly at all in others. Plenty of states have apehanger laws. Do you run your license plate vertically, or perhaps in front of your rear wheel? Did you install smaller non-DOT-approved turn signals, or a tail-tidy kit that maybe doesn’t have a license plate light on it? How about that exhaust, bud? And you wouldn’t ever defeat an emissions device, would you now?
And of course, not having a helmet on your noggin could be either completely legal or earn you jail time, depending on where you’re riding. One could ride with no lid in Pennsylvania, but the same PPE (or, more accurately, lack thereof) just across the New York line is punishable by a month in the slammer.
One of my friends is a cop. He’s ridden a motorcycle as long as I’ve known him, but he does not have a motorcycle license. A cop. In some places, that’s a misdemeanor that can result in fines or jail time. If you ride off-road, you might have found yourself on a dirt bike (unplated, of course) crossing a road to connect a trail. That’s not allowable in a lot of places. And maybe I know a rider or two with some restamped cases. Sure, maybe they were stolen when Ike was in office, but still… they’re hinky, the owners know they’re hinky, and they run ‘em anyway. That starts getting back into that felony arena.
Insurance is similar — run your bike into a car on the street without insurance and you’ll be looking at some stiff penalties. Lapsed registration forgotten from the previous season, and “lickit ‘n’ stickit” inspections all are sins you may have found yourself committing, the severity of which could be debatable.
Be a good citizen for the sake of others
I’m not suggesting you change your ways, nor am I telling you to tolerate inappropriate behavior from others. I am simply hoping that seeing yourself in one or more of the given scenarios will help you be lenient in your judgment and dealings with fellow riders. It’s perfectly plausible to treat others making different decisions with a little respect and permissiveness, while still leading by your own example, as Lance has suggested in the past.
An open mind usually works better than a hard head.