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Well, it’s time for me to ride off into the sunset and bid you all a grand fare-thee-well. Actually, more appropriately, it’s time for me to hunker down against the pelting rain, lean into the wind, and ride into my garage where I’ll winterize the bike. And to do this, I’ll have to put the pen down.

Yes, my friends, it’s the seasonal farewell.

For my last column, I’ll write what really should have been the first column. Here you have it, the immaculate conception of this column’s creation.

On March 8, I was driving back to Victoria after a meeting in Nanaimo. As I went through an intersection near Cobble Hill, my husband and I saw a downed motorcycle. It was trashed, crumpled like tinfoil. There was another car off to the side, and the police.

Not yet knowing the details, I remember very vividly thinking that two lives were seriously affected that day: the rider, and the driver of the vehicle.

It harkened back to the days of my youth, where I was good friends with a fellow named Chris. A handsome, athletic jock whose fatal flaw lay in the belief of his own immortality. He rode a motorbike. And one crisp fall morning — in the wee hours, after a few drinks — he hopped on his bike to dash home. Turning left, he hit a patch of black ice and slid right under the wheels of an oncoming car. Two lives were seriously affected that day, too. There was nothing the driver of the car could do. And wish though he may, Chris could not undo the series of bad decisions that led him to that black ice at 2 a.m. that bleak Saturday. He survived, but had to trade in his hockey skates for a wheelchair.

Later, I learned that the 50-year-old rider in the Cobble Hill accident did not survive. Sandra Patricia Hunter, mother, grandmother and woman extraordinaire, died as a result of what I saw that day on the highway.

Then, on May 11, a single-vehicle motorcycle accident claimed the life of a 50-year-old Colwood man. And on May 15, Richard Parsons of Coquitlam died when his motorcycle collided with a truck.

There are the anecdotes, and then there are the stark statistics. Between 2000 and 2007 there were 286 motorcycle-related deaths (roughly averaging 40 per year) in B.C. In 2008, that number rose to 47 deaths. In 2009, there were 49. The increasing trend is frightening.

Our mild climate and burgeoning population are both contributing factors. The ridership numbers are growing. In 2004 there were about 60,000 motorcycles insured; in 2008 there were about 94,000.

And here’s the kicker: It’s not the young crotch-rocket riders who are madly engaged in this motorcycle-purchasing frenzy; it’s us middle-aged folk. Remember the three most dangerous words in the English language? I know that. It’s those of us who assume we can ride, it’s those who were once tested anywhere from 15 to 50 years ago when we first got our licences, it’s those of us who think we know everything we need to know about being safe.

Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, the main contributors are not speed, intersections and alcohol. Today, the primary cause of accidents and fatalities is driver inattention, followed by failure to yield right-of-way, driver confusion resulting in error, improper turning and following too closely.

ICBC is responding by tightening the guidelines for new riders (graduated licensing, and zero-tolerance blood-alcohol policies), but these responses in no way parallel the causes of accidents and deaths. ICBC is focusing on the ancient belief that motorcycle accidents are more common among young riders. Sadly, it’s a new middle-age spread: The deaths are starting to spread out more evenly to all ages.

I had choices: I could rack my brain from my motorcycle instructor years, cobble together a few words and call it a column; or, I could strike a Thinker-ly pose and continue to contemplate. Thinking is good; doing is better. I pitched my idea to the Times Colonist. They accepted and, to the delight of some and dismay of others, the rest is history.

Over the past 18 weeks, I’ve offended some and enlightened others. Some of you have emailed me privately to express your sentiments. And unless your email got lost in my spam folder, I’ve responded to each and every one of you.

I’m proud to say that the readership of this column (whether you agreed with me or not) is generally smart, articulate and passionate about riding. I’m honoured that you have invited my well-meaning rants into your homes for the past 18 Fridays.

Look for me next spring. If you miss me, Google me. Or, better yet, buy my book, The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman. Then you can have me at your bedside.

And while you’re cruising in your cars this winter, remember to drive like a rider: Make complicated shoulder checks, keep your distance and swallow your road rage. My final words of advice: Enjoy the day. Motorcycle Safely. Strive to make a difference. Act on what you believe in. Wave.


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One Response to “Motorcycle safety column created to save lives”

  1. on 11 Feb 2011 at 5:15 pmB. D.

    Response received by email


    Hi Britt,

    I have read your column every Friday since it started. Old dogs can always learn new tricks, so they say.

    My father was a motorcycle courier at the beginning of WW II. A few weeks before he was to be shipped overseas, he was riding from Naden to the army base at UVic by way of a shortcut over Mt. Tolmie. His brakes failed on the way down and as a result of his two broken legs, never went overseas. When we were kids growing up, there were always Nortons, BSAs and Triumphs around belonging to friends and relatives. I guess you could say riding was in my jeans, or is that ‘genes’.

    I stopped riding about 30+ years ago but last spring, after watching many people out cruising on a weekend, I decided it would be fun to get on a bike again. I was 61 years old and realized traffic had changed dramatically over the years. So I searched for a motorcycle training school that taught hazard avoidance, group riding and riding in all types of weather conditions. I narrowed it down to Saferway and Pro-line in Nanaimo. Because I live in Duncan, it was quicker for me to go north. I completed the 4 day course, did my skills test and booked a road test with ICBC. My road test was a Friday afternoon, 4-5pm and of course, my luck, blowing rain, wind and heavy traffic. I passed, missing only a couple of shoulder checks.

    I’ve had 2 great summers on my cruiser. No, not a Harley, a candy apple red Yamaha Classic with some chrome add-ons and highway lites. It’s VERY shiny, very visible (I hope) and suits me just fine. I like winding country roads, not blasting down the highway. I just put it away for winter. Hopefully spring is just around the corner.

    I enjoy your column very much and look forward to it coming back in the spring. I honestly believe that ANYONE who wants to get on a bike MUST take a course. Over the last two summers I have had deer jump in front of me, cars turn left in front of me, debris on the road, people changing lanes without looking, etc. but the lessons I learned from my course and your column, have saved me from injury many times over. As my instructors said, ”Keep your eyes open for the things up ahead that may harm you. And don’t forget your shoulder checks !”

    And, of course, make sure you wave to other bikers.


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