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Motorcycle and Automobile Safety

January 26, 1988

I opened my newspaper this morning and Al Martinez reached out and slapped my face.

I would never have believed it of him. He is, after all, one of my favorite writers. His column of Dec. 10, however, has finally stirred me to write and complain about The Times' outrageous bias against motorcyclists.

The Times seems to be able to report any motorcycle racing fatality no matter where in the world it occurs and, at the same time, unable to cover local motorcycling events . . . even ones such as the Laguna Seca Grand Prix and the Super Bowl of Motocross, which are of enough importance to be reported internationally. Your sports page seems to give more coverage to under-6-foot basketball than it does to motorcycle racing. The name of the Los Angeles Times has become a bitter joke at race tracks all over California. This is not just my opinion. Recently, when The Times published an article on motorcycling which was not openly hostile, the motorcycle press treated it as news.

Al Martinez characterizes motorcycles as dangerous. I must ask to whom? Yes, the operator of a motorcycle will most likely suffer more than an automobile driver would if he makes a mistake and crashes into a car or a house, but this danger is mostly to the operator. This is a fact most riders realize. The automobile driver, insulated from danger by a steel cage, is far more dangerous to the unlucky innocent bystanders he crashes into than any motorcyclist could be.

According to the Safety Helmet Council of America, 46% of all motorcycle accidents are caused by collision with another vehicle, and, according to the Hurt Report, the greatest single cause of motorcycle fatalities is automobile drivers who illegally turn left in front of oncoming motorcyclists. Where are the articles deploring this?

Admittedly, there are too many motorcyclists who drive without concern for conditions; there are too many riders who drink and ride; and there are far too many "organ donors" who ride without helmets. But isn't it better to have these people go out and kill themselves on small lightweight motorcycles, if that is to be their fate, than to have them kill themselves and others when they lose control of a big heavy car on some mountain highway, or perhaps in front of your house? Maybe if more of these riders knew about the local racing programs of the AFM and the ARRA, they would take their sport riding to the race track, but if The Times is the sole source of their information, they will never discover these programs.

I have been riding motorcycles as my main form of transportation, rain or shine, for 13 years. In that time, I have seen you support motorcycle helmet laws and periodically report that the police have decided to write more tickets for motorcyclists to remind them about traffic safety. I find it hard to understand how writing me another ticket will prevent a drunk from crashing his car into my motorcycle, and a helmet law would do nothing for me because I wouldn't ride helmetless if bare-headed riding were mandatory.

I would like to see The Times take a stand for motorcycle safety. I would like to see The Times come out for stricter licensing requirements before a person is allowed to drive a ton and a half of hard steel down the road. No measure could do more for motorcycle safety than one which would remove even a few of the bad automobile drivers from the roads.


North Hollywood

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