Jul 3, 2019

Seven Dead in New Hampshire

A motorcycle group called "Jarheads MC" ended up in a group crash that killed seven members and injured several others. A friend called to ask for my take on the crash. I don't watch much news these days, the news is always depressing and increasingly stupid, so I just wander through the tail end of my life singing a Steely Dan song, "Any World I'm Welcome To." While we talked, I checked out the news on the web. I know I was supposed to be feeling compassion for "fellow motorcyclists," but the news report didn't generate much of that from me. I have phased from ambivalence-to-numb regarding the dumb stuff that happens to bikers decades ago. (Motorcyclists are different and I do still care about stuff that happens to them.)

One of my least favorite gigs when I was teaching "motorcycle safety" classes (which especially deserves the quote hint in this situation) was trying to run an Experienced Rider Course with a pack of bikers. There would typically be 11 bikers on 11 totally illegal hippobikes with, at best, one or two competent riders in the group and four or five totally incompetent bikers and the rest in-between but closer to incompetent than competent. And every one of those hippobikes made as much noise as a 1940's farm tractor without a muffler of any sort. The worse the rider, the louder the pipes. The level of entitlement and foolishness from the group would just reek, "I am a member of a gang and we're scary. I need loud pipes on my bike to warn you that an incompetent fool is sharing the road with you. Take care of me because I can't take care of myself." The worst-of-the-worst for this kind of course would be a gang of "law enforcement officers," who would not only be lousy riders on illegal bikes but the most arrogant, entitled folks on the planet. Nothing tops a cop who is also a military veteran for someone who believes the world owes him fear disguised as "respect." Regardless of the make-up of the group, they too often all brought their required helmets strapped to the bike seat or in a saddlebag, just to make sure the instructors knew they didn't believe in that shit. So, when I hear one of the many stories of biker gangs getting involved in one more multi-vehicle pile-up, I'm not surprised, shocked, outraged, or even particularly interested. These are the people who overwhelmingly make up the 30-40% of all motorcycle fatalities that are single vehicle crashes.

In one report of the crash, a relative of one of the dead bikers said of the truck driver, "As long as he pays a price. He has caused lot of harm to a lot of families. If has a problem, he shouldn't be on the road. If he is a bad actor, he doesn't belong on the street. He caused enough of a tragedy. Enough is enough." I wish that rule were applied to motorcyclists. "Enough is enough." It's time motorcyclists were required to take responsibility for their lousy driving habits and the total criminal irresponsibility of pirate parades.

As usual, the cops are confused and irrational. “The pickup driver, Volodoymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, an employee of a Springfield, Massachusetts, trucking company, was not seriously hurt. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating, said he was interviewed at the scene by police and allowed to return to Massachusetts.” First they sent the truck driver home after taking his information, then they drove to his home and arrested him on a "fugitive from justice" charge, then released him again. Nothing like muddying the waters of an already dumbed-down American media machine and the Marching Moron public. Bikers are riled up and the tiny portion of the American public who can think are wondering what really happened and if anyone will ever know.

I think it's safe to assume the eye witness reports from the bikers will be useless. Most likely, they didn't have a view of what happened, due to their concentration on riding within reach of each other, so anything that happens seems like an unavoidable hole opening in the earth. A surviving rider said, “It was just an explosion . . . with parts and Al and everything flying through the air. He turned hard left into us and took out pretty much everyone behind me. The truck and trailer stayed attached and that is why it was so devastating . . . because the trailer was attached and it was such a big trailer, it was like a whip. It just cleaned us out.” If that’s true, it sounds like 1) the truck driver was passing after the first bike or two went by and plowed into the middle of the group or 2) turning at an intersection not realizing the oncoming traffic was moving so fast or 3) fooling with his cell phone or some other distraction and wandered into the opposite lane and panicked. In the picture above, the road is pretty clearly marked as a no-passing zone.

An uncle of one of the riders said, ‘‘The truck was coming in the opposite direction. It’s hard to figure how he could hit 10 motorcycles without getting out of the way.” Obviously, the bikers were following way too close for safety. What else would they be doing. That rolling bowling pin crap is one of many reasons to stay away from group rides, especially pirate parades. I hate to think the uncle was wondering how a truck pulling a trailer could have avoided 7 bikers. The real question is how did 7 motorcycles end up tangled together by one truck? Motorcycles only have one practical defense in all traffic situations; maneuverability. Hippobikes, of course, are not real motorcycles and are really just suicide machines looking for a place to happen. So, it's not hard to figure how 7+ motorcycles couldn't find a way to get out of the way. Their typical reaction is to scream, panic, and fall over (that's "I had to lay 'er down" translated to plain English).

There are some curious aspects to the biker group, though. Only one of the fatalities was over 60. That's depressing. I keep hoping that younger people will learn from my braindead generation's many mistakes and stay away from Hardlys and the incompetent biker crowd. There is nothing that I like about motorcycle packs, peaceful or otherwise. They are “rolling bowling pins” and this truck driver almost got a ten pin strike. I have had a strong opinion about lines and biker parades for all of my life. I want to feel more compassion for these folks, but it mostly affects me like reading about a group of climbers getting killed free-climbing Yosemite's El Capitan; except without the admiration for the climbers' courage and physical skills. I guess this is more like hearing a bunch of young fat people  whine about their diabetes, physical disabilities, and likely premature death while gorging themselves on McDonalds Fatty Meals: what did you think was going to happen?

6 comments:

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