Right Concept, Wrong Mission

An April BRC class included a seriously handicapped rider. For testing purposes, she, of course, chose to ride a scooter, although her already-purchased motorcycle was (big surprise) a large Harley with some kind of automatic transmission modification. There are two places in the BRC license test where students can lose 5 points (each) for not using both brakes. This student would lose a total of 10 points (out of a maximum 21) if she were evaluated like the other students. Physically being unable to control a motorcycle due to a variety of mental (like ADHD) and physical (like obesity) handicaps appears to be a root cause for large portion of motorcycle crashes. You might mistake both the MSF’s “safety training” or the DMV’s licensing testing as an attempt to minimize crashes and fatalities, but you’d be unobservant and politically-clueless if that were your conclusion.

When I asked MMSC management for advice on how to score this student’s evaluation, one comment was “in the spirit of trying to help someone overcome a disability I would say no deduct for not using one hand brake.” The advice from other management and coaching sources was similar. In the end, it didn’t matter. While this student was barely more than handgrip fringe for most of the class, she managed to only collect a few points during the evaluation. Scored either way, she’d have passed the state’s test. There were two other students in that particular course who were less in control of their motorcycles than our handicapped student and they passed, too. I was the license examiner, so if anyone gets blamed for not scoring hard enough it would be me.

The fact that 90% of our licensing system is designed to put butts on motorcycle seats will, sooner or later, be the reason I quit teaching motorcycle safety classes. I do not believe my mission is to “help someone overcome a disability,” regardless of that disability. I do not believe that ADHD, obese, or otherwise physically handicapped people belong on motorcycles on public streets. If that is insensitive, remember that I often repeat the mantra, “Life is hard, then you die. Get over yourself.”

A motorcycle is a fairly effective way to commit suicide, but I don’t feel compelled to be a suicide-pilot-trainer. My motorcycle safety mission, as I see it, is to help potential motorcyclists save some time in learning critical lessons about riding; tactically and physically. The more critical part of my mission is to help people who have no business being on a motorcycle realize that fact before they are killed or injured. I have never encouraged a friend, family member, or anyone I care about to become a motorcyclist. If you are not driven to ride, you should avoid both riding and being a passenger. You are thousands of times more likely to be injured on a motorcycles than on any other means of transportation, including bicycles, so don’t do it unless you don’t have a choice.

In other words, If you can think of a better way to get from point A to B than by riding your motorcycle, you should do it. I write because I don’t have a choice, as Menken said “For the same reasons cows give milk.” I ride a motorcycle because there are times when I can’t see myself going anywhere unless I get to ride my motorcycle there. I play guitar, sing, and listen to music because it is part of who I am. None of those things are necessary to 90% of the population and that’s fine with me. It is not my job to help you find your passions, but as a motorcycle instructor it is (in my opinion) my job to help you discover how passionate you are about risking your life on a motorcycle.

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