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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Brother's Keeper.- the incident in New York

By now we should have seen the video of the attack on an SUV driver in New York by a gang of motorcyclists.  As of my writing this one of them has been charged, another had the charges dropped against him and the investigation is ongoing.  One of them claimed that the SUV driver was acting like a manic.  In the end we have three hurt motorcyclists - one of them critically - and a badly beaten SUV driver.

The truth of the matter is that we may never know exactly what happened.  News reports state there is a 9-11 call to dispatchers to report motorcyclists driving erratically.  One of them in the video does clearly cut in front of the SUV and appear to slow down dangerously.  What happened before that I don't know.  Why would he act that way?

The driver supposedly did stop after accidentally hitting one of them but then feared for his life afterward, being surround as he was by pissed off bikers.  Many of whom supposedly slashed the tires and attacked the SUV.  Frankly I don't blame him for being afraid.  Nor do I blame many of the bikers for chasing after the diver after he clearly run over a bike badly injuring another biker (who is still in the hospital at the time of this article).  Truthfully if I felt threatened and my wife and 2-year old child where in the car...I might have done the same thing.

Sadly by the time all this comes to a conclusion the public will have moved on and all that will be left is the video of "crazy bikers."

Images matter.  I have to be honest I was unsure if I was going to comment on this.  I am unsure if I should.  I am not part of the greater motorcycling community.  I'm just a guy that enjoys riding over 10K to 15K a year.  I don't particularly like group rides but if given the chance I'll go.  I'm still new to riding (roughly 3 years now) and I don't think I'll ever stop learning something about it.

Hell, I'm scared just looking at the picture
For the most part bikers don't look like we are out of the Sons Of Anarchy casting dept.  We don't all belong to Hells Angels or rape and pillage our way across America either.  Yet why do we have that image when the term "biker" is used.

We have done it ourselves.  I understand why leather and denim became part of our "uniform".  I get that loud pipes can save a life.  I understand how the "outlaw" image is attractive.  I get that.  I even understand how Hollywood and the media will play something up.  It's given us an image that is hard to shake...that of the "badass."  But we do lots of stupid things too.  Things that make the general public question "bikers" and reinforce that image of a sex and drug crazed manic.

Not that I am without sin.  I've done stupid stuff too.  I've pushed the bike at higher speeds than I probably should and have done some lane splitting when stuck in traffic on the way to work due to construction.  But when I see morons (yes, that's the term) doing twice or three times the speed limit in traffic I have to shake my head.  One of the people I work with even carries a gun on him when he rides!

When I see lane splitting done when there is no reason for it and wheelies in traffic.   You have to wonder why?  What is the purpose?  What is the reason?  What does Mr and Mrs Jones in the mini-van think?  What do you think they will say when little Johnny wants a motorcycle?

I get it...I really do.

Motorcyclists do a ton of good deeds.  From toy runs at Christmas to poker runs for sick kids to the Patriot Guard.  Good deeds are always so much subtler than evil ones.  The video of the bikers attacking the SUV is forever out there.  Forever tainting the majority of bikers that ride safely and well.  That will reach out to help someone when they can.  The 1001 good deeds bikers do simply don't matter because of a six minute video.

fuzzy rider
So what can we can do to to change that image?  Simple.  Don't be a dick.  Ride safe.  Ride within the law, traveling at or near the speed limit.  Learn to be more accepting of others and what they ride.  There is no reason the sports bike can't ride with a scooter and a Harley.  Give a hand to that stranded motorist and smile well doing so.  In other words we need more of the fuzzy guy and less the raging psycho.  There was no need for any of that to happen in New York if the gang of motorcyclists (which supposedly have had issues with the police before) had been riding in a tight formation and as safe as possible.  If the driver of the SUV would have been paying more attention (I do truly believe something happened before the video that started that caused the incident to begin with).

At the end of the day most bikers are good people.  Most people are good people, and I would hope that this incident in New York was an abomination.  We are all tainted with it now.


Unknown said...


I had been reading the BIG thread about this and lots of info is coming out. Certainly something happened before that video which we don't see but I can guess . . .

They were just a large group of thugs, thieves and troublemakers looking for trouble.

That's one of the reasons that whenever I encounter a group of riders that I never make space for myself and force my way into the group. I just let them pass and then follow behind.

That SUV driver may be on life support and may not live. He was stabbed two times. I think I read this somewhere

Riding the Wet Coast

ps: I don't wish to write an essay but I think he was being aggressive with the group and forced his way in when THEY wanted to shut the freeway down for stunting. They had already blocked most of the entrances to the freeway and somehow this SUV finds his way in. They were just trying to stop him

David Drouin said...

I can see the appeal of riding as a swarm of motorcyclists. You might feel like you're in a Mad Max film or something. However, traveling in such large packs is intimidating and does not allow other motorists the space to drive safely. All of us are ambassadors for the motorcycling community and our actions have repercussions in the public's image of us.

- Dave at Motorcycle Addiction

The City Mouse in the Country said...

"All of us are ambassadors for the motorcycling community and our actions have repercussions in the public's image of us."

Exactly my point. It's still a developing story but in the end I don't think this bodes well for the motorcycling community.

David Masse said...

Rob, very thoughtful post.

That incident sparked discussion on ModernVespa too.

I didn't comment there because the incident is simply deplorable from all points of view. It speaks of the breakdown of society in some places, and it's worrisome and terrifying when it happens so close to home.

It's easy to be smug about gang rapes in India. Mob violence and class warfare in New York City, not so much.

It's odd that I wrote a piece I haven't posted yet, before this incident occurred, about how riders are perceived.

I was going to post it in a couple of days' time, but I think I'll post it now.

Thanks for this.

David Masse said...

... on second thought, I prefer to let the current post reside on top a few more days. Positive thoughts on what it means to ride will always be timely.

Thanks again Rob.

Guy Hall said...

I agree with everything you said above, but one remark stuck out to me.

"One of the people I work with even carries a gun on him when he rides! "

I have a license to carry permit issued by my state and I carry wherever it's legal for me to do so. Chances are I'm carrying whenever I'm riding. Not that I expect to need it but my firearm will do me absolutely no good if it's locked in my safe at home. I also have my drivers license, my bike registration and proof of insurance with me when riding, too. Don't know if I'll ever have to show them, but I'd better have them with me.

I'm not expecting or looking for trouble, but I mean to be prepared.

And I'm bookmarking your blog so I can come back often.