By the Cranky Housewife -
You know those bumper stickers? “Motorcycles - start seeing them.” They really never fail to bring a smile to my face…because the truth is that I do see motorcycles. I see them all the time. I see motorcycles and I see their drivers, too, as a matter of fact.
Like the guy that was popping a wheelie through a busy intersection during midday traffic. Very hard to miss. Or the one fella who decided to pass a minivan on the right shoulder at about 60 miles an hour because the minivan was only doing 45 - which was the speed limit. Or how about the one who blasted through the red light at about 75 miles an hour and nearly sideswiped my car as I was legally proceeding through my a left turn? I saw him. I saw all of them.
They were all ignoring the laws of the road. They were all endangering their own lives and the lives of everyone else who happened to be sharing the road with them on that day.
I’ve seen a lot of crazy moves on the part of car drivers in my life. Not one holds a candle to the contempt that I have witnessed from motorcyclists who thwart the laws of the road.
And I get it. Motorcyclists are free spirits by nature. Helmet? What’s a helmet? Am I right? Because when you’re weaving in and out of traffic doing 90 down life’s highway with your girlfriend bouncing around on the chopper’s back fender, why on earth would you want to be bothered to protect your brain?It’s not like you're using it much anyway.
And that’s my point. It has been my personal observation throughout my decades of driving that bikers see speed limits and red lights more as friendly suggestions or perhaps laws that should be obeyed by all the minivans of the world in order to clear the path for more bikers. Because, after all, that’s why most of us have been put on this planet in the first place – to yield to the Harleys.
So naturally, with this vehicular chaos percolating deeply through the collective psyche of Illinois residents, we can draw our attention to the state’s legislature which has chosen to add insult to injury by giving bikers what is known as the new “Dead Light” Law which went into effect on January 1, 2012.
This nifty piece of legislation will now allow bikers to legally run red lights (as if they needed this kind of validation to do whatever they please in the first place) and “was instituted on the behest of motorcycle riders who would often have to wait for long periods of time at traffic lights that used in ground sensors to change the signal. Most motorcycles are not heavy enough to trigger the in pavement sensors.”
Please note the additional irony that the State of Illinois mysteriously passed on the obvious opportunity to spend more money tearing up every intersection throughout the state… simultaneously for added convenience, in order to replace every sensor with those that would register motorcycles easily. Epic fail.
Again, the suggested interval for a motorcyclist to wait at a red light before he proceeds through said intersection is 120 seconds. “Suggested” is the key concept here because while the law states that bikers shall wait an appropriate interval before driving through, legislators chose not to legally define what “appropriate interval” means. This per CBS News Chicago.
In spite of a gubernatorial veto requiring that wording be put into place defining what an “appropriate interval” in fact means, the legislature overrode the veto thus ensuring that the new law will soon be redubbed “The Dead Biker” law.
What? Too harsh? No, I don’t think so. You see, this law, not only as it is written but as a general philosophy, places undue responsibility onto the drivers of automobiles in toiling through the ambiguity of feel-good legislation. I fully understand the frustration that bikers feel in having to wait at the red light.
Unfortunately, Susie Homemaker who is driving her child to urgent care at three AM is a little preoccupied at the moment and cannot look into her crystal ball to decide how long Mr. Motorcycle has been stuck at that light, nor can she necessarily anticipate his general attitude about waiting for minivans. She sees green and she’s going. Because that’s the law.
The “Dead Light” law changes the relationship that car drivers have to traffic lights by subordinating automobiles to the whims of another driver, thereby requiring Susie Homemaker to read the mind of Mr. Motorcycle to determine how he feels about red lights on this particular morning and what he’s going to do about them.
That means that motorcycles become a protected class like pedestrians and by fiat always have the right of way even though they can pop a wheelie through an intersection at 60 miles an hour or do 90 on the interstate with a passenger bobbing along on the taillight. Pedestrians are protected specifically because they cannot move quickly. That’s why vehicles must always yield to them.
So this begs the question: Are motorcycles actually vehicles or are they not? If they are then they ought to be subject to the same laws cars follow. If they require special consideration then they belong on the sidewalk with the tricycles. Either way, I think it’s time for a new bumper sticker campaign in an effort to educate bikers on their responsibilities to other drivers. We can call it, “Laws – start using them.”
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