Motorcyclists seek greater safety on the roads

TRAFFIC TALK

July 20, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LAST WEEK, I wrote that I found motorcycles annoying.

Seth Mann responded.

"What I don't understand is how [do] you find them annoying? Is it annoying to actually be able to see around and beyond us? Is it annoying to know that if you are involved in an accident with a motorcycle that you will most likely be unharmed? You can't say that about SUVs and many large cars," he said.

No, indeed you can't.

"Are they annoying because they get great fuel mileage, and you don't? Are they annoying because people actually have to drive more carefully because we are largely unprotected out there? Motorcyclists, in general, have to be extremely alert and cognizant of traffic," he said.

I knew someone would take exception to my annoyance with the noise, while overlooking that otherwise, I see no problems with either the vehicles themselves or their drivers. But motorcycles are annoying when they disturb the peace and quiet I expect in my neighborhood. While some may equate noise with excitement, I equate noise with annoyance. And that, I repeat, is my only issue with motorcycles.

I'm not alone. Jeff Gardner wondered, "As for motorcycles, my only complaint is the noise. Why aren't they under the same noise regulations that cars are?"

They are covered by the same noise regulations. I wonder, are police officers ignoring exceptionally noisy vehicles - which surely must violate Maryland noise and motor vehicle laws requiring mufflers - because of their popularity?

However, as Mr. Mann suggested, we should look beyond the noise to their benefits: great fuel economy. He also asks us "four-wheelers" to make the roads safer for motorcycles. The fact that motorcycles are dangerous is almost an understatement.

John Snyder, who calls the safety issue "huge," summed up the situation: "We've always called them `donorcycles' because of the obvious resource they are for the transplant industry," he said. However, he and his wife's love of them remains undaunted. "Nevertheless we both love bikes and are now coming to the point of being able to get back on them."

But bikers have no defense against a car, Mr. Snyder said.

"[It's] that law of tonnage thing we've talked about. A distracted four-wheeler entering an intersection may not see the smaller target in the path and just plow over them," he said. He noted that not long ago, a motorcyclist was killed on U.S. 40 when a car rear-ended him while he was sitting at a red light.

What can we do for our two-wheeled friends on the road? Pay more attention to the road, for a start.

"You never see one of us making a phone call or rummaging through our consoles looking for lipstick," Snyder said. "We concentrate on the road because our lives depend on it. We have to search for other vehicles, traffic signals, and oddly enough, the road surface, which non-motorcyclists often take for granted."

Said Mr. Mann: "People in cages [nonmotorcyclists] need to get off their phones. After that, frequent mirror checks are necessary. The rest of the obvious rules of the road apply. If everyone in cages imagine that it is their son or daughter or [spouse] riding in the next lane, it would make it safer for all of us."

Marriottsville Road

Speed is the danger that Steve Wrzesien sees as the problem with Marriottsville Road between U.S. 40 and the Patapsco River Bridge. He recalls the urban myth that police officers need to fill quotas of tickets near the end of each month.

"If they ever patrolled Marriottsville Road, especially around the Alpha Ridge Landfill, they would have no problem [filling a quota]," he said.

There are other concerns with that stretch, he said. "Number 1 is the number of vehicles going to the landfill without their load being secure. The second is the number of vehicles exiting the landfill to enter Marriottsville Road - quite a few fail to stop, and roll right onto Marriottsville Road."

Kudos

Kudos come from Diane Dency about last week's mention of the situation off Route 99 at Wetherburn Road.

"Great article about Route 99," Dency said. "We have lived off of Route 99 for 36 years. We live in the community of Allenford, which is right past the traffic light at Wetherburn. I work at Waverly Elementary, and I am not able to turn left onto Route 99 late in the afternoon. I have to drive through the community of Waverly to get back to my community. We had a community meeting last night, and we are totally all for `FULL COLOR' 24 hours a day! Thanks for your comments."

While I appreciate the compliments, I couldn't do this column without your e-mails and letters. Thank you, everyone, who has written over the past three years. But don't stop now! What's your driving dilemma?

Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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