FEW TOPICS rev your motors more than motorcycles and the drivers who ride them. Anti-motorcycle e-mail filled my inbox last week. And why? Overwhelmingly, it's the noise we love to hate.
Unmuffled, as so many of them are, motorcycles create a less-than-Zen-like environment for our tender ears. Noise annoys, whether it comes from someone's leaf blower (oh, for God's sake, just pick up a rake, will you?) or from a roaring motorcycle.
Last week, Seth Mann had asked whether I'm also annoyed by the great gas mileage and other benefits offered by motorcycles. No, of course not.
The noise blows a hole in Ted Gelletly's gasket. "[Although] Seth Mann made excellent points about the benefits of cycles versus cars [in last week's column], no one should be asked to excuse the noise," he said. "As a homeowner who also owns a motorcycle, I too expect relative piece and quiet. My bike makes very little noise - as do most modern bikes that do not have altered exhaust systems. It seems that your problem is with noise and not with motorcycles. So is mine."
I wish I could suggest some solution to the noise issue: Call the police? Seems a bit over- reactive. Still, why can't police ticket motorcycles that travel without mufflers? Think of the revenue it would bring in!
Noise isn't necessarily the only concern mentioned in the e-mails I've been receiving this past week.
It is motorcyclists that misuse and abuse the rules of the road that has put a kink in Brigid Boyce's crankshaft.
"I want to address the issue of the unsafe motorcyclists, who seem determined to get themselves killed any way they can. In [last week's] column, you mentioned an accident on [U.S. 40] where an innocent motorcyclist was tragically killed while sitting at a red light. What about the motorcyclist recently killed on Ritchie Highway while zipping in and out of traffic at speeds far exceeding the limit? Or what about the constant motorcyclists who weave in and out of cars on [Interstate] 495 every day at 40 mph, riding on the dashed lines and shoulders? Are they exempt from the same laws of the road because their vehicle is smaller?" she asked.
"There are many responsible motorcyclists out there, but just like drivers, there are many who are not. Please don't blame inconsiderate drivers of cars when there are just as many bad apples on motorcycles as well. I can't watch out for them when they are doing twice my speed and not obeying the laws of the road!" she said.
Gynene Sullivan notes that she is the daughter and spouse of former motorcyclists, so she knows of what she speaks. "I agree with Mr. Mann that we, as four-wheel drivers, need to pay attention," she said. "However, we also need to be aware of motorcyclists who frequently disregard the rules of the road, both for motorcycles and for four-wheelers.
"Case in point: I was making a turn onto Martin Luther King Boulevard last Thursday from Fayette Street and had two motorcyclists weave between my car and the car to the right of me to try to get ahead of me for the next light. Motorcycles [have also] pulled alongside me while sitting at a red light to get a jump on the green. Instead of riding close to the lane line where four-wheelers can see them, I have witnessed them riding two abreast in one lane and sometimes three abreast ... and this on Interstate 695, which keeps me busy enough watching out for speeding, aggressive driving four-wheelers," she said.
"In a perfect world, everyone would obey the rules and use their indicators," she said. "But once someone thinks the rules don't apply to them, people begin to get hurt."
And that applies to everyone, regardless of what type of vehicle they drive.
Carl Landau's recent road gripe is the Route 100 westbound exit ramp to Snowden River Parkway; the exit ends in a roundabout. "As one approaches the circle vehicles are entering on the left from the underpass. The view of approaching vehicles is blocked by a large bush or weed and other overgrown vegetation growing on top of a 3-foot wall. It would be great [to] trim this growth down to give drivers another tenth of a second or two to decide whether to go or not ... Entering the intersection is like playing Howard County roulette," he said.
I forwarded Mr. Landau's complaint to the State Highway Administration and soon heard from David Coyne, assistant district engineer for maintenance, who indicated that the overgrowth has been trimmed back and that in the future, the field manager for that area will include that area for regularly scheduled cleaning.
Thanks to your e-mails and letters, there's no need to play Russian roulette at intersections. Together we are making Maryland a safer and more pleasant place to drive.
What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.