Sunday, July 06, 2008

Motorcycles or Mobile Organ Donors?

I was driving home from work this past Saturday, July 5th, enjoying the slower freeway speeds that the weekend's pokier pace allows and saw a sight that raised the hair on my neck. I literally said "Oh, my God" for a full minute afterward.

I was heading north on SH-146, still referred to as "the Loop" by us Baytonians and was closing on West Main when out of the corner of my eye, I spied a Café Racer-type motorcycle heading south on the far lane opposite the north side. These bikes are made for speed and are more commonly known as "Crotch-Rockets" or "Mobile Organ Donors" and for good reason.

According to the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit, helmet-safety organization, the risk of death per vehicle mile is about 20 times higher for motorcyclists than for passenger-car occupants in a traffic accident and that is precisely why I sold my last bike, way back in 1981. My wife announced that we were going to have a baby and I did not want my family to be fatherless.

I love motorcycles as much as the next person and I still dream of the day when I buy another one, but there is going to have to be a change in a number of areas before I buy another bike. Anyway, back to my story.

The Racer was crossing the southbound side of SH-146 over West Main and was going fast enough that his bike was at an extreme angle. I remember the fellow was dressed in what appeared to be full black leathers and he had a helmet on also, in case anyone wondered. I looked out my left drivers window to get a better look at him, but he had overtaken and was passing a full-sized pick-up, so the truck blocked my view of him. This made me realize he was most likely going even faster than I previously thought.

Seconds passed and as I approached the West Main overpass, I looked in my side mirror (the traffic on my side was very light) just in time to see the racer over-correct from the curve, cross his lane and come close to the shoulder and in this particular place there is a severe twelve inch road hump on the shoulder. He clipped this road hump and the bounce sent his legs up over his head in a wildly out of control flailing motion. The bike went into a semi high-speed wobble and somehow, the Racer maintained contact with both hands to the handlebars.

What happened next and all of this took place inside a ten second timeframe, was nothing short of a miracle. The fellow, somehow, landed squarely back onto the seat and the bike continued on towards the Missouri Street overpass. I was onto the West Main overpass by this time and lost sight of the situation, but am confident the rider did not lose control, but was able to stop and assess the damage, or continue on.

I however, continued to replay the scene over and over in my head and mutter "Oh my God" for a while yet. Now, I can't speak for the Café Racer rider, but let me say that seeing one of these incidents on television or the Internet puts us in the spectator seat and we can watch and re-watch these wrecks and calamities with amusement and relative safety, but seeing it in real life is a different story.

It shook me up a bit. It made me examine my own driving habits and yes, my mortality. If that guy would have hit that road hump in a small compact car, he would have suffered nothing more than a blown tire or a misaligned front end and that is about it.

By the way, I am going to approach the State to remove that hump as soon as possible. I took a good look at it the next day on my way to work and it is covered with rubber and scrape marks.

If I were that young man, I think I would realize I had just burned one of my lives and park that bike or sell it. I think he would make a trip to his church's altar and rededicate himself to the Lord or at the very least, purchase one lottery ticket on the Mega Millions – something!

Personally, I do not believe in luck, but I do believe in divine providence, so I would take this incident as a signal to recommit myself to making wiser decisions while driving and if I did keep the bike, I would surely begin riding it at a reasonable and safer speed.

Bob Leiper, Assistant City Manager took it upon himself to follow through on getting the State of Texas to remove this hazard. Today, July 29, 2008 TXDOT removed the hump and my hat is off to Bob and Garry Brumback for going down there and marking it so the State could find it.

Thank you also TXDOT for making this a priority.

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