An Open Letter to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

January 1 2009
Since editor Roberts, myself, and a number of others began developing this publication six years ago, I have managed to restrain myself generally from positioning political views here. Though I am certainly opinionated with regards to all levels of politics in this great country of ours, it is rare that the subject crosses that of motorcycles, or more accurately the people who ride them. However, in this instance I must give credit where credit is due, regardless of political leanings.
Provided that for some reason the bill hasn’t passed between this writing and press time, motorcyclists in Ontario will have been given an early Christmas gift by our provincial government. Hopefully old news by now, it is nonetheless something that I have been an advocate for since cell phone size and price began to drop so many years ago. So I will therefore take this space to formally step from my soapbox and stop shaking my fist, assuming now that the law has
been passed.
I could easily fill this entire magazine (at least once) with anecdotal evidence to support my claim that we as a species have reached a limit in the amount of our own technology that we can effectively operate simultaneously. Anyone who’s been riding for more than a few weeks likely has at least one story to share about an inattentive driver on a cell phone, and the resulting ‘close call’ (sorry, couldn’t resist). I’ll spare the dry boring stats, though not the obvious fact; a low speed collision between two cars resulting from some asshat on a cell phone will result in bodywork. The same collision between a car and a motorcycle will also result in bodywork, though of a more personal, if not catastrophic, nature.
The one anecdote (among many) that I will share occurred three or four years ago during an afternoon commute home from work. While maintaining the posted speed limit of 60 km/h on a moderately busy four lane city street, the driver of a large sedan backed out of a parking lot, across both lanes directly into my path. With an estimated 50 metres to make a decision, I evaluated my options; oncoming traffic, curb, or an impromptu test of braking ability, the latter being the most rational. Now I’ve had my share of near misses, though the slow motion quality of these (very) few seconds is etched on my mind to this day. Quality brakes are never to be undervalued, and thankfully the binders on my old Speed ‘Cripple’ proved to be exemplary under these suddenly extreme conditions. Were it not for the larger serious context of this little episode, it would look like a beautifully choreographed bit of driving/riding. As the imbecile backed further into the opposite lanes, turning parallel to the curb, I arrived in the exact spot the car had occupied a millisecond before performing a beautiful though unintended “stoppie” in the process. As soon as my back tire replanted itself I looked to my left, desirous to see what blind stupidity looked like in person. Staring back wide-eyed through his open window little more than an arm’s length away, there he was, wife beside, kids in back, cell phone stuck to the imbecilic ear and look of surprise on the imbecilic face.
Though I resisted the initial reflexive urge to plant my boot in the car door, I just couldn’t let this go with the usual single finger wave I use when someone nearly kills me on the road. Right or wrong, and neither proud nor ashamed of it, I let loose a string of obscenities that would have made Andrew Dice Clay blush. As a father myself, I immediately felt a little remorseful exposing two innocent young children to such serious adult content, not to mention that foulest of foul words that all women seem to bristle at, yes you know the one… yes dear readers, it was both profane and poetic. And lest you judge, I ask you, what would you have done?
This family, which incidentally looked very much like my own, will now have a very specific image come to mind when they hear the word “motorcyclist” (yeah I know, just addin’ to the mystique… you’re welcome). I make no apologies here and consider it simple cause and effect, cause if you’re a distracted driver it may have an effect on me as a motorcyclist.
Another incident last summer saw me watch with wonder, about to make a left in an intersection on an advanced green, when the person opposite drove straight through the red light. And yes, while talking on a cell phone. I was suddenly very much aware of my 12-year-old daughter sitting behind me.
Is this to be accepted as part of the risk of riding? I’ve never thought so. It will be difficult to enforce, and many will ignore it. There are also people who are unable to eat a cheeseburger and drive safely, but it can’t be made illegal. Make no mistake; I am not in support of the “nanny state” that Ontario often seems to be. That the provincial government determines when I can buy a six-pack maddens me to no end, and in this very column I have stated my opinion on the ridiculous notion of legislating helmets when tobogganing. But I have no doubt that this law will make a measurable difference to motorcyclists, and therefore I support it without question.
Of course, the unmistakable irony here is that many of us who ride are not without guilt ourselves. Approximately half the year we are relegated to cars, and most of us are not riding exclusively during the fairer weather. I expect I will draw fire for my view on this issue from strangers and friends alike. I have a close friend—a former writer for this very magazine—who talks on his cell phone, two-way, blackberry, whatever, most of the time he is behind the wheel. That he happens to otherwise be an excellent driver is incon-sequential. That some people may be better able to do this than others is virtually impossible to quantify, and therefore this law applies to all, exceptions yet to be determined.
In the meantime I applaud the decision, thank you. MMM
ken.rush@rogers.com
Editor’s note: In 2003, Newfound-land and Labrador banned cell phone use while driving, followed by Nova Scotia and Quebec. Manitoba and Prince Edward Island are considering introducing legislation against cell phones.

Since editor Roberts, myself, and a number of others began developing this publication six years ago, I have managed to restrain myself generally from positioning political views here. Though I am certainly opinionated with regards to all levels of politics in this great country of ours, it is rare that the subject crosses that of motorcycles, or more accurately the people who ride them. However, in this instance I must give credit where credit is due, regardless of political leanings.

Provided that for some reason the bill hasn’t passed between this writing and press time, motorcyclists in Ontario will have been given an early Christmas gift by our provincial government. Hopefully old news by now, it is nonetheless something that I have been an advocate for since cell phone size and price began to drop so many years ago. So I will therefore take this space to formally step from my soapbox and stop shaking my fist, assuming now that the law has been passed.

I could easily fill this entire magazine (at least once) with anecdotal evidence to support my claim that we as a species have reached a limit in the amount of our own technology that we can effectively operate simultaneously. Anyone who’s been riding for more than a few weeks likely has at least one story to share about an inattentive driver on a cell phone, and the resulting ‘close call’ (sorry, couldn’t resist). I’ll spare the dry boring stats, though not the obvious fact; a low speed collision between two cars resulting from some asshat on a cell phone will result in bodywork. The same collision between a car and a motorcycle will also result in bodywork, though of a more personal, if not catastrophic, nature.

The one anecdote (among many) that I will share occurred three or four years ago during an afternoon commute home from work. While maintaining the posted speed limit of 60 km/h on a moderately busy four lane city street, the driver of a large sedan backed out of a parking lot, across both lanes directly into my path. With an estimated 50 metres to make a decision, I evaluated my options; oncoming traffic, curb, or an impromptu test of braking ability, the latter being the most rational. Now I’ve had my share of near misses, though the slow motion quality of these (very) few seconds is etched on my mind to this day. Quality brakes are never to be undervalued, and thankfully the binders on my old Speed ‘Cripple’ proved to be exemplary under these suddenly extreme conditions. Were it not for the larger serious context of this little episode, it would look like a beautifully choreographed bit of driving/riding. As the imbecile backed further into the opposite lanes, turning parallel to the curb, I arrived in the exact spot the car had occupied a millisecond before performing a beautiful though unintended “stoppie” in the process. As soon as my back tire replanted itself I looked to my left, desirous to see what blind stupidity looked like in person. Staring back wide-eyed through his open window little more than an arm’s length away, there he was, wife beside, kids in back, cell phone stuck to the imbecilic ear and look of surprise on the imbecilic face.

Though I resisted the initial reflexive urge to plant my boot in the car door, I just couldn’t let this go with the usual single finger wave I use when someone nearly kills me on the road. Right or wrong, and neither proud nor ashamed of it, I let loose a string of obscenities that would have made Andrew Dice Clay blush. As a father myself, I immediately felt a little remorseful exposing two innocent young children to such serious adult content, not to mention that foulest of foul words that all women seem to bristle at, yes you know the one… yes dear readers, it was both profane and poetic. And lest you judge, I ask you, what would you have done?

This family, which incidentally looked very much like my own, will now have a very specific image come to mind when they hear the word “motorcyclist” (yeah I know, just addin’ to the mystique… you’re welcome). I make no apologies here and consider it simple cause and effect, cause if you’re a distracted driver it may have an effect on me as a motorcyclist.

Another incident last summer saw me watch with wonder, about to make a left in an intersection on an advanced green, when the person opposite drove straight through the red light. And yes, while talking on a cell phone. I was suddenly very much aware of my 12-year-old daughter sitting behind me.

Is this to be accepted as part of the risk of riding? I’ve never thought so. It will be difficult to enforce, and many will ignore it. There are also people who are unable to eat a cheeseburger and drive safely, but it can’t be made illegal. Make no mistake; I am not in support of the “nanny state” that Ontario often seems to be. That the provincial government determines when I can buy a six-pack maddens me to no end, and in this very column I have stated my opinion on the ridiculous notion of legislating helmets when tobogganing. But I have no doubt that this law will make a measurable difference to motorcyclists, and therefore I support it without question.

Of course, the unmistakable irony here is that many of us who ride are not without guilt ourselves. Approximately half the year we are relegated to cars, and most of us are not riding exclusively during the fairer weather. I expect I will draw fire for my view on this issue from strangers and friends alike. I have a close friend—a former writer for this very magazine—who talks on his cell phone, two-way, blackberry, whatever, most of the time he is behind the wheel. That he happens to otherwise be an excellent driver is incon-sequential. That some people may be better able to do this than others is virtually impossible to quantify, and therefore this law applies to all, exceptions yet to be determined.

In the meantime I applaud the decision, thank you. MMM

Editor’s note: In 2003, Newfound-land and Labrador banned cell phone use while driving, followed by Nova Scotia and Quebec. Manitoba and Prince Edward Island are considering introducing legislation against cell phones.

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