With apologies to Hamlet, I think age is what makes cowards of us all. We’ve all experienced enough random derailments to realize that diligence is not foolproof, that armour, no matter how assiduous, never offers enough protection and, most important – at least this is what’s getting me now that I’m 63 – injuries that youth shook off now take two or three months to mend.
That’s why I’m much more safety-conscious these days. As I detailed in our previous issue, I don’t leave home without an airbag jacket and I literally cringe when I see some young rebel out riding in nothing more than a T-shirt and shorts. There, by the grace of God (used to) go I and damned if I don’t appreciate how lucky I’ve been.
That’s all by way of explanation of how incredibly impressed I am by anyone furthering the safety of bikers, even if it sometimes feels like safety advancements seem to take longer to come our way. To wit: even the most basic of Toyota Corollas has a full advanced driver assistance system, but we bikers are treating the recent announcement of a radar-controlled cruise-control system as the Second Coming. Blind spot monitoring? It’s on practically every car costing more than 20 grand. Motorcycles? The industry is not even talking about it.
Enter Ride Vision, which, if promises be kept, offers a complete package of rider assistance systems that will virtually match anything the major manufacturers may have in the pipeline. Officially dubbed Collision Aversion Technology (CAT), two wide-angle high-definition cameras feed an ECU that monitors – Ride Vision states “predicts” – the trajectory of cars, trucks and buses around you and then, should one of those trajectories conflict with your own, warn you via blinking lights. According to CAT’s designers, the technology’s continual threat analysis will alert you to dangerous overtakes, someone slamming on the brakes ahead of you and remind you to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. (Ride Vision is developing the same collision-aversion features for the rear as well.) And because the two cameras lend the ECU a 360-degree view around your bike, Ride Vision’s ECU will see dangers you cannot, no matter how sharp your vision or alert your senses. Better yet, CAT is an aftermarket system that seemingly can be retrofitted to any motorcycle.
That said, there are limitations. The visual danger cues – thin LED lights mounted atop your bike’s mirrors – could well pass unnoticed. Indeed, until we all get those “smart” helmets with heads-up displays we’ve been promised for – oh, what is it now? – five years, Ride Vision’s audiovisual warnings may not be enough. And while I laud the engineers behind such incredible technology, I find it impossible to believe that any sentient motorcyclist – unlike the dozy dolts behind the wheels of cars – needs reminding that there’s a car in front of them. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to putting the Ride Vision system through its paces. Anything that helps keep me rubber side down is definitely worth a boo.
At the extreme other end of the tech tableau – i.e., it’s totally analog – is a new (to North America) organization called Biker Down. This organization, which has been operating for some 10 years in England – British bikers seem a little more appreciated than we here in the Great White Frozen North – organizes biker-specific first aid courses conducted by first responders that detail the steps that you can take to help a fellow motorcyclist in need. Besides the standard accident scene management and emergency call services, there will be instruction in providing the initial first aid for the types of injuries commonly afflicting fallen motorcyclists, right up to how – and, more important, when! – to remove a helmet.
Biker Down was the inspiration of Jim Sanderson, a British firefighter who also happens to be an avid motorcyclist. As he tells it, he was riding with 15 or 20 mates one afternoon when he “unfortunately witnessed a pretty serious motorcycle accident.” Naturally, he put his first responder skills to work. What struck him afterward, he says, is that without the benefit of all his first aid gear, the techniques he used “weren’t anything particularly special” and, more important, “these were skills I could easily pass on to other motorcyclists.” The Biker Down curriculum, now a three-hour instruction course, is taught throughout England by as many as 46 Biker Down teams.
Steve Reed of Medical Data Carrier (the little medical information packet that you attach to your helmet) is now bringing Biker Down to Canada. Although the program will operate a little differently here – it looks as if the courses will be held at local dealerships instead of, say, at a fire station – the curriculum and goals remain essentially unchanged: i.e., teaching motorcyclists to help downed fellow bikers during the first crucial minutes by offering basic secours.
Biker Down North America is just getting started, and Canadian courses will probably not start till the autumn. But if you’d like more information, visit bikerdown.ca or contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or (613) 709-2941.
I urge you to please — PLEASE! — sign up for the Biker Down course. The life you save may be mine.