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I love the idea of motorbikes, but find the risk of death off-putting. E.g. http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm

While motorcycles are clearly not quite as safe as cars, every study I've seen found that the vast, vast majority of motorcycle accidents involved at least one of the following:

- untrained rider - failure to use safety equipment - drunk

My conclusion is that a properly trained and equipped motorcyclist who stays 100% sober while riding is pretty safe. My 15 years of riding on the streets has borne that out -- I've had a few close calls due to insane drivers, but keeping up with safety training has given me the skills to deal. Without having taken the safety classes, no question I would have had multiple crashes.


In driver's ed they also told me that since they're smaller and drivers are used to looking for cars, drivers often don't see/notice motorcycles. There's nothing you can do about the fact that other drivers suck.

The real issue is that even if you only get in as many accidents on your motorcycle as you would have in your car (which is probably nonzero, even if you're a great driver--other drivers suck, remember), each one is way more likely to kill you or cause serious injury when you're not surrounded by a ton of steel.


The visibility problem is one of the first things they mention in any safety training. You definitely don't belong on a motorcycle if you don't understand that & don't have the skills to deal -- it's not for everyone.


Disagree. I rode one for 10 years. I fit your criteria perfectly. It's only a matter of time before some driver does something that you can't anticipate. I had 3-4 very close calls in the time I rode. I stopped because people I knew had had accidents of varying seriousness. My driver's ed teacher in high school walked with a pronounced limp due to a motorcycle accident.


My father, stepfather and uncle were all motorcyclists and they all told me that long time motorcyclists, almost without exception, are eventually in some kind of serious accident.

My stepfather (rode for 50 yrs) drove off a cliff and landed in a tree. My uncle was hit by a cyclist going through a red light and broke many bones in his hand (the cyclist's arm was severed!) My mother, a scooter driver, got her front tire trapped in streetcar tracks in the middle of traffic.


I wouldn't ride a motorbike for just this reason. I wonder what the corresponding stats are for mopeds. It's a truism that some [young] reckless motorcyclists ride machines that are too powerful for them to control. Mopeds, not so much I'd guess.

This is the best source I could find with comparative accident rates for motorbikes/mopeds: http://www.motorcycle-accidents.com/pages/stats.html


Is this because riding a motorcycle is more dangerous or because people who like driving fast and taking risks are more likely to have a motorcycle than people who aren't?

Ie, if you ride a motorcycle sensibly, is it really that much more dangerous than driving a car sensibly? I suspect it is always going to be higher because you've got less protection when you do crash, but still, it can't be that much higher...


Given equal sensibility, a car is safer than a motorcycle. A car can take getting hit by a drunk driver or wildlife (they fucking jump out of nowhere), a motorcycle can't. I follow the writings of one particular rock drummer who travels extensively by motorcycle, especially on tour, and he wrote--referencing another prominent motorcyclist, who wrote for motorcycling magazines and was at the time recently killed by a deer collision--that the one danger a skilled motorcyclist can never fully mitigate is wildlife. Deer kill plenty of people in cars, too, but you have a better chance surviving having a deer jump on top of your car as opposed to your motorcycle.

(I read once that deer kill more people in North America than any other animal.)


Yeah, I wasn't arguing that motorbikes are just as safe as cars. I just don't think the difference is as large as those figures suggest.


I'd be interested to see the motorcycle accident/fatality rate controlled for rider demographics, using car accidents as the control. I bet the difference is much less than commonly indicated.

I think the risk is very controllable. It's also a "dose is the poison" kind of thing. I only average about one fairly local ride a week. I am quite sure I am safer than people who drive on highways every day.

The danger depends heavily on the driving environment. Suburbia and semi-rural areas are rather dangerous because you get a mix of fairly high speeds and many space cadet drivers (grandma, 16 year olds): the kind of people who back out of driveways without looking. In this particular urban area those risks aren't present. It's pretty safe 50mph free-way sprints and then stop & go in a grid system.


I'd be interested to see the motorcycle accident/fatality rate controlled for rider demographics, using car accidents as the control. I bet the difference is much less than commonly indicated.

You should review the findings of the Hurt Report, the most comprehensive study of motorcycle safety to date (even though it's from the 70's):


If you want to live: ride dirt bikes as a kid, attend a training course, stay sober, wear all the gear all the time (ATGATT!)

If you want to die: have a friend teach you how to ride in a parking lot, skip the helmet on short trips, drink one for the road, do not assume that everyone is trying to kill you all the time


Just read on facebook this morning that a friend hit a 6ft Gator in FL. Can't imagine what THAT would feel like on a motorcycle!


I did a few days' worth of online research on motorcycles when I was in my "hey, let's get a scooter" phase.

The results:

Statistics show that you are dramatically safer on a motorcycle if you take a safety course before you ride at all. Start with a safety course. It teaches you all the nonintuitive things that you need to know.

You are also safer if you dress properly.

Once you've done that, the primary danger is other people. You will motorcycle happily until the day that a driver who is making a left turn fails to notice you approaching (you are small relative to a car, and more difficult to see) and pulls out in front of you, too close for you to stop. Then you are going to dump the bike and/or go flying, because you have no airbags or crumpling metal to help stop you. This will happen sooner or later. There is very little you can do about this, except to do everything you can to enhance your visibility, and to ride very slowly, which can be difficult -- according to many cyclists, once you're on the thing and feeling comfortable you will speed up, perhaps even unconsciously. ;)

Obviously, deer are even worse at noticing you than humans. I hit a deer in my car once. It was traumatic enough in a four-wheeled vehicle.

No motorcycles for me, I'm afraid. The risk/benefit ratio is too high for my personality.


Since you mentioned scooters, I tend to rent those regularly on vacations, for those considering one make sure you get one with large diameter wheels ( ex. http://vtwincyclemotorcyclescooter.com/wp-content/uploads/20... ) rather than something like a vespa. You only sacrifice a little bit of agility for a big boost in safety.


There's plenty of things you can do.

- Make sure you see the car in the left lane

- Realize he may be about to do something stupid

- Lower your speed a bit

- Watch his front left tire (that's his tell)

- Meet his eyes

- Wiggle your bike

- Flip your high beam on/off

If you're too far away to see his face or his tire, and you're still at risk, you're going too fast period.

(From what I gather, left turns into oncoming motorcyclist is one of the most common accidents outside rider error and riding drunk, so I'm always thinking about it)


I am guessing it's because motorcycles are capable of going faster, accelerating quicker, so people go faster on them and tend to drive more aggressively. I'd say, at the same speeds, a motorcyclist is much more likely to be injured than a driver. In one case, the car is the crumple zone, in the other the motorcyclist's body is the crumple zone.


A sage once told me, "On a motorcycle, you are the bumper."


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