Crash Mitigation

May 13, 2006

Originally posted to ydnar.vox.com in May 2006.

Got my motorcycle license

today. Woke up way too early for the privilege of being the first person at the San Francisco DMV
, took a couple tests and got the sheet of paper (why California insists on this archaic process of mailing your license after a couple weeks is beyond me).

I had taken the CHP motorcycle safety course

so I could skip the DMV driving test. I heard you needed a scooter or incredibly tiny bike in order to pass it. The class was definitely worth it.

So now I have to sort out a bike. Patti

has graciously offered to loan me a bike for a while, so I think I can put off a purchase for a couple months. Every friend I have who rides has told me the same thing: Don't get the bike you really want first. Get a first bike, get comfortable riding it (translation: drop it a couple times), then spend the lucre on the real thing.

So I've been trying to determine the likelyhood of crashing a motorcycle in the first N units of time. Factors in my calculation:

  • I have plenty of experience riding a bicycle in traffic. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo and rural riding. Mountain biking, road and track (velodrome). I ride a brakeless track bike 300 days a year, rain or shine. Logged a few thousand miles.
  • Had an automobile license for 14 years, and no tickets (speeding or otherwise) in 5 years. My car has a stickshift, 300HP and a big spoiler. Still have good driver discount. ;)
  • Since I've been cycling seriously, I've had only 2 incidents that could be categorized as crashes.
  • Both crashes involved MUNI rails.
  • Both crashes were on a mountain bike with knobby tires (note to self: not great for city riding).
  • Only one crash resulted in an injury.
  • Zero incidents on a road or track bike (brakeless or otherwise).
  • Percentage of bicycle rides without a helmet: 0.05%
  • Percentage of unhelmeted rides longer than 2 miles: 0%

So I have a good safety record behind the wheel and handlebars. I like to go fast, but with a safety margin. Assuming I keep things reasonable for the first thousand miles or so on a motorcycle, the risk of an injury resulting from a crash or other incident resulting from my own actions should be relatively low.*

*Yeah, I'm knocking on wood too.