You would have to be living in a hole not to have heard about the video footage of a Range Rover plowing through a group of motorcyclists, and the chase through New York that ensued afterwards.
I say this not because the video has been the highest trafficked article on Asphalt & Rubber this week so far, though it is; nor do I say this because the video has been posted to virtually every motorcycle forum and blog on the internet, though it has; but instead because the video has elevated itself out of our obscure sport and into the national, if not international, public consciousness.
It is rare that motorcycling finds its way into mass media, and unfortunately it is rarely a good thing when it does so. Motorcycling by and large has an image problem in the United States. Few motorists commute via motorcycle, which means our industry is filled with people who come to motorcycles from either a hobby, sport, or lifestyle perspective, and because of this motorcycles remain on the fringe of mainstream society.
For some, that is the allure. Motorcycling is “something different’ which in turns allows a motorcyclist to express their individuality in an obvious manner. To illustrate this point, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of flame threads that start on forums and blogs can be boiled down to the premise that because your enjoyment of motorcycles is different from my enjoyment of motorcycles, it therefore must be wrong.
Despite our internal disagreements, most motorcyclists enjoy their passion for two wheels in an entirely respectable manner, though unfortunately we are rarely recognized as doing so. It is the one-percenters, the members who are two standard-deviations removed from the generalized term “motorcyclist”, who instead come into the attention span of the public.
We saw it with the 1% movement in the 1940′s, and we see it again now with the Hollywood Stuntz group in New York. There has always been a subculture in two wheels that revels in the subversive mystique that surrounds motorcycles, and this group has always been in the minority.
We are beyond the Pareto Principle here — better known as the 80/20 rule — this is motorcycling’s 1/99 rule. In fact, the only instance of a positive social message from motorcycles going mainstream is Honda’s “You Meet the Nicest People” campaign from the 1960′s. If you ask me, we are long overdue for a media win of that magnitude.
While the debate will continue about “who was at fault” in the video (I think I’ve made my views on that issue pretty clear already), the real tragedy of this event (from a bigger picture of course, not to discredit the individuals and families who now have to deal with the direct consequences of this event) is that once again motorcycling, in the broadest sense of the word, has to be dragged once again through the mud in the mainstream media.
It is not like our industry as a whole is thriving. After watching sales plummet the last 5 years or so, things have stabilized…but they aren’t rising. One has to wonder if we have hit that tipping point where growth is no longer possible, and everything from here on out is the long decline downward. I don’t personally believe that, but I cannot discredit it either. As I am fond of saying, time will tell.
Meanwhile the mainstream media will cast fire and brimstone on these NYC motorcyclists, and all other motorcyclists will suffer with them, if for no other reason than guilt by association.
You see, while veteran riders can distinguish between sportbikers, tourers, Harley riders, adventure riders, and all the other permutations of the two-wheeled demographic, the public at large just sees two wheels and lumps us all together accordingly. This is really our industry’s greatest flaw.
We are all members of a great mosaic. From far away, the image of a motorcyclist is easy to define, but upon closer inspection, we see that the generalization is made up of many diverse and tightly distinguished groups. Good luck trying to explain that principle to a non-rider though.
When I see a video like the one from the Hollywood Stuntz ride into New York City, I cringe for our sport/industry/passion, because it just died a little bit more.
It is for this same reason that I pour as much support into the charity Riders for Health as I can. There are few charitable causes out there where motorcycles are making a difference. If you have ever participated in something like a toy ride or have donated to any of the many motorcycle-based charitable groups, I applaud you for helping make the world a better place. A genuine hat-tip to you ladies and gentlemen.
We need more people like you. But what draws me to Riders for Health isn’t that it is motorcyclists going and doing something for a worthy cause, it is about motorcycles, the actual physical machine, being an integral part of a solution to a problem in this world.
Any group can raise money for charity, but only motorcycles can travel to remote villages in Africa to bring critical healthcare services. Motorcycles themselves making the world a better place, that is what Riders for Health provides, and we need more stories like that in the public consciousness.
We need more instances where motorcycles are making a tangible and meaningful difference in this work, to help drown out the noise from the riffraff.
We need to turnaround the precedent where motorcycling’s 15 minutes of fame is only a negative message. If we can do that, maybe more people will join us in our passion for two wheels, and that is why you see Asphalt & Rubber doing anything it can for Riders for Health.
Whether you already support Riders for Health, support another similar cause, or have the motivation to start your own motorcycle charity…it’s all good in my book. But we as motorcyclists, the 99% who are contributing members of society, we need to step up our game. Otherwise, the 1% are going to ruin this whole thing for us.