Risk of riding a bicycle vs. riding a motorcycle.

As some of you are aware, I bought a motorcycle. In the Cafe Society thread in which I mentioned this, someone suggested “get an organ donor card” which I took to be quite rude (I mean, as a practical consideration, I know you’re supposed to have one, but telling someone that he’s going to die? Is this not a rude remark to make?) If someone came out of the closet, would the first thing you said to him be “I hope you don’t get AIDS?” No, it wouldn’t. Anyway, I responded by saying that you wouldn’t suggest that a road bicyclist get an organ donor card, even though it’s probably just as risky to ride one on the road.

Now I’m wondering if that’s actually true or not. I can’t see how riding something that’s completely silent and underpowered in traffic is less likely to be hit by a car than something that is highly powerful and very noisy. I’m specifically talking about being hit by a car here because it’s my understanding that most fatal motorcycle accidents involve being hit by a car. So is a road bike, ridden in traffic, just as dangerous? (And I know there are bike lanes, but NOBODY here in my town ever uses them, they ride right in the road or alongside the cars.)

While we’re on the topic, what about scooters? I have seen a huge number of people around here riding motorscooters, and maybe 2% wear a helmet (and zero percent wear any kind of protective jacket.) People think that these scooters are safer than motorcycles. I contend that they are not since they are underpowered and have smaller wheels, as well as the fact that their riders usually think that there’s no risk in riding them and don’t wear helmets, plus the fact that they don’t require a driver’s license to operate - and yet I have never heard anyone bitch that motorscooters are dangerous. It seems like motorcycles get all the “unsafe” rhetoric. Is this unjust?

We did this a couple years back in this thread. What I said in post #7 of that thread, in part, was:

Basically, what kills you is the speed, either your own or that of what hits you. Yes, bicycles and scooters are flimsy and vulnerable, but they aren’t in traffic moving at highway speeds. So if they do get hit, the rider has a somewhat better chance of surviving, and because the cars are moving at slower speeds, the drivers have more reaction time and a better chance of not hitting them in the first place.

On the non-GQ part of your post, I agree that it’s not polite to joke to anybody about the chances that their new hobby might kill them. However, I don’t think your analogy with a gay person coming out holds up. Buying a motorcycle is not the same thing as acknowledging a fundamental aspect of your sexual identity. I mean, not unless you’re really, er, close to your bike.

Well, I’m not planning to ride my motorcycle on the highway or even on any of the busier roads around here. I live in a small town with generally calm peaceful traffic. I don’t speed in my car so I see no reason why I won’t obey the speed limit on my motorcycle. I’ve made it clear that I’ll be taking the ABATE training course (widely recognized to be the best) and that I’ll be wearing a helmet and a jacket at all times. With these advantages, I see no reason why I should be making plans for my violent death as if I were to run naked into a herd of stampeding bulls.

I rode a motorcycle for about 20 years until BakingWithElectricity made me get rid of it when we got married. It’s a great way to travel. I do not know the details of the statistics about motorcycle accidents but statistics can be misleading. I would guess that a larger proportion of motorcyclists exhibit risky driving behavior compared to car drivers, which can skew the numbers.

I had a couple of close calls but never had an accident. Once a driver turned left in front me, which I believe is the most common and most dangerous situation that is not the motorcyclist’s fault. He just missed me. A couple of other times, riding on a highway the car next to me did not see me and started to change lanes. This is usually mitigated by positioning yourself properly but sometimes when it’s busy it can’t be avoided. The stupidest thing a driver ever did was, when I was driving on a two-lane no-passing road in the rain doing the speed limit, she passed me on the right on a narrow shoulder.

I was a fairly conservative rider. I did not make low-margin-of-error lane changes or drive amazingly faster than surrounding traffic, two things that just tempt fate. I enjoyed the twisties but never lost control in a turn. The only time I ever dropped the bike was very embarrassing–I was going about 1 MPH but was trying to turn around in some gravel and the bike slid out.

The real problem with motorcycles is that if you do have an accident, the injuries are more serious than the same situation in a car.

There was an old saying we had, which is only half-joking. There are two kind of bikers: The ones who have gone down and the ones who are going to.

I think motorcycling is great. Don’t ask me about skydiving.

Actually, statements like that are pretty common when someone comes out. Often from family members, no less.

And even said to lesbians, who have by far the lowest rates of AIDS of anyone. Way less than straight men or women.

But, really, families are often stupified when someone comes out, and say real stupid things. You have to give them a while to come to their senses again.

I hate to break it to you, Argent, but you are going to die. Whether you ride a motorcycle or not. No one gets out of this world alive.

In the meantime, enjoy your bike. Safely.

I don’t think many people who meet violent deaths were planning on it, honestly.

Good luck though. I’m thinking of buying a motorcycle myself.

After you’ve been riding for a while you get used to that sort of comments and learn to deal with it. lissener’s is a good example of the kind of worthless opinions, if you can call it that, that you’ll come across.

To answer the question, motorcycles are more dangerous than bicycles in my opinion, because speed is the biggest risk factor. You may come up with all sorts of claims of being an exceptionally safe rider, which I don’t contest, but statistically it holds true.

Lissener’s example is very gory and scary sounding but I am not going to be riding in Chicago or any place remotely like it. I would never even want to drive my car in Chicago. I’ll be riding in a quiet town with relatively peaceful traffic and a lot of lonely back roads.

You’re talking like riding in Chicago is the kiss of death. It’s not. Lissener doesn’t know jack about motorcycles but managed to scare you already in his arrogant, sensationalist, know-it-all tone. If you didn’t know already you could meet a gory fate riding a bike, you’re pretty clueless, I’m sorry to say. At least take the lesson: never trust your life on a green traffic light.

If I may give you a small piece of advice, fear will work against you. Don’t fear the motorcycle, but respect it.

Here are some stats from the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority, they have lots of stuff.

In 1997 in NSW there were 43 fatalities, 593 serious injuries and 1,113 other injuries for motorcyclists.

In the same period there were 18 fatalities, 237 serious injuries and 957 other injuries for bicyclists.

Nearly 50% of all motorcycle accidents involved no other vehicle and these included over 1/3 of all fatalities.

At the time there were only 74,000 registered motorcycles in the state and presumably many more bicycles.

Largely the cause of death/injury in motorcycle accidents is not what hits you, it is what you hit and the speed you are travelling when you hit it.

Chiming in here - it’s true, speed kills.

If you wipe out your car at 100 mph you are more likely to survive than if you do the same with a motorcycle, because in a car there’s stuff around you to absorb the upcoming impact(s) with the environment. The car will be trashed, you might be seriously injured, but your body will most likely be mostly intact.

Do that on a motocycle, however, not only does the bike have a tendency to disassemble, so does your body. On another message board I recently saw a link to the remains of a high-speed motorcycle accident. The rider had had a “zen experience” - that is, he became one with everything, his various compent parts distributed about the landscape. I’d like to emphasize that this accident did NOT involve another vehicle - it was a pure and simple wipe-out. I’d link to it, but it IS overwhelming icky and I don’t want to get into trouble with the mods. If anyone is that curious, a Google search or rotten.com or the like will be able to satisfy your curiousity.

You just can’t (baring extraordinary circumstances) get up to those kinds of speeds on a bicycle. On the flat, the most the average person is going to achieve is about 20 mph. That can still result in serious, even fatal, injuries but it won’t literally rip your limbs off.

With motorcycles, the driver is a key factor in the danger/safety equation. IF you don’t commit high speed stupidity and practice safe driving then the risk factor for you personally will go down compared to the average crotch-rocket idiot. That still does not eliminate falling over (something cars rarely do) or getting creamed by a stupid jerk in an SUV. Even on a quiet country road. Motorcycles are inherently more risky than a car given the same road conditions and safety level of the driver. They are also, in safe and sober hands, probably safer than a drunk driver in a car. They aren’t death traps but they do require a different sort of driving and thinking about driving than a car does.

This is purely anicdotal, but speaks directly to the OP.

A few years ago I changed employers ansd therefore health plans…HMO Had to select a new primary care doc…OK, wasn’t very thrilled with the old one anyway.

So I show up for my first appointment in MC gear and carrying helmet. Doc says: “Glad to see the helmet. A lot of my colleges would give you grief, but I figure I’m at greater risk on my bicycle.”

About a two years ago I needed to see him and called for an appointment. Turns out he’s dead. Rear-ended by a car while riding his bicycle.

Yep, purely anicdotal, but he called it.

A couple of things I want to toss in here.
First off many bicyclists are kids. Kids do not have the same fear of death and injury that adults have. Kids tend to get into more accidents than adults. The bike death rate numbers that have been quoted do not break them out by age. I suspect that if you only looked at adult riders the gap between motorcycle and bicycle riders would be much greater.
Before we get the “I never heard of a kid getting killed stories”, let me say I knew 2 kids that did not make it to teenage due to bike accidents.
Next is the fact that motorcycles are allowed on the freeway and bicycles are not. Speeds are much faster, and an accident can be just that much worse. My next door neighbor lost his lower leg when a semi made a lane change into him. He was a very experienced rider.
Next is the single most common motorcycle / car accident is a car left turning in front of a motorcycle. Why? It could be one of several reasons. Maybe the car did not see the bike, same would apply to a bicycle. Maybe the motorcycle is going much faster than the car’s driver estimated. This is not a problem with a bicycle, they rarely exceed 25 MPH on flat ground. Also if it is a multilane road with the bicycle rider near the curb he has some time to react and stop/slow to avoid the left turning car. A motorcycle in the center lane does not have that time.
Lastly, I seem to recall reading somewhere that a brand new motorcyclist had a death rate that was much much higher than an experienced rider. I seem to recall hearing that the first 6 weeks are almost an order of magnitude higher than and experienced rider. No cite, but I do recall hearing that. Having ridden a motorcycle (just a little) in LA traffic I can believe it. Stories like this could be the organ of the organ donor comment. ::: shrug:::
My take? Have fun, wear protective equipment and be careful. I would hate to see our member count go down. :slight_smile:

Ex-motorcylclist here. To the OP, the difference between bicycles and motorcycles is that (at least here in CA), motorcycles share the lanes with cars. Whereas bikes are on the side. I think the law says something like bicycles are also “entitled” to the use of the road or something. But the thing is, bikes are “out” of traffic for the most part.
So what ? Why is that such a difference ? Well, as a new motorcycle rider, despite perhaps a nice, shiney, big, and maybe loud motorcycle, you are soon going to learn that you are INVISIBLE. It is amazing how (car) drivers will simply not acknowledge your presence. The good side is that I truly believe that riding a motorcycle is The Best way to learn “defensive driving” - because you will either learn it or not survive ! Not to be alarmist, but you really need to take the attitude that, though you occupy space and reflect light like any other object, you are simply not “seen” most of the time. This will take you far, and you will learn this one way or the other, so you might just assume this to be safe !

Speed and the fact that any “slight” accident is not so slight on a motorcycle are also big factors (think about the difference between getting rear-ended in a car vs. your motorcycle). But from my experience, what makes it most dangerous is 1. that you are not seen and 2. that you believe you should be seen and have the same “acknowledgement” as if you were in a car.