Editorial: Crack down on maniac motorcyclists

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
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It seems inarguable that a motorcyclist who drives at speeds close to 200 mph has a death wish. It would be their business if they were doing it on a private roadway, but when they do it on the state Thruway or Northway, as increasing numbers of them have been doing lately, it’s a matter of serious concern for the police and public.

The latest incident occurred Saturday night, when state police clocked a cyclist riding near the Twin Bridges, with passenger, at 145 mph. In Ulster County May 30, a biker was caught riding — in the rain, no less — at 193 mph. Then there was the guy May 2, who bragged to cops after being clocked at 170 mph that his bike was capable of going 20 mph faster.

It goes without saying that any vehicle — car or motorcycle — traveling at those kinds of speeds has a high probability of crashing. The roads, even superhighways like the Thruway and Northway, simply aren’t designed that well, nor is their pavement in such great condition. But even if the cyclists could completely control their bikes, they can’t control what other motorists are likely to do when a bike comes screaming up on them going that fast. Trying to get out of the way — a normal reaction — could be even riskier than just trying to hold the road.

Authorities, whose safety is also jeopardized trying to apprehend these maniacs, need to throw the book at them: They should impound the bikes and prosecute for felonious reckless endangerment, which would allow up to seven years in jail. If what these cyclists are doing doesn’t pose a “grave risk of death” and demonstrate a “depraved indifference to human life,” what does?

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June 12, 2012
5:40 a.m.
J.D. says...

Great letter!

June 12, 2012
7:20 a.m.
biwemple says...

Why do the manufacturers of these bikes (or cars even) need to build a machine that can travel 3-4 times the posted speed limit? What purpose does it serve making and selling a consumer product that seems destined to be used to break the law and endanger yourself and others on the highway?

June 12, 2012
4:01 p.m.
canarybird57 says...

Agreed: bikes - and cars too - are ridiculously overpowered these days. There's no reason for a 150 horsepower motorcycle, any more than there's a reason for a 400 horsepower passenger car. Consumers are told through advertising that power is good, and more power is even better. Many of them seem to believe it.

What is the answer? Should we tax excessive horsepower? How do we define what is excessive? Can you imagine such legislation ever being passed? Would you want it?

The responsibility ultimately lies with the rider, not with the machine. These thrill-seekers are usually young, and usually male. We can't outlaw hormones. What we can do is encourage these guys to take their need for speed to racetracks, where it will be welcome. This could start with the dealers who sell the motorcycles or high-powered sports cars: they could sponsor track days for the new owners. This certainly isn't a cure-all for lawless behavior, but it should help.

Extreme speeding is not a problem with "bikers" in general. Most motorcyclists are law-abiding and many - myself included - have been quietly riding for decades without creating any kind of public nuisance.

Unfortunately there will always be an irresponsible handful who create hazards for the rest of us. Some of them are young punks speeding, and some of them are adults driving heedlessly, like that woman in a minivan who hit and killed two young motorcyclists at an intersection in White Creek last Saturday.

Slow down and pay attention. We'll have a safer and more civilized society. Better that we make the choice than have the government make it for us.

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