I think we can all agree that what happened in New York City was a terrible incident all around. Yes, I'm talking about the Range Rover VS Motorcycles thing, and I call it a "thing" because I'm lost for a word which properly describes how I feel. I think a lot of us are in the same boat.
So let's start with the mantra, "Two Wheels Bad."
We're car guys (and gals) by and large, but as with most dudes (and dudettes) who're into cars, our tastes often include other forms of motorized transport. Planes, trains and automobiles, people. We're generally all about all of it and we're generally a pretty tolerant bunch here on Oppo. That said, we're always pushing the gag that four wheels are better than two, maybe because the car theme is stronger in the fourc-ylinder. Having said all that, we've got a great group of bike enthusiasts around Oppo and I know that in my personal life some of my best friends ride, so it's obvious really; we're just busting balls across the fraternity.
But what happened in NYC was something all together different and sadly, not uncommon. And the thing of it is; we're all prone to the same behavior. It's fundamentally human, that mob mentality, and it'll cause people to act in a way they may otherwise not, that they may otherwise detest. I know, I've been there. It's peer pressure, and when a group of car guys gets into the same situation, shutting down traffic and taking possession of the public roadways, it looks bad for the entire fraternity. I lived in Vancouver, during the Stanley Cup riot, and saw people who would otherwise be considered upstanding members of their communities behave in a way that, outside of the mob, would be considered childish and antisocial. Caught up in the mob, however; they say it's like being drunk and for many people reason goes right out the window, or through the window of a shop.
That's what I think happened in NYC. Unfortunately, even after the more rational members of the mob had spent their rage, others took up the charge and those others, for the most part, were the real "bad guys". Look, it really sucks that people were hurt, that someone may never walk again and that an entire family was terrorized by and will never regard the same way, motorcyclists.
It's over now. It's done. All we can do now is try to understand why it happened, determine who was really at fault and what levels of responsibility those individuals bare and hopefully find a way of preventing this kind of thing in the future.
Unfortunately, it's too easy to throw a blanket on the situation and call it done. It's too easy to cast all bikers in the same mold. The danger for us, as car guys, is that we could very easily feel the same negative reaction. Heck, I've commented time and again on the differences between the "grown up" approach to meets and rides/cruises and the "wrong" approach. One considers the area, the people and buisnesses who live and operate there, and seeks to be of benefit to the area hosting the event. The other says, "Fuck you, I'm'a do what I want to." It's not hard to figure out which one works better. It's also not hard to realize that one group is fucking it up for the other while that other group is constantly trying to repair the civic relationships destroyed by the selfish and ungrateful.
So what is the solution?
Do we crack down on the motorcycle clubs, or on the entire enthusiast community? Can we hold the bikers responsible for setting out to have fun at the expense of others? Or is there a greater issue here?
A million men marched, once. The marched for change, and it worked. Sometimes I wonder if these groups think they're doing the same thing, if they think they're advancing their cause and making the culture more socially acceptable. A part of me wonders if they even realize that what they're actually doing is setting the groundwork for legislation against their hobby, that they're sowing the seeds of destruction in the garden of their own passion. A part of me wonders if the collective maturity level of these groups averages about seventeen, regardless of actual age.
I used to be one, thankfully not for long. I was a young man, feeling my oats, and driving like an arrogant youth. Unlike many, even among my friends, I outgrew that irrational rage at society fairly quickly and now, at only 32, I see guys who're in my age group behaving like teenagers and understand that it has absolutely nothing to do with physical age and everything to do with mental maturity.
So, here's my solution; legislation.
Find a way, through legislation, to force these groups to make a choice to either grow up and cooperate or have their toys taken away. Set up dragnets, when these events are in the wind, and check every single rider or driver for proper documentation. Sure, it's a pain in the ass, but if their goal is to be a pain in the ass, they can damn well take a little. If the numbers are too high, and there's no permit permitting the event, shut that shit down but make it public knowledge you're changing the laws, make it well known that if you participate in this kind of event without the proper permits, you're done - toys taken away and the right to operate them revoked.
Here, in Canada and in BC in particular, we've got some fairly draconian rules when it comes to this kind of thing and as well as it's worked, I think it's only a half measure. We, as a society, need to accept responsibility for our own safety and the safety of those around us. We need to be individually and socially responsible and we need to accept that those who cannot play along need to be put on a time out, period.
It takes two years to get your license here, and it's a start. But like the Scandinavians, we need to use that time to teach our new and young drivers not only how to operate safely but how to be productive members of the automotive culture. Two years is plenty of time to ensure a driver has not only the skills to drive safely but desire to do so.
In BC, if you street race you can have your car taken away. In BC, if you participate in an event like the one in NYC you are considered to be acting in the full knowledge that you're in contravention of the law and that you're subject to whatever reprisal said law deems necessary. Sure, some people cry foul but it's hard to make your case when you're caught doing one hundred and twenty miles per hour along at 80km/h road especially when you're doing it alongside one or more cars doing the same. And that's where I think it breaks down, that's where the ultimate blame, in my opinion, falls upon every single biker participating - everyone involved carries some of the weight of responsibility - but it will be through making examples of those we can that we send the clear message that this won't be tolerated.
You want to do a group ride? Fine. Go about it correctly. You want to stunt around? No problem if you've got around 300 people involved and you get everyone to pay a small fee so that you and your crew can rent a track for the day. But don't shut down a public road. Don't fuck over your fellow man and don't be surprised when you get your dick burned because you were busy having sex with a Bunsen burner.
To the family of the injured rider; I'm really sorry your loved one got hurt. I really am. But maybe quit playing the victim card and accept some of the responsibility that comes with participating in this massive, illegal event. Hey may never walk again? No? You're saying he will never walk again? Glad you have faith, glad you're not clearly sucking up to the public as "victims" because you're really doing yourself and your loved one proud... NOT! Here's what you need to be saying, "We're really upset and saddened that our family member was injured and we are praying for him. We hope he'll recover but he may never walk again. This should be a reminder to everyone out there that these things aren't toys!"
To the family of the driver; I am so sorry. Full stop. You got caught up in a mob, and something terrible happened. The mob reacted predictably and you did a good job of keeping your family safe. On behalf of the authorities, who won't say as much, I think you deserve a massive apology because, if you ask me, the responsibility for preventing this kind of thing lies with them. They knew it was happening and either failed to or were not properly equipped to prevent it. If you ask me, the whole ride should have been shut down before it started. And please don't blame every biker, because I know quite a few who say that, had they been there, they'd have been among the voices of reason calling upon the aggressors to let the authorities respond (the only problem being that the mature, responsible riders wouldn't have been involved with an event like this to begin with).
To the bikers who're incensed; you played with fire, you got burned. Maybe next time, don't play with fire? That, or take a moment to put on some fireproof garb. Oh, and keep your flaming shit the fuck out of everyone's day. Thanks.
In summary, I'd favor legislation. But I'm a Canadian and that could be a key difference. Maybe I'm missing something, and I'd wager I am so I'm calling on my fellow Opponauts to voice their opinions but I'd ask that since this isn't the FP, we at least try and keep a civil tone about it even if someone suggests that the driver should have been packing heat.