~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Traffic Camera Fraud

There's a new web site up and working now in Arizona, CameraFraud.com, and it deals with the injustices of the new speed camera system being implemented in Arizona. The State of Arizona has decided to roll out it's biggest stealth money confiscation scheme so far. It's hard to imagine there is anything more phony than car and motorcycle dealers charging "doc fees" but speed and red light cameras fall into that category and are worse as far as I'm concerned.

Some research will show anyone that cares to confront the truth that automatic traffic ticket camera systems are far from fool proof and in fact have been shown to increase traffic incidents contrary to what the State Department of Transportation proclaims on it's web page.
A 2008 University of South Florida report found:
"Comprehensive studies conclude cameras actually increase crashes and injuries, providing a safety argument not to install them.... public policy should avoid conflicts of interest that enhance revenues for government and private interests at the risk of public safety."

You can find reference information here and here.

Many city and state governments are lured by easy money under the guise of "road safety" but no one is fooled by this bit of political slight of hand. The issue is money, not safety. That was well proven by the State of Arizona's FY09 budget summary which stated "Prompt enactment and implementation of the new highway photo enforcement legislation would provide revenue needed for responding to growing needs."

I object in principal to photo enforcement systems as not only as another step towards "Big Brother" government but also as an abdication by the government to properly police our streets using a police officer who is far more able than a machine to judge the complexities of a traffic situation.

The usual response by officials is "don't speed and you have nothing to worry about." To that I pile of sanctimonious equine fecal matter I say that no one needs a questionable ticket issued by a robot just so the State can raise money when they don't have the courage to raise taxes or cut services. "Just don't break the law" is the sort of government-speak one expects from fascists, communists, and others devoted to the growth and expansion of the government who employs them.

Perhaps you are thinking that I am angry because I am one who recently received a citation via an automatic ticket system somewhere. You would be incorrect in thinking that. I have not received such a ticket in Arizona or anywhere else. I have no axe to grind here except to object to the government pursuing additional revenues in an inappropriate and unjust way. The times in my four plus decades of driving that I have been cited by a traffic officer were straight forward (perhaps with one exception), the officers were polite, professional, and I paid the fine without complaint. Sometimes I like to head out on some country road and ride fast and if I get popped, so be it. You play, you pay. My concern is with a fallible camera system set to maximize profits for the government and it's contractor or photos reviewed by blind people before the citation is mailed.

No one is perfect which is why camera systems are bound to err and safe drivers are likely to get a citation when they miss a light by as little as 1/100th of second. By the way, the Arizona State speed cameras are supposed to be set to trip at 11 mph over the posted limit. I've been told that the State highway patrol wanted them set to trip at 6 mph over. That shows you how much the police leadership wants to nitpick in pursuit of control and money.

Watch your speedometer; how often do you find yourself more than 5 mph over a posted speed limit if only for a moment? What about 11 mph over? 25 mph zones on side streets or 35 mph zones on wide, lightly traveled city streets should prove lucrative hunting grounds for our ravenous government unless every one of us drives prefect. Roads where the speed limit changes from 45 mph to 55 mph and back again in a matter of a mile or two will provide and ideal speed trap location because you see the speed limit changes at the sign, not 10 feet beyond it. Expect the State to exploit this. The money potential will be too good to resist.

In the desperation to raise money some governments even involve enforcement trickery. Given time and after traffic cameras take root more than they have already you can be sure that police departments will resort to gimmicks in their effort to make you a perfect driver. That is the goal, isn't it? For all of us to drive perfectly and never make an error?

You government officials were elected to govern honestly, not to backdoor citizens rights and pocketbooks. An honest government should not need to use some Orwellian electronic device supplied by a foreign company to do the financial heavy lifting for them.
If the government needs more money it can cut costs or raise taxes and fees honestly. Traffic cameras are a fraud and a shame and the State of Arizona and every city who uses them ought to be ashamed of their actions.

[Note: I am not affiliated in anyway with the web sites www.thenewspaper.com or www.CameraFraud.com]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

SuperMoto Scooter?

This whole scooter riding thing may have more potential for fun than I thought:

Hat tip to The Scooter Scoop blog for the link.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What's In A Name?

My friend Jim visited a Harley shop recently and wrote me later in an e-mail "There were some rough looking bikers in there. Beer bellies, lots of black leather, tattoos, beards. And the men looked pretty tough too!"

My last post generated some kind comments and interesting ideas about what constitutes a "biker." Over at the Mr. Motorcycle blog there's some good thoughts on the subject and with which I am in general agreement.

I've never considered myself a real biker though, hence my unwillingness in the previous blog entry to post a picture of me standing next to a new Harley Crossbones. I am not much into playing pretend and I'd prefer to make fun of myself than be mistaken a poseur.

Rather than a biker I have always thought of myself as a through and through motorcycle enthusiast. I'm not an expert about anything in particular in the motorcycle world but I love almost all of it. I've spent most of my life around and riding motorcycles, made my living from them sometimes, and spent what some would say was foolish amounts of money on motorcycles. I have no regrets. As for the biker label, there is a reason why I never wanted to be a biker in the sense that I know the term and reason for that pre-dates the not only the riding experience of a lot of people but even pre-dates their existence and mine.

When I first became interested in motorcycles I was about 12 years old. As with anything that catches my interest I wanted to learn about motorcycles, poke at them, understand them, and ultimately own and ride one. They scared me a little but rather than scare me away the feeling pulled me closer for some reason. That period of time when I got hooked on bikes was the early 1960s so my ideas about what motorcycles and motorcycle riders are had their formation in a time when motorcycling was in many respects extremely different than it is now. Honda was just starting to run about telling everyone that you meet the nicest people on their bikes.

No one considered Hondas real motorcycles. Real motorcycles were ridden usually by ruffians -- bikers. The upright and virtuous American Motorcycle Association with their white pants wearing officials at races and sanctioned, uniform wearing road clubs or well organized racing clubs was quick to point out that their crowd were the good guys and only one percent of all riders were the bad guys. You see, those one percent folks were...bikers! Some bikers still wear a "1%" patch proudly. It has a much deeper meaning than just a jacket decoration.

Many years back my younger brother bought himself a Yamaha 400. Might have been his first bike, I'm not sure. He called me and told about his "bad" black bike and his "bad" black jacket and his "bad" boots, sunglasses, etc. etc. etc. I replied. "One day you're going to be sitting at a stop light on your bad black Yamaha, wearing your bad black jacket and your bad mirror sunglasses and some biker who really is a bad guy is going to ride up, hock a big one on your boot and then we'll see how bad you really are." Darrel grew up in time, went through a fair number of bikes himself, and currently rides a black Suzuki VStrom 1000. I don't know that he thinks the VStrom is "bad" but he seems to like it a lot. No, that's not my brother on the left, that's "Psycho" on his KLR650.

In 1963 or so to be a biker was not seen a positive thing in any way by anyone outside of those who made up that group. To be a biker was a genuine anti-social thing. Forty or fifty years ago a biker was a rough character, an untrustworthy person (except to other bikers). A biker was someone who smoked unfiltered cigarettes, had a tattoo, rode a loud motorsickle down your street late at night, shot pool in smoky bar rooms, consorted with women of easy virtue, and settled his arguments with his fists or a length of drive chain.

"Biker" and "hoodlum" were pretty much interchangeable words. Mr. 1960 Biker probably didn't have a job or if he did it was something no decent person would aspire to as a career. Nice girls did not hang around with bikers, decent people would not associate with bikers, and young men of promise were inculcated with the idea that "You are known by the company you keep." Wally and The Beaver would have understood it was certainly not good to be known as a biker. It all sounds like a silly stereotype now, doesn't it? But there was a time when it was reality. For a few, it still is.

To better understand this early image of the biker watch the old Marlon Brando movie "The Wild One." The movie looks corny now, seems trite, but it was very much a reflection of how people saw "bikers" way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth in 1950. You will even see some nice, proper motorcycle racing people chase off the bikers. Worse, "The Wild One" along with a few later movies, indelibly stamped the negative biker image on the wider American social consciousness and to some degree that negative image is still there.

Note also in "The Wild One" how many bikers rode something other than a Harley. In fact if you look through custom bike magazines from the late '60s or '70s you'll see that a fair number of customs were based on British bikes, not American bikes. Bikers rode anything and everything (except "ring ding Jap bikes").

The term "biker" has evolved quite a lot in the last 50 years and that is for the good. For many riders now, regardless of their positive demeanor, grooming habits, employment, or lack of a rap sheet, to be called a biker is a badge of honor. We take some of the patina of the original biker, the spirit of rebelliousness, and call it our own even while we know it's at best only partly true of a modern biker. Calling yourself a biker now is more a statement of the importance of motorcycles and motorcycle riding in your life.

Those that I, being an old fahrt, would refer to as "real bikers" still exist. If you've been around motorcycles very long you know who they are and they pretty much fit the old stereotype before it was a stereotype. It's their life though, it's who they are. They didn't borrow their lifestyle from anyone else. As one told me recently "I didn't choose this life it chose me. I tried to get away but I always came back." Being a real biker isn't necessarily and easy ride.

If you think of yourself as a biker in the modern sense of the term then more power to you as long as you're serious about bikes and riding. If you're just playing the biker game though, remember that someday you're liable to run into a real, old style biker who just might call your bluff and hock a big one on your boot. Then we'll see if you settle the argument with your fists, a length of drive chain, or a weak smile.

As for me, I'm just an motorcycle guy, a guy who got bit by the motorcycle bug a long time ago and never found or even wanted a cure. If that makes me a biker by the modern definition then that's OK.

Besides the photos of yours truly, all of the people in the photos in this entry are people I know, have ridden with, or have met at bike events. I do not know if any of them consider themselves to be bikers but I'm certain they are all serious motorcycle riders. My kind of people.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Born To Be Mild

I found myself with a bit of free time yesterday and in the vicinity of certain motorcycle shops so it only made sense to visit said shops and look at bikes. As the Mrs. was with me she would at critical moments whipped out her point and shoot camera to document some of the fun for all of you.

We visited a Kawasaki shop, a Honda / Yamaha / Suzuki "powersports store" (ugh), a Euro bike dealer now stocking choppers along with Ducati & Friends, and yes...two Harley shops. How could I not stop and eyeball the darkly alluring bad boy bike, the Crossbones, the bike which brought about a whole series of intense, high level discussions at the 40on2 Estate?

I did indeed plant my keester on a Crossbones and I like it a bunch. The version with the silver tank really captures the bobber look better than the all black version does and I can image no end of fun bombing around Arizona on that bike. I even stood next to a very rowdy looking Jack Daniels Edition Harley. The Jack Daniels bike was fun except that I quit drinking nearly 30 years ago and didn't like JD even then.

To be honest, in looking at the pictures the wife took of me sitting on the bikes I looked ridiculous, like some middle aged, chubby, engineer poseur imagining he was a biker, hence the slight editing of the photos for the blog. I am not a biker, I am what I appear to be and as much as fun as it may be to imagine a Harley would make me look like my occasional riding associate, Imo, I look like me: A motorcycle enthusiast but fairly ordinary no matter what. There's a lesson there for all who think riding a Harley makes them a real biker. See if in the photo below you can guess which guy is Imo and guy is me.

And just to mess with notions of stereotypes, for the last several years Imo (on the left) rides a Yamaha RoadStar ratbike:

I would never actually buy or not buy a bike based on how I looked on it. Motorcycle riders can all be a little image conscience (don't tell me you never rode past a big store window and didn't check out your reflection) but truly I do not care what anyone thinks of what I ride, how I dress when I ride, or how much or how little I ride. What does all this mean? I don't know. I just went bike shopping and motorcycle fever combined with a lack of access to large sums of cash and an empty garage has addled my brain.

Back at the Harley shop the Mrs. was curled up on a black leather Harley logo'd sofa by the Harley logo'd pool table next to the Harley logo'd juke box and reading a book while eating free popcorn as I continued to browse bikes and tell stories to the sales guy. H-D has done a wonderful job of marketing their shops to wives. Someone finally figured out that non-riding wives and girlfriends just might have some influence on their mate's purchasing decision.

H-D also does a superb job of styling and nailing down the fit & finish on their bikes. I'd be pleased to motor about on the Crossbones or any of several Harleys upon which I looked and liked. I suspect that the Harley Fat Boy would fit me better than the Crossbones, you know what I mean?

I finally wandered over to the Mrs. and said "I told the salesman I'd take the Crossbones. Give me the checkbook please." She looked at me with much skepticism, not unlike the way she does after reading most of my blog entries. She said "Yeah right. I don't see the salesman doing the happy dance so I know you're just teasing me."


Monday, August 04, 2008

A Worthy Ride

As The Wife pours over cruise ship brochures humming happily I am dispiritedly browsing Craig's List and Cycle Trader looking for some sort of motorized two-wheeled vehicle commensurate with my experience, riding preferences, need for speed, general reputation as a motorcycle enthusiast, and worse...my budget. Since my motorcycle budget is now slightly less than what the average Harley owner spends on beer in a month or the average BMW owner spends on one tune-up it is mighty slim pickin's for ol' Doug. No matter, sometimes the search is half the fun and I try to be open to new directions and ideas about what constitutes motorcycle riding fun. Still, I have my standards.

I'd rather have the Heinkel scooter with the sidecar.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence

An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison