Ride while you still can!

Two articles I read today, at Riding Sun about the dangers that come with advanced safety equipment, and at Wired about the increasingly sophisticated automatic acceleration and braking systems becoming available, got me thinking about how this safety technology is going to affect us bikers. I’m afraid that improved safety tech in automobiles could eventually result in our losing the right to ride.

While I agree with GB that, so far, safety tech like ABS hasn’t really done much to increase actual road safety (since drivers compensate by driving less carefully), the Wired article makes me think that this won’t necessarily be the case for long. The tech keeps evolving, and once it’s viable it won’t be long before the optional safety equipment becomes mandatory, as happened with airbags.

While it’s nice that people will be safer in their cages, what this means for bikers is that doing something as reckless as riding a vehicle without such safety features will seem even more irrational in the eyes of those who don’t ride. Some people already think bikes are too dangerous to be legal, and their numbers will only grow as the safety gap between bikes and cars widens. And we know how people love to make laws to protect people from themselves.

Tech holds other threats as well. While the Kneeslider has shown that the recent study claiming that bikes pollute more than cars was flawed, again it is only a matter of time before hybrid engines and other such technology make this true. When the day comes that motorcycles become less fuel efficient, more polluting, far more dangerous and far louder than cars, I fear that our days of riding free may be numbered.

Demographically we bikers are a small group, and while recent progress repealing helmet laws and such shows that we can have clout when we get organized, we have to stay vigilant if we want to keep the right to ride. I figure we’ve got a decade or two left in the wind and the sun.

So am I just being paranoid?

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