The past few days have been rough on riders of motorcycles in the greater Toronto area.
It started in the wee hours of Saturday morning, with a shocking report about a rider who ran from police in Whitby. The rider wasn't alone; there was a passenger on the back of the bike. When the rider cranked the throttle to escape police, the passenger fell off. And was immediately hit by more than one car; Whitby's only 10 minutes east of Toronto and the 401 is busy, even at that time of night. One witness's account of seeing body parts strewn across the 401 in the aftermath was so horrible I won't dare repeat any of it. Death must have come quickly, but before shock set in the pain would have been unimaginable.
Horribly, that's not the most shocking part: THE RIDER KEPT GOING. Left the passenger to be crushed and dismembered in traffic, without a look back. As did the cars who ran over her. No one stopped.
Let me repeat that: NO ONE STOPPED.
This is reminiscent of the murder of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York on March 13, 1964, in full view of dozens of her neighbours. Some reportedly called police, but her attacker had time to leave and come back to finish the job. No one intervened.
How can that happen? There, then? Here, now?
Not many facts about Friday's gruesome event have been made public. Why didn't motorists stop? Did those who ran over the passenger's body think that they'd hit a deer? How could the rider - regardless of WHY he (or she - police haven't released the gender) was running from police - leave a passenger to die, alone?
These are troubling questions, and unlikely to be answered until the police find the rider and charge him or her, since it's clear they're holding their cards close to their collective chest until their investigation is ready to close in.
But this sordid tale has caused many a GTA motorcyclist several sleepless nights. There were 30 pages of posts in a discussion of the event on GTAMotorcycle.com by Saturday night. Almost everyone expressed shock and disbelief at the rider's unconscionably cavalier disregard for his passenger's life. A few implied that the guilty party was a member of the board well-known for speeding irresponsibly, often with passengers riding without protective gear. A small but vocal group was throwing out accusations that the draconian Ontario highway code that convicts speeders on the spot by confiscating vehicles was responsible for the rider running. That forums where riders discuss why they might run because of the new law might have influenced the rider.
That's ludicrous. Let me make this clear: why the rider ran is irrelevant. I, and the majority of riders -- THE MAJORITY OF HUMAN BEINGS -- don't care a whit WHY he or she ran. We want to know HOW anyone could do such a thing. Leave another human being to that passenger's fate. Fail to stop once it was evident the passenger was gone.
How motorists, subsequently, could fail to stop.
How have we come to live in a society where any of these things are even possible?
Riders are a group hardened by the harsh reality of the danger of the sport. The passenger's death isn't the only one being discussed this week.
A funeral will be held Wednesday for a rider well-loved by many on the board after his bike piled into a car stalled at Eglington and Albina last Thursday. Another rider I know and respect is recovering from multiple broken ribs and internal injuries sustained when a moose jumped out in front of his bike three weeks ago on Highway 11 near Thunder Bay. Another friend may never be able to use one of his arms again after a horrible crash in North Carolina last summer.
An 18-year-old novice died earlier this month when she lost control of her motorcycle in Clarington. Another rider lost her life on Highway 507 near Gooderham yesterday, mere minutes from where a good friend of mine was hit by a pickup truck last October, shattering both her wrists, an eye socket, a knee, and inflicting many other excruciatingly serious injuries, some of which she may never completely recover from.
The "Rider Down" thread on GTAMotorcycle.com gets far too many posts each season, and each year as I meet more riders I personally know more of the riders who go down. As riders, we know the risks. Most of us wear as much protective gear as we can, knowing that it can happen to anyone, at any time, even when we're vigilant, alert, and road conditions are perfect.
Motorists who have never ridden on two wheels are oblivious to how vulnerable riders are out there. This is evidenced by how closely they tailgate motorcycles in stop and go traffic. Tapping the bumper of a car scratches the paint. Tapping a motorcycle with your bumper puts that motorcycle down and INJURES the motorcyclist. Cutting off another car in traffic results in a fender bender. Cutting off a motorcycle in traffic can kill or permanently maim the motorcyclist. I really wish everyone had to ride a motorcycle in Toronto traffic, just for a day, before being issued a driver's licence. Maybe they'd drive a bit more carefully.
But it's clear that some motorists consider all motorcyclists a menace. I was stunned by the vitriolic comments some readers made on news sites where the story was posted, passing judgment on everyone who uses two wheels for transportation, based on this one rider's actions. It's disheartening to read that someone can hate you, without knowing anything about you, based on your mode of transportation.
But the hardest of all this week's bad news was hearing that 13-year-old Peter Lenz was killed on Sunday after getting run over by another motorcycle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during warm-up laps before his race.
Track is the safest place you can ride: the skills and focus of those on the track are light-years ahead of those of the average commuter. Although racing pushes the limits, track fatalities occur so rarely that any death on a track is shocking. But when the victim is only 13 years old and someone with such amazing talent that we were all watching, waiting, and hoping he would be the next Valentino Rossi... it doesn't get much worse than that.
All these deaths make my heart ache. Peter's broke it.
Please ride carefully, my friends. I'm not sure I can take much more of this kind of news.