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A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

Posted October 19, 2016 2:20 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: accident autonomous bmw Motorcycle

Story time! Long before I stumbled down the amiable career path that is technical writing, I was a writer and editor for the obituary section of a large newspaper. It was…interesting.

It was depressing being in the business of death. It was comforting knowing that I was helping families grieve. It was rewarding when families would smile while offering memories of their loved one. Dreadful when I once made a typo that described a decedent as "deaf" instead of "dear."

One of the most pragmatic things this stepping stone provided was a fear of motorcycles. At the time, I had several friends with bikes, and I hoped to save my meager wages enough to join the fun. Yet, without fail, every other day during the summer, I’d see or hear of another motorcyclist’s life claimed in an auto accident. Much later, I found an entirely different vehicle as a hobby.

Last week, automaker BMW debuted the Motorrad Vision Next 100, a concept motorcycle that BMW claims is so safe, riders won’t even need to wear a helmet. That is because the Vision Next 100 features self-righting technology that keeps it upright even at a standstill. The self-balancing feat is accomplished by an internal AI system that is still in development, but is built upon the recently unveiled Intelligent Emergency Call system BMW debuted less than six months ago, which senses when a biker crashes and sends a distress signal to local emergency services.

Instead of a helmet, Vision Next 100 riders would wear special glasses with an integrated HUD. These smartglasses will provide vital vehicle data to the operator, but will also be outfitted with sensors that electronically link the rider to the motorcycle. In concert with the onboard AI and sensors, the motorcycle anticipates rider movements and corrects delays or mistakes while riding. The AI even controls things like a moving engine block that widens or thins depending on the ride. BMW believes this will safely integrate new riders into the bike culture, while also providing enough thrills for seasoned enthusiasts. (But don’t bikers want just a little bit of risk?)

The vision, according the BMW engineers, was to create a motorcycle that can seamlessly blend with the autonomous vehicle traffic of the 2020s and beyond. While this means things like assisted braking and other safety features, this motorcycle will not be autonomous. BMW is well aware of how human drivers will likely bully autonomous vehicles in mixed traffic. (If you want autonomous motorcycles, go to see the extra weird Cyclotron.)

Even though the Vision Next 100 may very well be the safest motorcycle of all time, there is no reason to think it will be fatality free. Even the most advanced sensors and balancing technologies won’t be able to cope with the extremely diverse challenges of navigating roadways on a motorcycle. If I were to ever ride the Vision Next 100, I would definitely want a helmet and a durable jacket, not the Cyclops goggles and ergonomic windbreaker BMW recommends.

It seems like we’ve finally found the boundary with autonomous vehicles, the one that straddles the arguments of, “Yeah, autonomous cars are really safe” and “Maybe we’re getting complacent.” Either way, BMW has a decade or more to figure it out.

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#1

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 3:10 PM

What about when a truck pulls out in front of you and you need to slide the bike under the truck to keep from going through the side of it...?

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#3
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 4:42 PM

It would be like having a fat guy on the back who won't lean into the turns....taking any control away from the driver is not cool on a motorcycle...The instantaneous control of a motorcycle including shifting the weight with your body is essential to the safety of the ride....It would be like having training wheels on a bicycle....can you remember why you took them off...? Can you imagine going around a corner in a vertical position? You'd be sliding off the seat....Anybody who rides knows the greatest danger on the highway is not the bike itself, it's other drivers....I don't like the idea of this, but will wait to see how it plays out...

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#4
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 7:44 PM

If that is the way it works, I wouldn't like it at all.

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#9
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 9:34 AM

It cannot possibly work that way, which is fortunate. I imagine that "upright" means only that the tyres maintain contact with the road, allowing an appropriate angle to develop for the corners.

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#30
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/22/2016 8:27 AM

Waiting to see how it plays out. You can't, or didn't, you've already started the rally or entered into the rally against the idea merely by placing a post, now the minions are waiting for you to exert your influence.

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#5
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 11:13 PM

It's good to know the bike will stay upright when someone rear ends you at a stop light and you go rolling back into the windshield.

I suppose some ignorant politician will try to mandate this as a safety feature on all bikes. It's right up there with the time that Virginia tried to mandate seat belts on motorcycles.

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#7
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 11:27 PM

Sorry, SE. I thought I was replying to the main article.

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#2

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 4:31 PM

"Safe bike" is an oxymoron. You don't ride a bike to be safe, you ride it because it's FUN!

But you have to realize that you're going to have to be a defensive driver because the other motorists have a shell of iron around them and you don't. The most dangerous thing for a cyclist is to become complacent and to think that he or she is safe.

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#10
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 12:17 PM

You ride a bike with the understanding that at some point in time you're going down, and should prepare accordingly....but there's no preparing for someone pulling out in front of you or running into the back of you, except to have your insurance paid up and having your will complete and on file....I rode a bike for many years and went down twice, once I was going very slow, like 5 mph, and hit a wet grease spot in an intersection, the tires just slipped out from underneath me and we, the bike and me, slid across the wet road for a ways, not much damage no injury...another time was definitely my fault, I was hotdoggin' it through traffic during rush hour, just a kid fresh out of HS, and ran smack dab into the back of a stopped car standing on the brakes, again I was lucky, very little damage, bent the forks back, no serious injury and learned my lesson....but still have had some close calls that could have ended badly...I realized at some point that I wasn't indestructible, and stuck with 4 wheels after that, some 30+ years ago....I would love to get a bike and ride, but realize it's just recklessly foolish, and nothing can change that....It's a game of odds

"In 2014, 92,000 motorcyclists were injured, up 4.5 percent from 88,000 in 2013. In 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured. There were about 8.4 million motorcycles on the road in 2014."

" In 2013, 56 out of every 100,000 registered motorcycles was involved in a fatal crash, compared with only 9 out of every 100,000 passenger cars..."...

http://www.iii.org/issue-update/motorcycle-crashes

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#13
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 2:10 PM

As a former bike owner, I totally agree with your on this; however, I have always questioned how much additional safety a helmet affords against a fatality if you are traveling at any speed. Some injuries are avoidable and some are not. The same goes for bicycle helmet laws for kids but not adults.

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#14
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 3:42 PM

See

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6123a1.htm

for the nearest available statistics for the US.

In Taiwan, where few motorcyclists wear helmets, this study found: Wearing a helmet can reduce the fatality rate by 1.3%, the rate of severe head injury by 34.5%, the craniotomy rate by 7.8%, and the rate of complications during therapeutic processes by 1.5%.

This next study finds: Helmets offer substantial protection against skull fracture, cerebral contusion, and intracranial hemorrhage.

I suggest you carry on wearing a helmet while riding any kind of motorcycle

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#16
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 2:43 AM

on the other hand: Wearing a helmet reduces the identification time after the fatal crash.

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#31
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/22/2016 8:40 AM

Everything affords an additional degree of safety. A helmet protects your head, goggles or a face shield protects your eyes, gloves protect your hands, boots protect your feet, a leather jacket and leather pants protect your body. Motocross riders have long known that plastic chest, shin and arm guards provide additional protection. These items all look good on the store shelf but are useless until the conscious being puts them into play.

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#15
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 4:21 PM

While those odds represent the population as a whole, the rider plays the largest role in survival rates. Riding a motorcycle is a state of mind. I also wonder in those fatal motorcycle crashes, how many of the riders had a BAC of 0.05 or higher?

In my younger, slightly more stupid days, I would consume small, reasonable amounts of alcohol (well below any state limit) and ride, but I quickly learned my riding skills were degraded well below my comfort level. Before I was even 20, I changed my 'policy' to absolutely no alcohol if I was going to ride. Dinner and two beers was fine while driving a car, but not a motorcycle. Now I hardly even drink alcohol at all, let alone get behind the wheel or astride a motorcycle. I might enjoy six beers over the course of a year now.

I still ride, 38 years and over 100,000 miles later. I love it.

And yes, I've been down three times: 1. Dog ran out from behind a parked van, 2. U-turn embarrassment due to my youthful cockiness and stupidity grinding the footpegs on my '70 CB750, and 3. diesel spilled on a dark road on the Presidio of San Francisco. It's been 30 years since I last kissed the road. I aim to keep it that way.

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#6

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/19/2016 11:20 PM

It's probably a great bike but the title is a ridiculous assertion. You need to be able to lean for corners. Brakes are the #1 thing to make motorcycles safe. I rode one for many years with insufficient brakes. I am alive because I knew they were bad and was always on the lookout for "plan B." I wouldn't want the bike making the decision of which way I go around the stalled car.

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#8

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 12:29 AM

Convalescent and long term care hospitals around the world are filled with ex-motorcycle riders who chose to feel the the wind in their hair, rather than planting a bucket over their brain.

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#11
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 12:30 PM

I watched a TV programme about our ambulance service a while ago in which they refer to motorcyclists as PODs or potential organ donors.

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#12

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/20/2016 12:36 PM

I have to agree with Rixter and tonyhemet. Any motorcycle is inherently less safe than a car (i.e. no seatbelts, no airbags, no steel cage) and I don't believe that any amount of safety AI will eliminate crashes. If BMW did, in fact, claim that a helmet would not be necessary, then they are taking a very irresponsible stance on rider safety.

Now, if they build their HUD into a helmet visor, it would provide the same technology improvements of their special glasses, while encouraging riders to wear helmets.

---

On a more positive note, I think the design of the bike is actually pretty slick. Very futuristic. And I'll definitely be looking more into this moving engine block. Is anyone familiar with this technology and its applications?

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#19
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 9:26 AM

The design is actually based on BMW's first bike form 1923.

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#17

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 6:29 AM

I would rather see the money and research spent on projecting a 3D hologram of a semi in front of the motorcycle.

This would prevent other vehicles from pulling out in front of the rider.

This is a main cause of accidents,the image of a motorcycle is so small,it does not seem to register on other drivers.

A helmet wont help much in certain cases.

There are two types of motorcycle riders.

Those who have fallen,and those that will fall.

I have ridden street bikes many miles,but dirt bikes are my preferred two wheel'ers for recreation.

The tendency to "goose it" must be suppressed on the street,but not on the track.

If you are not riding on the "edge",you are not really riding hard enough.

Even in competitive dirt bike motocross riding you can get seriously injured,but at least you are in the ring with like minded and like sized competitors.

Getting too old for even that now,though.

That is a young man's game.

A 25 year old motocross rider rides in the "seniors" class.

What class would a 76 year old ride in? "Fingers Crossed" class? with Nitrostat tab dispenser next to the tear-off visor sheets?

I am relegated now to 4 wheeler ATV's,strictly for fun.

But I miss the good old days.

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#18
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 8:09 AM

Sorry, but "A helmet wont help much in certain cases" is in the same class of logic as "a parachute won't help much in certain cases" or even "an insurance policy won't help much in certain cases". The fact is that wearing a proper helmet, properly fastened, when riding a motorcycle will reduce the risk of death and considerably reduce the risk of severe head injury.

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#20
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 1:34 PM

That is true, and I always wear one when I ride. Anecdotally, though, in my three 'get-offs', my helmet never came in contact with anything other than my head. I believe helmet use should be encouraged, not mandated. There are times in hot summertime stop-and-go traffic, that I would like the option of removing my brain bucket. Or cruising the Santa Cruz boardwalk at 3 mph. Been thirty years since I did that.

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#21
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 1:51 PM

The only circumstance in which I would go along with that would be with compulsory medical insurance as an alternative to compulsory helmet wearing. You forgo the helmet; you pay the costs of rearing you as a cabbage.

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#22
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 1:55 PM

What about smoking?

Drinking?

Golfing during thunderstorms?

Doritos and Mt. Dew?

There are lots of things in life that entail risk. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

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#23
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 2:44 PM

Smoking? Professor (later Sir) Richard Doll said in 1950

"The risk of developing the disease increases in proportion to the amount smoked. It may be 50 times as great among those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day as among non-smokers."

The UK National Health Service has been struggling with the costs of smoking-related disease from that day to this.

Drinking? The NHS also has a lesser struggle with the cost of alcohol-related illness. If you intend to pay for your liver transplant that is absolutely fine by me, even if I personally do not earn the fee. (Richard Doll originally intended to read mathematics at university, but failed his scholarship exam on account of the strength of his college beer. I'm not sure what that proves.)

Golfing in a thunderstorm is just plain stupid.

I don't worry about Mountain Dew but mountain climbing, paragliding etc are recognised risk sports. In the UK the air ambulance which gets the casualties off the mountain is a charity, and the NHS subsequently treats the injuries. I would rather spend my money on my own pleasures (and yes, I ride a motorcycle) than pay for the treatment of someone else's self-inflicted injuries.

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#24
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 3:53 PM

So, and I write this purely in the interest of discussion not contention, what you're saying is that most everything in life is a risk and you're not willing to have others exceed some level of risk.

I wonder what would be an acceptable level for you and how would you reconcile that with others opinions. Especially young people vrs older folks, or moms vrs childless people.

Is the risk of falling when getting out of bed in the morning too high? The elderly easily break hips. Is swimming in a pond with the risk of ingesting a brain eating amoeba too high? Doing so is almost a certain death sentence.

In my experience, back in the days when I paid for my own personal health care, nobody gave a damn how much risk I encountered. It seems to be only when we've gotten to forced national health care that people seem to be concerned with what others do as it may affect their pocket book.

Maybe we need to regress from this progressive trend in national baby care.

And, yes, when I was flying on my license I had to purchase a separate life insurance rider to cover me while pilot in command of an aircraft. It wasn't very cheap, but I didn't have a problem with that. The risk was mine and I was willing to pay for it.

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#25
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 6:12 PM

"In my experience, back in the days when I paid for my own personal health care, nobody gave a damn how much risk I encountered."

GA, very good point.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. When the government pays, the government says . . . we have to decide to what degree since it is our collective voice and collective wallets.

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#27
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 10:41 PM

I agree, except that there are too many in influential positions that decide what goes "for our own good" without polling the rest of us.

I'm glad I'm in the latter part of my life. Most of the stuff I did in my younger days is now either considered anti-social, would get you kicked out of school, or put you in jail.

And I do miss the freedom of being able to choose whether I want to wear a helmet while riding or not. But don't get me wrong, my normal riding attire is helmet, leathers and over the ankle boots.

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#28
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/22/2016 4:52 AM

"what you're saying is that most everything in life is a risk" Quite so.

"you're not willing to have others exceed some level of risk." Not exactly my words. I'm personally quite happy to let other people injure themselves in whatever way they want in the name of adventure, ***as long as they bear the the full costs of their rescue/treatment/rehabilitation themselves***.

Even that most liberal attitude can be too simple. If, as a taxpayer, you fall off your motorcycle and seriously injure yourself, you stop being a taxpayer and become a consumer of state benefits. I suggest the state is entitled to require you to wear a helmet in order to protect its tax-gathering interest.

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#29
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/22/2016 8:02 AM

So it appears you agree that if I have my own health insurance or ability to pay for any problems I may incur that I should be able to ride my motorcycle without a helmet! If so, then we agree.

Unfortunately, though, here in the US the "state" is constantly passing laws without any test for independent personal responsibility. I cannot, under any circumstances, in my state legally ride my bike on a public road without a helmet, even if the state has no monetary stake in my health.

And there are thousands of laws that completely ignore any test for personal responsibility. Ergo, the state is mandating our "best interests".

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#34
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/24/2016 12:28 PM

Helmets must be worn here as well but I often see people with helmets that have cats ears or are fur covered or something similar. I would have thought that this would increase the risk of neck injury in any accident.

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#35
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/24/2016 1:31 PM

The "kids" who ride the sport bikes in my area like to wear helmets with that stuff too, ala Road Warrior. From what I've seen here they are just soft attachments that would have little or no affect on the use of the helmet. A little fur might just help cushion the blow even more.

Besides, legal helmets here have a DOT approved safety rating in any case.

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#36
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/24/2016 2:34 PM

Some time back I wrote to all the heads of neurosurgical centres in the UK asking whether helmet attachments of any kind might result in an increased risk of injury. None of them had noted any such increase.

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#37
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/24/2016 9:22 PM

Like this ?

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#33
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Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/24/2016 12:12 PM

If you fall off your ladder cleaning the gutters, the result can be the same. Or any other activity that entails higher levels of risk whether it be adventure or mundane. Who decides what is purposeful vs. entertaining?

The problem with giving the state this kind of control, is where will it end? Will cities condemn people's personal homes so they can give the property to a private developer that will erect expensive housing that enhances its tax-gathering interest? (Oh, yeah . . . that already happened.)

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#26

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/21/2016 9:18 PM

I come close enough to killing myself on a bicycle. The danger increases exponentially with speed. BTW, I got to use my helmet again the other day. Had a headache for a little while, and I need a new helmet.

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#32

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/22/2016 3:54 PM

Bike? what bike?

"A traffic accident in Norway, involving a Model S with Autopilot engaged, two other vehicles, and a motorcycle, has prompted questions as to whether testing of Tesla's Autopilot system sufficiently took into account two-wheeled vehicles. This follows recent official tests in Germany that characterized this feature as a "traffic hazard.""...

http://newatlas.com/tesla-autopilot-fema/46045/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

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#38

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/25/2016 3:06 PM

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#39

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/25/2016 3:41 PM

This showed up at the vintage bike ride. Did someone forget to tell him it was for bicycles? Actually he left his Schwinn on the other side of the state. Who needs a helmet anyway? Half these guys don't use one. Some use funky motorcycle helmets because they look cool.

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#40

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/25/2016 3:45 PM

If you're going to ride a vintage motorcycle you should have a vintage helmet.

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/25/2016 4:11 PM

Wouldn't be legal here. It's not a DOT approved helmet. No exceptions.

Hooker

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#42

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/26/2016 9:09 PM

Washington State has a motorcycle helmet law and some local jurisdictions have a bicycle helmet law. But you go into Idaho and there is none.

You'll see these guys riding their Harley down the freeway, their jacket inflated the wind, and they have a buzzcut. Makes their head look really small. Won't say anything about their intelligence...

There's a vintage bicycle club that rides from Post Falls, Idaho, to Spokane, Washington, for their Spokefest Rally. They don't wear helmets and many of them have tattoos. They look like a motorcycle gang. They even stop at a "biker" bar on the way and ride through the "drive through" ringing their bells and honking their horns. They get plenty of laughs.

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#43
In reply to #42

Re: A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

10/27/2016 4:12 AM

A strange quirk of the law in the UK means that trikes are classed as cars, not motorcycles, so we see plenty of trike owners riding without helmets.

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