You Could Die

I ride a motorcycle every day. It’s a sport-bike (Suzuki SV650S), and it’s the only vehicle I own. Someone asked me today why I ride a “murdercycle.” I kid you not, that was the word he used. So I thought about it, and aside from the obvious “because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get to work” I really enjoy riding. I can get through traffic problems, it uses almost not gas, has more power than I need, and as long as I don’t push the envelope to far then the only fear is other drivers on the road. Little can be done about the other drivers though, even if your in a car (I don’t see being trapped in something like a smartcar as being safer than flung off a motorcycle). I am a good rider, I practice braking hard, swerving and riding in unfavorable conditions. I’m better prepared to deal with a situation on that bike than most drivers in their cars.

Of course, I presented these reasons to the person. The response was something along the lines of “but if you get hit, you’ll die because there arn’t any airbags or anything.” This isn’t really true, but I have a better counter argument. Anyone could die, at any time.

Seriously. There are a million and a half ways you could die right now for moving around. There are almost as many ways you could die without moving around. In fact, you could be doing absolutely nothing, and still die. You could, for instance, have a rogue blood clot in your leg. Suddenly it breaks off and hurtles toward your cranium, where it gets trapped in the tiny blood vessels around your wonderful brain. And that could kill, all because your body decided it was time. I’m not even talking about getting hit by a meteor. I’m talking about falling down stairs, (2000 people a year) or just plain dying in a car (cars are the most deadly things that were ever invented. More people die in a car crash each year than have ever died in atomic incidents)

But what about actively increasing your chances of death, as riding a motorcycle apparently does. Go ahead, eat another slice of pie. One of the leading health risks in the United States is obesity. Eating that extra slice makes you more likely to die. Does it ballance, if I don’t eat the pie can I safely ride the motorcycle? No, not really, but I like the idea. If I give up energy drinks and stop leaving the house maybe I can survive a gunshot. My point, since it seems to have run off, is that there are thousands of risks we take every day that increase the likelihood of dying. We chose the ones we are comfortable with. Like I said before, cars will kill you. But that won’t stop most people from driving them to save time, or even driving them for fun. The person who told me I rode a murdercycle drives a truck that he can barely control, and smokes weed at any given opportunity, because he assessed the risk of smoking and driving was within tolerable risks for the reward. This is the person that could not understand how I could ride a motorcycle, who will probably die when he hits the brake instead of the gas on a crowded freeway. And none of it matters, because the sun is going to explode and we are all going to die regardless of what risks you take, and whether or not those risks are more likely to kill you.

So what can we do? We are soft and squishy and easily killed by almost everything. You can decrease your risk of death only to the point that random chance will end your life. It’s just not fair.

I do have a few suggestions. The first is to realize that statistics are, in this case, almost useless. As XKCD is fond to point out, statistics don’t tell the whole story. If you live in a hut that resides on the outskirts of nowhere and your closest neighbor’s only mode of transportation is a saddled cow your chances of death by auto are pretty low. The second thing is to lower the stats. Take a defensive driving course, that way when Mr. I Need To Send This Text swerves into your lane, your calm and prepared to react. Try not to eat cyanide, and try to walk a little more. Three, don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Really, don’t. Just stop. And four, don’t let the risk of dying stop you from doing things. On a motorcycle I am free, escaping from my thoughts. If it means I’m .001 percent more likely to die, so be it. I’d probably eat to much if I didn’t ride, and I’d rather become sidewalk art than die in a hospital bed to portly to move.

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