Friday, 4 June 2010

Motorbike accidents in the media: part the V-8.

There have been many V8 motorcycles, many of them made as cruisers with a car V8 with bits attached, no gearbox, neutral created by locking the clutch open and a disconcerting tendency to flip over backwards if you're not paying attention. But the one to care about is Moto Guzzi's abortive racer, a difficult and mechanically complex (duh) bike which they campaigned for two years before retiring from racing altogether, ending a successful career just as MV Agusta came on song to begin the most impressive era of dominance of any company, ever.
What a swan-song.
Finally, we have some interesting stories this time.
I'll lead with the shortest:
Lord Mayor stable after accident, from ABC News from April 20.
Three paragraphs - came off motorcycle after a road accident, in hospital, back injury but stable.
Ummm, yes? The only reason this story is newsworthy at all is that a major public figure was involved. No carnage, no serious injury or death, and absolutely no details about the accident. So not even a very major public figure, despite the fact he's been Lord Mayor of Hobart since Christ played fullback for Jerusalem, or the journalist probably would have rung the police for details.
Where are the details?
Moving right along, we have Motorcyclist dies after car crash (Courier Mail, May 23).
Which is a slightly odd title. You mean the motorcyclist was in a car when it crashed?
The rest of the article, however, is rather better, and has the added bonus of getting "airborne" in the lead paragraph.
The writing is a little sloppy, with unnecessary repetition, including the typical police-ese quotes, ruining tightness and precision.
But as to the facts - this is, if you ask any motorcyclist, pretty much a typical accident: Car turns across bike, who dies.
I'd like to know which way they were traveling - I assume in opposite directions before the car violated right-of-way and turned across the intersection. As well, Old North Road is a major road, and Stanley St isn't. The Google Maps view shows street lights, so I'm guessing they were both on Old North Road and the car was travelling north and turned right onto Stanley St.
I won't speculate on what the rider may or may not have done differently to give him more wiggle-room or minimise or avoid the accident.
And you don't even need to be going too fast to sail over the top of a car - I did it when going less than 40km/h on a mountain bike, and I didn't even touch the car myself - cleared it completely and landed by the opposite curb.
Which leads me to wonder what sort of injuries the rider sustained if he cleared the car - I was wearing a cycling helmet and a backpack, lots of bare skin, and only ended up with a bruised knee, but you could quite easily land on your head or collide with a kerb or part of the car.
It's a slightly sloppy article, but at least it has a police report in it.
Then, the ABC gives us Motorcyclist killed during police chase from May 8.
Well, that's interesting, isn't it?
Two motorcyclists, one pulled over by police and one sped off. The one pulled over was charged with drink driving as well as speeding and driving dangerously.
Now, at this point I have to say that I have little sympathy for anyone who tries to escape the police. Beyond being dangerous, it puts you beyond debatedly selfish into the realms of actually illegal. If you're caught fairly - deal with it.
But, moving on, the rider was killed when he struck a ute which turned onto the highway, presumably in front of him.
Three immediate possibilities: The driver of the ute didn't look, or the bike came over a crest doing something on the other side of 200 and couldn't react in time or do anything effective in time, or, just possibly, the speed of the bike really did completely confuse the driver. At this point, it's pretty much academic.
Plus, it was 6:00am, so we have light conditions to take into account as well.
My biggest problem with this story is that the writing is neither tight, nor smooth, nor particularly effective. It's a bit disorganised and clumsy, and could have done with a judicious rewrite and edit. But it's such a straight reporting of facts that it's hard to criticise anything beyond the time the journalist spent on it.
What the hell is with a 16-word headline? "Helmetless wheelstanding biker crashes, saved by paramedic" says just as much and is still too long.
In fact, having read the headline, do you really need to read the article?
But, we must.
The astonishing thing about this article is that it mentions "his late-model Honda CB1000". I have no idea why, unless "Honda" is a recognisable brand to the car-driving masses, and "1000" sounds scary/impressive. That, or we've finally got a journalist who knows anything about bikes.
It's a story written by someone who wants to write script treatments or advertising, I suspect - slightly dramatic and florid, and with too many words in it.
"Police said it was concerning any motorcyclist would attempt to ride on the road without a helmet. "
What? "Concerning" that anybody would ride without a helmet, one of the most reliably proven accident-mitigation measures available, but they burst veins in apoplexy when someone goes 10 over the limit?
Perspective, anyone?
And this:
"Of the 92 people killed on Queensland roads this year, 15 have been motorcyclists."
Aha! I've been waiting for that all year. Finally, a count. Halfway through the year, 92 isn't actually bad. 15 Motorbikes kind of is.
So, yes. Plenty of information in this, but well-written? Ah, no.
I think four stories is enough, for this time.
I am still waiting for the line "Details of how the accident happened have not been determine." to be added, de facto, to any story lacking them.
I may wait in vain.

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