July 25, 2008
More motorcycles

I suppose an increase in the number of motorcycles was inevitable.

Though data on new motorcycle registrations are not yet available, there are already nearly 400,000 of them on Texas roads.

"We're seeing an increased number of motorcycles, no doubt about it," said Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Cross.

With the increase comes added concern about accidents and injuries. Both riders and authorities fear the larger number of inexperienced riders will lead to an uptick in operator fatalities.

July has been an especially deadly month for motorcyclists in unincorporated Harris County with five reported motorcyclist fatalities so far.

"You hear people all the time talking about buying a motorcycle or scooter due to rising fuel cost, so we should anticipate a rise in the future number of motorcycle operators on the roads. With this we have to consider that a large number of these new motorcycle operators will be amateurs," said Lt. Darryl Coleman, of the Harris County Sheriff's Office Traffic Enforcement Section.


"We're seeing different types of people walk through the door, people who wouldn't be buying if gas weren't so high," said Joe Cantu, who has seen a dramatic increase in business at Houston Motorcycle Exchange in the Heights.

"We can't keep up with the demand. It's never been like this before. Two months ago we had 80 bikes on the floor. Now we have less than 20," said Cantu, who has been in the business for more than 25 years.

The sales manager estimated that motorcycles get anywhere between 40 and 80 miles per gallon of gas, "depending on the bike and the driver."


Jean Hudgins,Houston area vice president of the Texas Motorcycle Roadriders Association, said inexperienced riders are also to blame for many accidents.

Christopher Ramon Shaw was killed July 17 when he was "probably speeding" and lost control of a 2008 Yamaha R1 sport bike, Baytown Police Lt. Eric Freed said.

Shaw, a 34-year-old La Porte resident, Shaw, wasn't licensed to operate a motorcycle on his Texas driver's license, a state requirement for anyone who operates a motorcycle.

"The first thing people need to do when they get a motorcycle, any motorcycle, is take a safety course, especially if they've never ridden before," said Hudgins.

Is taking the safety class a requirement for getting a Class M license? I've browsed through the Transportation Codes but couldn't determine the answer to that. I also couldn't tell if it is possible to buy a motorcycle without having a Class M license and/or proof of a motorcycle safety class. Seems to me that if the answer to either of these questions is "no", then this would be a good time for the Lege to address the matter. If we are going to have more motorcycles on the streets, we should do our best to ensure that their operators are as well-equipped for it as possible. Making sure the automobile drivers are less clueless about them is unfortunately a different problem.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
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