Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When bikers seem not to care October 1, 2015

Bikers on I-35 near downtown Minneapolis


AFTER WITNESSING ABOUT A HALF DOZEN motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic on Interstate 35W near downtown Minneapolis on a recent Saturday afternoon, I feel compelled to write.

I honestly feared that, instead of photographing these irresponsible drivers, I would be dialing 911 and photographing one or more of them splayed across the highway in a tangle of twisted metal and bodies.


Bikers on I-35 rounding curve near downtown Minneapolis


“No wonder motorcycle drivers get killed,” I commented to my husband as the bikes zoomed in front of our van, raced around curves and squeezed between vehicles. The bikers were driving in a manner that was, without question, endangering not only themselves but others on the Interstate.

Operator safety tips listed on the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center advise bikers to “avoid extreme speeds and dramatic lean angles,” among other precautions. At least these cyclists were wearing helmets. Not that that necessarily guarantees avoidance of serious injury or survival in a crash. But it helps.

I’m not anti-motorcycle. My husband owned a Harley—until a teen driver pulled out in front of him at a stop sign, landing Randy in an ambulance and totaling his bike. The crash happened on a city street less than a block from work. Randy suffered bumps and bruises, but no broken bones or serious injuries.

So I understand that it’s not just how a biker drives his/her bike that can cause a crash. It’s also inattentive motorists and other factors, such as an animal on the roadway, road conditions, etc., that lead to crashes.

This year in Minnesota, the number of motorcycle fatalities—51 as of September 29—has already exceeded the total for the previous year.

I just want everyone to be safe, to drive—whether you’re a biker or a motorist—with care and regard for your life and the lives of others on roadways. We all have people who love us. Please. Remember that.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


30 Responses to “When bikers seem not to care”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I have definitely seen my share of unsafe motorcyclists over the years and especially those who do not even wear helmets. It scares the bejeebers out of me. And don’t get me started on bicyclists! We are living in an area ripe for bicycling and it is nerve wracking to be a driver on mountainous roads with bikers. I try to be considerate and always stay back until it is safe to pass but I am always scared that they are going to swerve out unpredictably when I pass or something. Care has to be taken by all when any kind of biker, motor or otherwise, are on the roads.

    • I understand your concern. There’s a back county road between Faribault and Northfield that is frequented by bicyclists. It’s a curvy, hilly and narrow road, making it difficult to see cyclists. You summarize it well: “Care has to be taken by all.”

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    I remember weaving up a dangerous set of switchbacks in the Alps and being passed by motorcyclists – doing wheelies. 😦

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    I’m sure you noticed the type/style of bike that is the most “guilty” of this method of riding. Not to make any excuses for many who are recklessly darting back and forth, but I can totally understand that technique (that should not{?} be employed in a public setting) as I have owned and ridden such a vehicle and thoroughly enjoyed “careening” through our local countryside on all our twisting roads at speeds that (possibly) would be termed ‘excessive’. Sadly it’s the “nature of the beast”. Add to that the average age of the owner (generally late teens to 20-something/college age) and it is a recipe for disaster. As a motorist, sharing the roadways with riders like these, I know that it is more than startling to have one suddenly appear, then disappear, in the immediate vicinity.
    Thank you for raising the awareness that we must ALL be driving defensively!!!!!!!!

    • I knew you would offer some good insights. Yes, I definitely noticed the type of bike and the ages of the drivers.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        I had my “rocket” for 1 summer (along with a large “bagger” style Kawasaki Nomad) and road it to work/pharmacy every day………and, yes, I rode it the way you experienced (although, there isn’t much traffic between my place and Winona!!!!). I did do a ton of riding on all the local, and not-so-local twisty roads in a 150 mile radius of home…….and, then, I sold it……..w/o getting a speeding ticket or doing bodily injury to myself!!!!!!! Sigh……it was such fun!!!!!!!!

      • Looking back, do you think you should have been more cautious in driving your “rocket?” You definitely have a wild, carefree streak, don’t you?

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Ummmmm….nope! (sorry……..)

  4. Thread crazy Says:

    Unfortunately there are more biker related deaths than we care to think about. Sometimes I feel the bikers must think they are indestructible…we see the same thing here on I35, weaving in an out through traffic at high rates of speed. With an army base close by, each week it seems another biker has been involved in some type of accident. Our oldest son and wife ride and we too think of their safety each time they take a trip…it only takes one individual not paying attention.

  5. I am with you in just wanting everyone to be safe while driving and have care and regard for the other drivers/individuals sharing the road with you. Stop the distracted driving as well please! There are two many fatalities when it comes to drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and even pedestrians. Great Reminder Post!

    There was an incident here a few months back with a turtle being hit on the three lane highway (people do 45 mph to 85 mph) and this turtle was pretty good size. Once the turtle was hit by the car it was like a big hockey puck shooting out and around cars. Like a mini speed bump that could easily have you going off road or even flipping your vehicle. Plus people were trying to avoid hitting it because no one wants to hit an animal. It was pretty scary!

    Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  6. They do that here too – but they do not have to wear helmets so they don’t. Often they are in jeans and skimpy tops, no helmet, hair flying out hbehind, riding at breakneck speed through and around.. Terrifying. c

  7. Jackie Says:

    Oh the stories I could tell as an old ER nurse, but I wont. I agree with you totally Audrey, everyone needs to be responsible on the road. If these guys need to “open up” and drive crazy then how about find an abandoned road and go at it where it’s only you to face serious injury or even death. I know two childhood friends that died on motorcycles as young men…. both times it was their fault. That’s all I’m saying.

  8. Gunny Says:

    Speed and agility are some of the few things that allow bikers to be safe. That said, there is no reason to go about scaring the daylights f of car and truck drivers. Helmets have their place in safety equipment. However, what most, bikers and other drivers, do not realized, is that at 35 MPH or faster, the chances of a biker walking away alive from and accident are diminished a hundred fold! 35 MPH or faster, most bikers get a ride to the morgue. As a biker, I learned to watch car / truck drivers in their own rear view mirrors. Not exactly sure what it is, but I can detect lane changes (for the worst) and other driver actions / reactions. Other drivers (some) are not even aware of where a motorcycle’s turn signals are. What car driver’s do not realize is the motorcycle (most, not all) rapid rate of acceleration. On a 400 cc motorcycle, I can out accelerate a Porsche!. A car idiot once pulled up along side me. If you do not want me splitting traffic, do not do this. He pulled up along my side meaning to get on the freeway at the next on-ramp. I told him, OK, you are going to pull away and I will be in your rear view mirror, when you look back on the road, I am going to be in front of you, and when you get on the onramp, I will be leaving the on-ramp getting on the freeway. You will NOT catch me without risking getting a speeding ticket. No matter how fast you think you can accelerate your vehicle, it pales in comparison to a motorcycle – REGARDLESS of what your HP to WT ratio is.

    1st gear gets my motorcycle moving, 2nd gear takes me to 55 MPH. 3rd gear takes me way past the speed limit. I have 5 gears. That was on a 49 HP motorcycle or 500 cc. One fourth of the size of a 2 liter motor in a Ford Pinto.

    There are those motorcyclists who act like the have ants in their pants, Other drivers need to be aware of all bikes out there and watch for changing traffic speeds, density, and others actions and reactions. The presence of a motorcycle should only heighten that awareness. Keep in mind, it only take a pencil to block out a motor cycle coming up from behind you.

    Motorcyclists who are taking chances, best I can offer car/truck drivers, is check your rear, move to the right and let them pass so they no longer pose a serious threat.

    One thing those driving 4 or more wheels is (1) which was identified by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Car drivers often do not view a motorcycle as an “impact threat”. That 18-wheeler most assuredly is an “impact threat” but that tiny motorcycle does not. (2) motorcycle can and do often move faster than the vehicle around them. Warning: Do not get involved in a race with a motorcycle – you will lose!

    To everyone – DRIVE SAFE! Courtesy Helps immensely!

  9. Littlesundog Says:

    I’ve lost plenty of friends to motorcycle accidents. I don’t consider them a safe vehicle but there is just as much to be said about responsible driving of all vehicles. This is a good post (with many thought provoking comments) to remind us to be responsible drivers and pedestrians.

  10. The exuberance of youth coupled with their feeling of invincibility and then add to that; speed, minus experience you have the invitation to disaster.

  11. Did I ever tell you that my father died in a motorcycle accident. People just need to respect the vehicle they are operating. Too many car accidents too.

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