The dangerous roads of West Marin

05/12/2016

Ah, the joy of cruising down a winding country road alongside redwoods, fields of cows and other Point Reyes scenery. What could be dangerous?

Call it the need for speed. Crazed drivers in hot cars, super-fast motorcycles driven by people who see roads as a roller-coaster thrill ride. Add to the speeders the impaired. Drivers on painkillers and downers, and the drunks. Or the drivers on meth: freaks, tweekers. Then add those people with guns in their cars whom you don’t want to irritate.

Then there are morons. I saw people in a Mercedes van going 5 m.p.h. down the highway near Marshall, filming themselves with a drone. Or people driving and reading a book. People standing on their seats with their heads out the sun roofs. Tourists stopped in the roadway shooting with their iPhones. While I seem to be saying that people are dumb, so are some animals, but at least they don’t drive.

The highway patrol and the sheriff’s deputies are not doing their job with speeders. I was passed by about 60 riders over double-yellow lines on blind curves and blind rises on Highway 1. They passed even when there was oncoming traffic. Group intelligence?

What about mufflers? On Inverness Ridge, four miles from Highway 1, I can hear the bikes winding up their gears. Why can’t law enforcement get a simple device to measure the loudness of exhaust systems? Bikers claim the loud noise makes them safer, a silly argument since biking is crazy-dangerous to begin with. Tuned exhaust systems are for performance and, of course, ear-splitting volume.

When I was 19 I had a job as a motorcycle messenger in Manhattan. I’ve always kept my motorcycle license current and recently I had a Honda 250 single-cylinder bike. So I understand the joy of cycles, but now I am older and wiser. My neighbor was injured by a young man on a Ducati who hit him head-on; he was going too fast—nearly 100 m.p.h.—to make a curve on the right side of the road. The man died in the crash.

People driving fast on our roads pass bicycles, whether or not there is a car coming toward them. Not cool! What to do? Ask the Sheriff’s Office or the C.H.P. to target problems they could help fix—especially speeders and loud aftermarket mufflers—rather than targeting silly driving transgressions as a source of revenue.

The slower you go, the more animals you’ll see and the less animals you’ll hurt. The better the scenery can be enjoyed. The less accidents you’ll have. And if some lunatic is tailgating you, pull over before things get ugly. Our roads do cause lots of emergencies, so we need reliable communications to call 911 when we come across an accident. Which means more cell towers. And first aid training is a good thing to know when you come across a person who needs it. Let’s work to keep our roads bucolic and peaceful.

Richard Blair is a professional photographer and book publisher whose home and gallery are on the Inverness Ridge.