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First motorcycle fatality

'Two years after the Civil War ended in a Union victory at Appomattox, a machinist named Sylvester Roper fitted a bicycle with a small steam engine. He called it a steam velocipede, and it's still considered the earliest incarnation of what would come to be known as the motorcycle. Roper eventually settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area; refined a number of inventions; and amassed more than a dozen U.S. patents. In 1896, throngs of people gathered along the Charles River to watch him and his steam velocipede reach speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. Moments later, Roper, ever the pioneer, became the first man to die in a motorcycle accident.'

When a motorist cut him off.

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40mph, no helmet, fire & boiling water between your legs, while riding a motorcycle… What could possibly go wrong? :smile_cat:

Perhaps the collision with another vehicle was a blessing in disguise. :wink:

I guess the helmet wasn’t invented until sometime in the later 20th century. :confused:

It’s difficult for me to understand how so many safety restrictions can be enforced on automobiles while motorcyclists are allowed to sit totally unrestrained while operating a motor vehicle and carrying a passenger. It’s really unbelievable. But I am proud that I survived my years as a teenager riding motorcycles without a helmet.

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My comment was ironic.

1953, the article sez.

Because they hurt themselves, not others. Driving up the Angeles Crest Highway to go hiking, I had to wait for an hour or so while a helicopter picked up a motorcyclist. They didn’t bother with his partner. Sharp turns, no visibility, no shoulders… There’s a café where they meet.

Because you were careful and skilled, or lucky?

Note that Roper invented his ‘motorcycle’ in 1867, lived until 1896: 29 years.

The positive thing about motorcycles is there is little to distract you while driving. No radios, air conditioner knobs, no noisy kids in the back seat, you tend to put your entire focus on the job of riding.
I’ve been riding motorcycles of various types since 1968 without getting killed or even seriously injured. Some of us are just lucky, or maybe it’s a lack of recklessness.

I rode motorcycles from about 64 (6 Japanese, 1 Austrian, 1 Spanish) until my son was born and felt the need to stay alive. I never had a major injury (a couple minor dirt-bike deals) and never crashed a road-bike.

During summer on the highway near my house I heard some commotion and walked out to assist a Harley rider. He was hit by a deer that he never saw. He never fell. It killed the deer on the spot. He had some bike damage and a really sore leg. He was very lucky and it could have had a bad ending.

We have a few killed on bikes around here every year when they collide with deer, usually at night.

When Roper was alive, a lot of people died in horse riding accidents also.

They still do! I took Horsemanship 1 & Horsemanship 2 classes (Phys. Ed. credits) when I attended Community College. We rode some pretty spirited animals.

I still dislike those things. It’s like riding a Norton 750 or Vincent Black Shadow with no throttle control, no brakes, and unpredictable steering.

I rolled one of the horses when the stupid (literally) thing lost its footing in a banked turn. Everyone ran to see if there were injuries… they ran to the horse, not me :confused:

Me and horses never did get along well, that’s why I ride motorcycles. They don’t have a mind of their own.

One of my high school classmates had a little sister that got dragged to death while riding a horse on the family’s ranch. Foot caught in the stirrup.

They had their priorities straight.


Pioneers tend to die early and in this guy’s case, I might say he had it coming lol. It was definitely a tragedy but I am strictly against motorcycles due to the lack of security measures. My wife keeps bugging me about buying one but I am determined to never let that happen. I don’t like the idea of some careless driver killing my wife and there is very little thing you can do about motorcycle accidents.

In those days, they also died at alarming rates from cholera, and dysentery, and even from child birth.
The “Good Old Days” were not so good, in so many ways.

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Also, many died from “consumption.” There were many illnesses prevalent in the not too distant past that now have been eliminated or nearly so, that took many, many lives. My great grandfather, born in NY in 1862 died from consumption, according to the published obituary. He was in the prime of his life.

There was no OSHA and dangerous equipment and practices were an accepted fact of life. I believe those past experiences are what began the use of the phrase “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!” Some got stronger, others not so much.

In my biker days there were 2 kinds of bikers, those that had gone down and those that were going to go down, been down, looking for a new bike, go figure!

Oh if that was true. I agree that it’s far less then a car vs car, but innocent people have been killed or injured in a motorcycle accident (either passenger in another car or the passenger on the bike).

Let’s not forget the cost that we pick up for motorcycle accidents - hospital, air-med or ambulance. If the driver doesn’t have auto insurance (like here in NH) or even health insurance then our taxes pay the bill.

I’m reading a book on the Wright brothers, and their battles with Curtis (mostly in the courtrooms). Lots of info on early flying (1903-1914), and how nobody thought it a good idea to strap the pilot in! Lots of deaths from pilots being ejected, both on bad landings and even in rough air. I would have bought a couple of belts, a rope at least, and tied myself down…

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Well, we still have a few people who persist in their belief that you are better-off “being thrown-clear” in the event of a vehicular collision, rather than being belted in. Obviously those people live in an alternate reality where the road shoulders are covered with Tempurpedic mattresses, Marshmallow fluff, and sofa pillows, instead of gravel, broken glass, and random car parts. And–clearly–their alternate reality doesn’t include speeding 18 wheelers.

If people persist in these bizarre beliefs in the 21st Century, can we really blame folks from the early 20th Century for similarly wacky beliefs?

Actually, there is a lot you can do to not have an accident on a bike. On limited access highways, the auto traffic tends to gather in clusters that are often called “wolfpacks”, I strive to stay between the wolfpacks where I have the highway to myself. On non limited access highways, you can use clusters of cars as blockers. Just ride a little behind a cluster of cars and no one will turn left in front of you or pull in front of you from a side street. I’ll make three right turns instead of a left or just go past my left turnoff and make a U-turn when it’s safe to do so and come back to make a right turn. That way I’m not a sitting duck in the left lane waiting to be rear ended while waiting for a break in on coming traffic.
If some idiot stops on the freeway entrance ramp, go around him on the right shoulder instead of stopping behind him and being a sitting duck for the car that is driven by someone who doesn’t see the stopped car.
Basically, just learn to recognize situations that turn you into a sitting duck and avoid them.
Insurance companies that study risk have reported that motorcycles are not as dangerous as a lot of people think, especially once the rider gets past the “infant mortality” stage of learning to ride.
Also, advanced riding courses are worth taking, courses meant for people who already have a motorcycle license.

Lack of experience is a big factor. Lots of older riders starting or getting back into riding has resulted in a BIG spike in motorcycle deaths.