Rage against motorcycles

A scary thing happened this past Saturday while I was researching a future Street Smarts topic on motorcycle riding. I had been photographing, videotaping and taking notes during the motorcycle Basic Rider Course at Cabrillo College when a female motorist tore through a row of cones that sectioned off the area where the class is taught. The class teaches people of all levels of experience the correct way to handle a motorcycle. For two weeks, participants meet for three hours on Thursdays in a classroom setting and for about four hours on Saturdays in the parking lot between the Theater Arts building and Twin Lakes Church. When the class is over, the students may go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and take the written test. If they pass, they get to add the "M" for motorcycle to their driver's license. Students 21 and up do not have to take the DMV's motorcycle driving test. Those under 21 do. About half way through the morning session, a woman claiming to be an instructor at the college drove her green Toyota wagon through a row of three-foot-tall orange cones that marked the motorcyle riding course the students had been riding on before they stopped for a break. One of the cones became lodged under her car as she came to a screeching halt in one of the parking stalls near where the students had parked the program's motorcycles. As the woman tried to exit her vehicle, which was plastered with various peace-loving bumper stickers, one of the two motorcycle riding instructors, a retired CHP officer, walked over to the woman and tried to explain to her why she couldn't park there. The woman screamed at the instructor. "You have no right to be here," she yelled as she collected her belongings. "We have events happening all day." The class, which has been taught at Cabrillo since the 1990's, occurs 50 Saturdays each year. It's offered through Cabrillo Extension and has been so popular that it had a three month long waiting list during the summer, they said. On Saturday, the irate woman got back into her car and slammed it into reverse, dislodging the crushed cone. She then peeled off, leaving a 20-foot-long acceleration mark in the parking lot. She drove across the entire course, exiting the opposite side and taking out more cones. She parked in one of several parking spaces near the campus child care center. The former CHP officer met her at the parking space and again had a few words with her as she exited her car, gathered her belongings and stormed away. At one point, she stopped turned back toward the instructor, who was still standing near the woman's car, and yelled an expletive I cannot repeat in this blog. After addressing the crowd of students, she then disappeared into the Theater Arts building. "Boys and their toys," she said snidely before mentioning parts of the male anatomy as reasons why the "boys" need these types of "toys." Clearly, she didn't see the female riding student in the crowd. Also, the other instructor was a female member of the Santa Cruz Police Department. She was on her cell phone with the program director and campus sheriff's substation during the chaos. The responding deputy took all the witness statements, including mine, and wrote down the woman's license plate number, as well as her parking pass information. Once the driver's identity was determined, her dean would be notified of her malicious conduct, the deputy said. Afterward, I asked the instructors whether this scene was part of a road rage component of the motorcycle safety curriculum. It wasn't. I found it interesting that the motorcycle riding class focused on being visible, predictable and safe. But how does one protect one's self from drivers who don't seem to give a darn? More from that class will appear in future blog posts. Stay tuned.
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