23 Nov 2013

Dying on the roads

Oops... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is perhaps a topic no one wants to think about. When the lovely Leslie over at one of my favourite blog sites Advgrrls.com posted an article about road safety stats I started doing a bit of digging.

I was really surprised that the US had such shockingly (for a westernised country) high RTA death rates—13.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Compare this to Canada at 7.8/100,000, the UK at 4.8/100,000 and Japan at 3.8/100,000. Belgium has a reputation of having the worst drivers in Europe and their rate is lower at 10/100,000 (actually it’s Lithuania which takes this title at 15.5/100,000)… Source: WorldLifeExpectancy

What is interesting is that the US has such large, open and comparatively straight roads compared to Europe, Japan etc, yet the Europeans (subjectively) tend to drive faster and more aggressively than their American counterparts… But then, Canada has roughly half the death rate of the US, with similar types of roads…

So where is it all going wrong?

Insufficient driving training—or driving training designed to pass the test and not actually teach real world skills? Canada has graduated licensing which probably helps bring the death rate down whereas the US varies state by state…

Cultural/attitude/ego differences within the populations of the different countries? Japan, Canada and the UK are all countries which have reputations for high overall standards of conduct, etiquette and appropriate behaviour in public (although that goes down the toilet when the British travel somewhere warm!!)…

Penalty rates? Europe, Canada and Japan tend to have FAR stiffer fines than the US… Drink/drug drivers? Who knows…

All I know is that I feel a hell of a lot safer on the roads here than I did before looking into this.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) website has an interesting and very comprehensive report about RTA rates—what is quite interesting is that the report identifies that RTA rates are disproportionately higher for lower income/education groups which makes logical sense… these groups typically aren’t using vehicles with the latest technology/safety features, and typically don’t have the disposable income for proper PPE, training etc.

I drove (a car) for 14 years in Canada totalling in the region of 200,000 miles and about 20,000 miles in the US for holidays. While in general I never felt particularly endangered I did find, subjectively, that in both countries there was a whole lot more road rage than anywhere I’ve driven in Europe. Silly things like someone not looking when changing lanes, and the car which was wronged just not letting it go… people holding down the horn when pensioners were driving below the speed limit. Things like that. Of course this was mainly in cities/built-up areas—it was much more relaxed in rural areas (Californian redwoods was a particular delight, as was Hwy 99 from Cache Creek to Pemberton, BC).

It would be interesting to have someone who specialises in social/cultural psychology or a similar field provide an analysis. For example, the differences in general stress levels between North America and the EU (the speculation being that higher stress equals more distraction equals higher accident rates)…

One thing that stands out in my mind is paid leave from work. My understanding in the US is that there is no obligation for an employer to provide this—in Canada it was (when I lived there) a minimum of 10 working days (2 weeks). In the EU (where it is felt that sufficient time away from work makes for more productive and happy employees) it is a minimum of 20 working days but most people get 25 + bank holidays (of which there are between 5 and 10 depending on the country). In my current role (which I’ve done for 5 years now), I am entitled to 38 days of paid leave each year (including bank holidays)—in other words, nearly 2 months each year—and this is quite typical.

The typical work ethic is different in the US, Canada and UK (three countries on which I can comment from first-hand experience). Canada and the UK are fairly similar—people are committed to their jobs but it’s not particularly commonplace to find people ‘burning out’ from work. However, in the UK people tend to include A LOT more about their personal lives in their relationships with colleagues than in Canada where this practice was a fair bit more restrained. A lot of my friends who live in the US seem have a huge drive (and therefore source of stress) to work as hard has they possibly can to get a promotion and a higher salary, move up the social ladder and repeat almost obsessively. They seem to take failure as just that, rather than a learning experience for success in future. There’s often no convincing them to take a holiday to come visit me out here, for example—and when I’ve visited them I know to make my own agenda to accommodate their work schedules! The culture is very much ‘keep aiming higher’ whereas in the UK it’s more ‘keep aiming higher but know when to stop and have a pint’.

Aside from speculations about stress levels and work ethic, one serious and highly researched issue in both the US and Canada is people using mobile devices while driving—not sure if this has reduced in recent years and what laws have been passed. This used to be an issue here as well until the police started proactively handing out huge fines plus 3 points on licences, and mandatory driving bans in certain circumstances. If you drive for a living, it’s a pretty convincing incentive to not use a mobile phone while driving when you could be banned for 2 years if you cause a crash or kill someone…

All of our countries have their positives and negatives (don’t get me started on the negatives of the UK) but the more you delve into the social and cultural complexities of each, the more you realise how unique each one is. Which may go some way in explaining the differences in RTA rates.

I would love to hear other peoples thoughts.

R1200GS Adventure

A few weeks ago BMW announced the new R1200GS Adventure, based on the 2013/14 liquid cooled R1200GS. BMW UK have now announced pricing and when accounting for the extra items the Adventure has standard (engine protection bars, spoked wheels), there is a roughly £700 price difference between the two. Other than the bodywork and larger fuel tank, the engine has some minor changes (heavier flywheel) to reportedly make the bike smoother at lower speeds off road.

Photo credit: BMW

Until I get my greedy hands on one for a test ride, I can't really comment—but from an aesthetic point of view, it looks much larger than the standard model despite similar overall dimensions. Obviously the larger tank makes it visually heavier but it has lost a bit of the tight and clever design work which makes the standard model look smaller than it really is. The bright finish on the tank reminds me of the R1150GS from the early 2000s. Design-wise I really like the black frame, wheels and engine casings—and the little cubbyhole in front of the fuel filler is a useful idea (credit card, Tic Tacs, keys etc).

I also like the matt olive colour but the orange graphics seem a little bit more than a nod to a certain orange manufacturer **cough** KTM.

I do like the functional, raw look about it but not enough to feel post-purchase regret for getting the standard model.

BMW's press release follows.

The new BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.

The arrival of the new BMW R 1200 GS Adventure marks the start of the next chapter in the success story of the large, boxer-engined GS models that extends back over more than 30 years. Since its debut in 2005, BMW Motorrad, the world's most successful manufacturer of large-capacity travel enduros, has firmly established the big GS Adventure as the definitive machine for long-distance travel. It transports two-wheeled explorers to the farthest-flung corners of the world and allows them to keep pressing on when others have long since turned back.

The BMW R 1200 GS Adventure as the quintessential travel companion for expeditions and long-distance exploration. 

The new R 1200 GS Adventure continues in this same tradition, building on the dynamic performance characteristics and excellent off-road and touring capabilities of the R 1200 GS to provide the new, ultimate solution for globetrotters, travel enduro aficionados and touring riders with a passion for off-road action.

The new R 1200 GS Adventure is powered by the same spirited air/liquid-cooled boxer engine featured on the R 1200 GS, with a displacement of 1,170 cc and an output of 92 kW (125 hp) at 7,750 rpm. The stand-out feature of the power unit – introduced last year after being newly developed for the R 1200 GS – is the new precision cooling system which uses water instead of oil as a cooling agent. Also new is the engine's through-flow, which is now vertical for even more efficient power output, as well as the six-speed gearbox that is integrated into the engine housing along with the wet clutch. For the first time on a BMW production motorcycle, the maintenance-free cardan-shaft drive is now positioned on the left-hand side. With the aim of further improving the rideability of the R 1200 GS Adventure, especially on off-road terrain, the drive's flywheel mass has been increased by around 950 grams and an extra vibration damper has been incorporated into the powertrain.

Designed, engineered and equipped for supreme globetrotting capabilities. 

The big BMW GS Adventure is something of an icon amongst large-capacity travel enduros and is the top choice for world travellers on long-distance tours, even to the remotest regions of the planet. No matter whether it is negotiating tarmac roads, gravel tracks or rough terrain, the large-capacity GS Adventure gets its riders safely to their destination. This both compelled and inspired BMW Motorrad to make the new R 1200 GS Adventure even better in every way.

Like the R 1200 GS, the Adventure is also built around a robust and torsionally resistant tubular steel spaceframe. However, it has a larger 30-litre tank (10 litres more than on the R 1200 GS) to allow for an increased range, while the fuel tank itself is now made from lightweight aluminium. The R 1200 GS Adventure already comes equipped as standard with ABS, Automatic Stability Control (ASC), as well as the two riding modes "Rain" and "Road", which enable the riding characteristics to be adapted to most road conditions. This further enhances the range of use of the new R 1200 GS Adventure considerably, at the same time as providing a significant safety boost on slippery surfaces in particular.

Three further riding modes can be added by ordering the optional Riding mode Pro feature, which is accompanied by the Enduro ABS and Enduro ASC add-ons for off-road riding. The three extra riding modes Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro (which can be activated with a coding plug) make it possible to adjust the settings of both ASC and ABS and, if fitted, the semi-active suspension Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) to suit the specific requirements of off-road operation.

Besides new bodywork styling with even more masculine flair, the globetrotting abilities and greater off-road expertise of the new R 1200 GS Adventure are clearly brought to the fore by a new chassis set-up with a further 20 millimetres of spring travel, increased ground clearance and a trailing arm with modified geometry for even better handling. A larger windshield with convenient hand-wheel adjustment, additional air flaps as well as hand protectors greatly increase wind and weather protection. Wide enduro footrests, adjustable, reinforced foot-operated levers and completely restyled bodywork add the finishing touches to the look of the new R 1200 GS Adventure.

Highlights of the new BMW R 1200 GS Adventure:

  • Based on the same versatile overall concept as the R 1200 GS, with spirited twin-cylinder boxer engine and agile chassis, but with enhanced off-road prowess and globetrotting abilities.
  • Increased flywheel mass in the engine and additional vibration damper for even smoother running and superior rideability.
  • Spring travel 20 millimetres longer at front and rear compared to R 1200 GS.
  • 10 millimetres more ground clearance than predecessor.
  • Modified geometry of trailing arm for even sharper handling.
  • Completely restyled bodywork in distinctly robust and masculine GS Adventure design.
  • 30-litre fuel tank with similar range to predecessor.
  • ABS, ASC and two riding modes as standard.
  • Three further riding modes available as an ex-works option.
  • Semi-active suspension Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) available as an ex-works option.
  • More comfortable, tilt-adjustable bench seat.
  • Large, adjustable windshield and air flaps.
  • Wide enduro footrests.
  • Adjustable, reinforced foot-operated levers.
  • Robust engine and tank protection bar.
  • Wide range of special accessories and optional extras available ex-works.

22 Nov 2013

14 Nov 2013

11 Nov 2013