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Monday, May 24, 2010

A Delayed Revelation

[Today's post was written almost two months ago.  But since Zahava was still kind of tender over the concept of me on two wheels back then, I opted to archive it for a while before posting it here]

This morning, about five minutes from my office, I found myself sitting on my scooter at a red light. I'd gotten to the quiet intersection first and decided to 'own' the lane by sitting just off center while waiting for the light to change.

I know some people recommend motorcyclists and scooterists move over to the edge of the lane or even onto the shoulder at intersections to avoid being rear-ended by texting drivers. But this doesn't sit well with the 'aggressively defensive' doctrine that many two wheelers sensibly recommend. If scooters and motorcycles are licensed vehicles and we pay our registrations fees like everyone else... we own our chunk of the road, right?

Anyway, whenever I approach an intersection I always check my mirrors to make sure of what is going on behind me (i.e. to make sure I don't need to bail out in a hurry due to on oncoming idiot). This time there was nobody coming up behind me, so I rolled to a stop near the center of the lane and settled in to wait for the light to change... gripping my brake handles every few seconds to flash the brake lights (just in case).

[At this point in the story I need to explain that among the other safety equipment I bought when I purchased my scooter (armored jacket, gloves, etc.), I selected a somewhat unconventional helmet.  It is a full face helmet by a British firm that has a unique, patented rear-view mirror system built into the helmet itself.  You can read more about Reevu helmets here on their site, but suffice it to say that the idea of being able to see the blind spot directly behind me was a big comfort given Israel's aggressive / careless drivers.]

Anyhoo... there I was sitting at what turned out to be an unusually long red light, and I was starting to get fidgety, fearing perhaps my scoot hadn't triggered the electro-magnetic loop for the signal. In the process of glancing up at the light my eyes couldn't help but also catch a glimpse of the rear-view image projected inside the center of the helmet just above eye level. In it I was horrified to see a pick-up truck approaching at high speed, getting bigger and bigger like something out of a Road-Runner cartoon... and showing no signs of slowing.

I turned the handlebars hard to the right and gunned the throttle to the stops.  The rear wheel spun for a second on some gravel but finally caught traction and shot me onto the triangle of gravel between the right turn lane and the lane I had been in... just as the jack-ass in the pick-up truck locked up his brakes and skidded past me (and through the red light) into the intersection.

A car coming from the right (with the green) whizzed through the intersection and just missed having his rear bumper taken off by the still-moving pick-up. If that car had entered the intersection even a split second later it would have been T-Boned!

The pick-up finally came to a smoky, shuddering stop about three car lengths past the zebra crossing on the opposite side of the intersection!  After a few moments he re-started his engine (which had stalled) and drove on as if nothing had happened, leaving me alone at the now green light.

I let the light cycle through the colors a few times before I felt steady enough to ride. All I could think about was that if I hadn't caught sight of the oncoming truck in the Reevu helmet's internal mirror, I would either have been killed by the rear impact... or doomed by being pushed into the path of the car that had barely cleared the front of the truck in the intersection.

Yes, I know that if I want to 'own' the lane, I should continue to check side mirrors even when sitting at a light. But for someone who has spent most of his life driving cars, it is natural to focus forward once you are safely stopped at an intersection.

Bottom line, I owe my life to that tiny rear-view image which is projected just above the center of my field of vision in the Reevu Helmet. I'm sure there might be better helmets to wear in a crash. But there is no doubt in my mind that this helmet helped me avoid an unsurvivable crash.

Pass a link to this post along to anyone you know who spends time on two wheels.

Posted by David Bogner on May 24, 2010 | Permalink

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News flash: Still. NOT. Ready. for. this. story.

Posted by: zahava | May 24, 2010 1:54:47 PM

zahava ... Oh, ok. So pretend you didn't read it, mmmkay? :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 24, 2010 1:58:21 PM

One thing to keep in mind, if you had been in a car, you wouldn't have been nimble enough to get out of the way, and he would have nailed you. Best piece of advice my brother ever gave me for riding is to pretend you are invisible, because to most drivers, you are.

Posted by: dave | May 24, 2010 3:47:42 PM

Most drivers have tunnel vision. If they are looking forward at all (and not texting, eating, fiddling with the radio or yelling at their kids), all they see is a narrow view across their hood. I was once clipped by a woman while directing traffic at a crash scene due to this. Despite my car with the blue lights on, the fire truck with its red lights on and my orange traffic vest, she blew right through the crash scene and got me on the way by. She had tunnel vision and her brain was in neutral while she drove to work. Many traffic crashes involve those very things.

Moral? Consider everyone on the road with you to be a mouth-breathing imbecile who got their driver's license out of a Crackerjack box. Do that, act accordingly, think ahead, keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel. It will save you a lot of grief.

Posted by: Karl Newman | May 24, 2010 4:29:53 PM

thanks.

Posted by: dave | May 24, 2010 5:09:58 PM

we own our chunk of the road, right?

Nope, don't own it and don't try splitting lanes around me. I hate when the cyclists try to thread the needle between my car and the others. Can't tell you how many times they have barely missed crashing into my car.

I don't want to be responsible for their being smacked. Ok, let me correct this, you sort of own a chunk of the road. If you guys ride in the center of the lane where you are easily spotted no big deal, it is the crazy stuff that some exhibit...

Posted by: Jack | May 24, 2010 5:13:25 PM

As one who had motorcyled for many years -- including numerous coast-to-coast rides here in the US -- I moved to the comments in order to share my wisdom. But your readers are such a savvy and clever crew, that Dave already provided my best line about invisibility.

Zahava, you should feel better to know that this was something of a worst-case scenario ... and everything still turned out just fine once the adrenaline rush subsided. Hey, at least David was not sitting directly behind a Ford Pinto with a Toyota approaching from the rear! (Too soon?)

Posted by: Drew | May 24, 2010 5:30:31 PM

OMG, I am not married to you and I probably would never be ready to hear this story, unless you were already 90 years old.
Baruch H-shem you are OK!

Posted by: SaraK | May 24, 2010 6:19:37 PM

I'm not married to you either, and I'm still trying to calm my heart rate. That story was terribly frightening.

I wish you'd gotten that driver's license plate number and reported him. He deserves to be nailed, seriously, for what he did, preferably before he endangers anybody else. I understand that after getting out of that situation with your life, reporting him was the last thing on your mind, but still....

Posted by: Rahel | May 24, 2010 10:40:03 PM

P.S. Here are the lyrics to a song by Adie Grey, "Grandpa's Advice." On-topic.

Posted by: Rahel | May 24, 2010 10:46:27 PM

Glad you are alive. Poor Zehava.

Posted by: rickismomr | May 25, 2010 1:16:13 AM

I've seen stories about the helmet before, but yours is the first "Live, in use" experience I've read. I'll definitely look it up!! Glad to hear your instincts paid off, whether by checking your mirrors (I'm always scanning my mirrors at a stop, and moving my head so I see ALL behind me), your helmet, etc. We had a horrendous crash here 2 or 3 years ago. A truck plowed into a car at a red light, pushing that car into another one, shooting that other one into the intersection where it was hit by traffic coming the other way. People zone out everywhere, and whether you are one 2, 3, 4 or more wheels, you've got to look EVERYWHERE for them at all times.

Posted by: JDMDad | May 25, 2010 1:31:28 AM

David, honestly, I wish you were not riding a scooter. I'm sorry to say that, but the truth is that drivers all over the world and particularly in Israel tend to be too careless of others. On a scooter you are unprotected despite the jacket, helmet, etc.

Posted by: Lynne | May 25, 2010 7:02:58 AM

So, David, what you are trying to tell us is...

"hindsight is golden?"

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sarYH0z948

Posted by: Wry Mouth | May 25, 2010 8:30:56 AM

Phew. Will pass on to Bish. Thanks

Posted by: Imshin | May 25, 2010 10:31:26 AM

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