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Monday, December 19, 2011

look at me... Look at Me... LOOK AT ME!!!

Every couple of weeks I find myself riding along at a nice clip when I see a car pulling up from a perpendicular side street where it meets the road on the side on which I'm traveling.

No big deal, right?

But then I notice that the driver is looking away from me at the traffic in the oncoming lane.

And not looking at me.

And then as the last of the oncoming cars approaches, the car standing at the stop sign starts rolling ever-so-slowly.

And the driver still hasn't looked in my direction!

Now, I have the right of way… and if I were in a car I'd probably take the chance and let the insurance companies sort it out if the idiot ends up pulling out in front of me.

But riding on a scooter is a whole 'nuther game. It doesn't matter that you hold the winning hand (from a legal standpoint). In this case you fold… or die.

Every single time this happens I find myself staring at the back of the driver's head and yelling inside my helmet, "look at me… look at me...look at me... Look At MeLOOK AT ME!!!" and laying on the horn while scrubbing off speed in anticipation of an emergency stop.

In most cases either common sense or my horn gets the driver's attention before they pull out, in which case I usually get some sort of annoyed hand gesture indicating dismay that I didn't trust their driving skills.

But on more than one occasion, the driver has started to pull out and then had to jam on the brakes when they heard my horn or picked me up in their peripheral vision as they turned their head back towards the direction their car was about to travel.

But by that time I've either come to a near stop, or swerved into the oncoming lane (traffic allowing) to avoid becoming a hood ornament.

What the hell people?! Didn't your mother's teach you to look both ways before crossing the street?

Posted by David Bogner on December 19, 2011 | Permalink

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Best advice I ever got about riding was from my Brother. Pretend you are invisible, it'll save your life.

Posted by: Dave | Dec 19, 2011 4:22:09 PM

Ah, I see that homo driverus Israelus has not progressed much since my days in the Medinah.

Be careful out there.

Posted by: psachya | Dec 19, 2011 5:10:14 PM

I know the feeling. been there done that and unfortunately made one too many ASSUME

Posted by: dave | Dec 19, 2011 5:20:24 PM

Yup ... I know the feeling. Defensive motorcycling!! For some reason, drivers don't see us!

Posted by: Yaron | Dec 19, 2011 5:56:13 PM

Ugh! Your post brought back memories of near misses and one totaled bike from the inattentiveness of car drivers.

Years of riding motorcycles taught me loads about paying attention to my surroundings (especially to other drivers). The new found knowledge has probably made me a better driver on four wheels as well. Among the lessons learned, two stand out above the rest. The most important one you are already doing. ALWAYS pay attention to where the other driver is looking. This will tell you almost everything you need to know about their intentions. The second is a worst-case scenario. If someone does pull out in front of you, fight the urge to swerve into the empty space in front of them. Instead, head for where they are coming from. If they do not see you, the space they are in will be empty when you get there. Or, at worst, you will hit the back of a car that is moving forward. You may not come out clean, but at least you won't get hit and then run over.

Posted by: Greg | Dec 19, 2011 6:28:12 PM

I'll preface my comment with this one point: my oldest child (a son) has his learner's permit and today is his last day of drivers education.

As I was driving with him on Saturday (I was actually driving), I told him that driving is a process of mental control. He gave me that 1-eyebrow-raised look of a teenager and said "huh"? I said:

"Think about it. Can you lift this car using just your body?"
"No"
"No, you can't. It's 2,000-3,000 lbs of solid metal that you can't physically lift it. It's traveling at about 30 mph -- that's roughly 880 yards per minute, so you can't out-run it either. In order to maintain control over your vehicle, you have to use your mind, your eyes and your ears (and your hands and feet, of course).

The problem with most accidents is that people get bored while driving. They see and feel the same things going to work every day. Their mind becomes complacent with their surroundings and, too often, they look to their phone for music, conversation, texting, or (Heaven forbid) surfing the web. That's when they lose control of their driving, when they stop paying attention to their surroundings."

I think he understood my point. I didn't tell him that every once in a while, when I get home and get out of my car, I push against the front bumper -- just to remind myself that I can't control that car without using my brain...

In your case, Trepp, you (as a scooter rider) are exposed to the elements. That helps keep you humble and engaged in the drive. Of course, it also means you're more likely to be injured in an accident, but you also get to feel the freedom of riding in the open air. The guy/girl in the car isn't fighting the elements. They are comfy and cozy and (all too often) aren't thinking about the drive they are taking. In fact, they're taking it for granted.

We have a (relatively) new campaign in my home state called "Start Seeing Motorcycles". Here's a link to some merchandise:
http://shop.cafepress.com/start-seeing-motorcycles

Stay safe out there!

PJ

P.S.- Based on the title, I was afraid this was going to be a story about you needing to be the center of attention :-)

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Dec 19, 2011 11:13:42 PM

You know...my first reaction was to feel empathy with you, b/c I encounter car drivers like this all day....and I'm in a car with babies and it scares the heck out of me. But I also suddenly see motorcyles/scooters in my mirrors so many times when they weren't there 3 seconds before which sends my heart racing and my blood pressure up--usually neither one of us was doing something wrong...it's just the nature of the motorcycle...one second you're aren't there, the next second you are.

There is a REASON why scooters/motorcycles are called organ donors. Qutie frankly, I think the risk of them outweights the rewards (my mom used to work in a rehab hospital)...and I'm not sure how you justify the risk (and then complain about it)--this is the non empathatic side of me coming out....b/c I think you choose to put yourself in serious harm's way everytime you get on that thing...and I'm not going to sympathize with your plight. My husband is in your corner...but it's probably the only thing in our marriage that I've outright forbid him to own, ride. I d on't really want to be sitting in the hospital or the morgue g-d forbid, hearing about how it was the other guy's fault!

Posted by: LG | Dec 22, 2011 10:11:37 AM

Sympathizing. I was hit on the freeway by someone not looking and coming into traffic, and the result was a month in the hospital and the loss of use of my hand. People just are not looking, and using their heads either. And I'm not happy about it. Still, I have my life, and am thankful for that.

Posted by: It's Full Of Stars | Dec 28, 2011 11:47:22 AM

@LG: With all due respect, you are wrong when you say "it's just the nature of the motorcycle...one second you're aren't there, the next second you are." NONSENSE! They don't just magically appear out of thin air. They were there all along.

No offense, but if a motorcycle or scooter "magically appears" in your mirror it's because YOU didn't see it the first time.

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Dec 28, 2011 11:25:21 PM

We discussed this phenomenon on rec.motorcycles.dirt frequently (and at ba.moto), at some time in the mists of the past, and the conclusion is that automobilists can look straight at you and *still* NOT see you, while their involuntary reflexes continue to act on their first impulse motor-skills - and they just keep driving.
Partly it's the prioritizing of their world-space where moto-whatevers have a low to non-existent value, and partly it's the complete inability to judge the speed of another vehicle that is so dissimilar from their own immediate context - like a car driver who tries to out-run a train thinking it's moving slowly because it's enormous size is outside their realm of reference, and gets squished.

Posted by: DirtCrashr | Dec 29, 2011 10:09:04 PM

Happy New Year, David. Peace and blessings to you and your family in the coming year.

PJ

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Jan 1, 2012 9:06:29 PM

This happens to us about once a week in our kikar-plentiful neighborhood--and we're in a car, so it has nothing to do with motorcycles being invisible. There is NO defensive driving in Israel.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jan 4, 2012 5:06:30 PM

I'm married to a scooter-ist (scooter-er?), and have had a life-long love affair with motorcycles, so I'm overly aware of two-wheel vehicles on the road. That said, I do have to agree with LG on one thing: the scooters popping up out of nowhere. I can't count the number of times I have put on my signal to change lanes, looked (and remember, I LOOK for 2-wheel vehicles), started to move, only to have a scooter (and sometimes, but less often, a motorcycle) shoot past me on the side I was moving towards. The thing is, I assume they've seen my single, they're anticipating my lane change, and they've calculated that there is enough room and time to get by me safely.

Doesn't mean that it doesn't leave my heart pounding. It also doesn't mean that I'm *right* in giving them the benefit of the doubt all the time. Also, when I was an EMT, nearly all the motor vehicle accidents involving motorcycles that I responded to where the fault of the car operator involved, not the bike.

Posted by: Alissa | Jan 10, 2012 6:45:18 PM

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