Surrounded by Idiots

Many of us feel this way all the time anyway, but if you’re going to ride a motorcycle, you have to behave as if it were true.

In Peoria last week, a woman turned and ran straight into a motorcyclist. He landed in the hospital in critical condition. They mention a head injury, but don’t mention whether he wore a helmet. No excuse was listed for the driver of the car, but I imagine it was your typical “I didn’t see him” response.

In California, another pinhead tried to use his smartphone to record video of a group of bikers, and he knocked two of them down in the process. In response, they knocked him around and threatened him with a knife. I’m not going to say that’s the right way to handle it, but given the incident, I’m not surprised.

Start Seeing Motorcycles

I’ve been forced to keep my own cool twice this year already.

First, a young woman tailgated me coming out of town. The speed limit jumps from 35 to 55, and I tend to be hard on the throttle so I was right up at 55. I had a turn coming up in a half mile, though, so saw no reason to go any faster until she tried to drive her little red POS up my tailpipe. I put my signal on well ahead of time so she knew I’d be slowing down, and instead of passing me, she just stayed glued to my bumper. I thought about stopping right in front of her, then walking back to have a little chat, but I imagine she’d have freaked out and run me over in self defense. Instead I hugged the shoulder and did my best to stay out of her way when she rocketed past me at the intersection.

In another in-town incident, a van started to back out of a driveway. It was some distance ahead of me, but not far enough that, were I driving a car, it would have been safe or smart to back out. I let off the throttle and covered the brake and clutch, and sure enough, the van showed no intention of stopping. So I stopped, and I watched as an elderly woman eased back out of the driveway, backed toward me, and stopped about eight feet in front of my front tire. Then she just sat in the lane.

And sat, and sat. I don’t know if she saw me and panicked, or thought I was going to pass her, or just got distracted and had something else to do. Someone in the passenger seat finally snapped her out of it and she got rolling… only to stop at the intersection. She had no stop sign, but watched the truck to her left—who did have a stop sign—sit and wait for her to make up her mind. Finally she crept around the corner to the right and drove way. I just shrugged at the truck driver and rode on by. He seemed to get a kick out of that.

These are the people we all share the road with, whether we’re on a bicycle, a motorcycle, or in a car. The nice thing about riding the motorcycle is I’ve become more alert even when I drive the family grocery getter. I’ve spotted and slowed for things the Wife hadn’t noticed. I’ve become better at predicting when someone is about to do something stupid, like yesterday when a woman raced ahead of our van, then swept across our lane and into a right turn lane.

If I’m rolling up on someone at an intersection and I don’t make eye contact with them, I assume they’re about to screw me. Illinois may be a helmet-optional state, but I don’t drive out of town without one. When I get my hands on the Bell Drifter DLX I’ve been eyeballing a while, I intend to wear it even on the short trips.

I see riders all day every day. Thousands ride together without incident. The odds are probably in my favor. However, I’m going to pad those odds out as best I can.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

6 comments

  1. Eric says:

    You got it right with the eye contact. The second thing I look for after eye contact, or in the case of a vehicle in a parallel lane heading the same direction as you, is what the wheels of the vehicle are doing. Despite many people habitually not using turn signals, keeping an eye on the front wheels will tell you which direction they will be headed, even if they’re not moving (i.e. intersection, or pulling out from the side), or signaling a lane change.

  2. This past week, I almost hit a motorcycle. I didn’t see them until the very last moment.

    I was at the intersection leaving my condos. I had pulled up, stopped, looked one way then the other, and just as I was about to turn left, I glanced to my right and saw the bike. Stopped about a meter shy of hitting them.

    I thought about it later. Yes, I have a slight blind spot in that corner, but it’s a feat of physics, I think, to approach me that closely from that angle and be in that blind spot as I’m barely moving.

    I always try to be conscious.

    Later, I realized that I had never entered the intersection, I had only just taken my foot off the brake. I was still behind the line, still in my lane to make my left turn. They were coming into the complex and cutting their left turn, directly in front of me, way too short. I think, had I not taken my foot off the brake, had I just stayed stopped, I would not have been more than two meters away from having the motorcyclist hit me.

    Which is only to say that, regardless of what you’re driving, car, bike, truck, you should be aware of what’s going on. You’re going thru an intersection, even at 7am on a Saturday, take that extra moment to look a second time. (Had I not looked twice, there would’ve been biker strewn across my hood.) But also, the biker should have seen me there, and not cut that corner in such a way as to put themself in danger.

    • Mike says:

      Eric: Good point regarding the wheels. It’s hard to see them at some angles, but I check them when I can.

      John: The other problem some riders have is they feel entitled. “This is my lane, I have the right of way, you need to watch out for me!” Exactly the wrong attitude when you’re in an open vehicle precariously balanced on two wheels and outweighed/outmassed by 4:1 in most instances. We all have a little of that no matter what we’re driving, but if you ride a motorcycle and try to assert that attitude, you go in the idiot category. The driver’s traffic citation doesn’t fix mangled limbs or resurrect the dead.

  3. Mike says:

    Also, lane cutting during a turn on a motorcycle? It’s stupid in a car, but it’s suicidal on a motorcycle. I see people fly up on stop signs all the time no matter what’s going on in the intersection, and I have no desire to become a hood ornament.

  4. Troy says:

    Mike!

    We got a lot of young males here in TN on those crotch rockets on the local interstate zipping and whipping in and out of heavy traffic and changing lanes repeatedly….scares the shit out of me and the wife. I’m guessing these young skillets are going at least 85 to 90 mph if not pushing a 100 and wearing helmets but generally in tshirts and shorts….looking to leave their skin and DNA all over 385.

    Scary,
    Troy

    • Mike says:

      Those guys are in another world. They’re the reason it costs $125/month to insure a crotch rocket, yet it’s only $25 to insure a cruiser.