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.
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.