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Don't assume anything

8/25/2009 11:28:08 AM


Alison and BMWs 


Have you ever heard the analysis of the word “ASSUME”? As in “makes an ASS out of U and ME”?  Silly? Maybe so -- but you had better believe it if you ride on two wheels in today’s traffic. All traffic flow in this country is regulated and usually enforced and we would like to believe that everyone is playing (and driving) by the same rules.  Unfortunately there is no guarantee on compliance! 


For example, consider this situation that I encounter frequently in suburban traffic in mid-summer. I am proceeding along a major city street and watching well ahead for traffic and street lights, my speed is just under the posted 60kph., traffic is light and moving well. There are no vehicles behind me. Three blocks ahead, a car approaches from the right on a quiet residential street and comes to a full stop at the intersection. I cannot see his signal light, but from his position he is either crossing through the intersection or turning left. I am the only vehicle approaching from his left. Obviously, I have the legal right of way! If the driver does indeed see me and if he does wait until I have passed through that intersection, then all is well. But his brain does not register my existence! At the moment when I should have entered the intersection, he pulls out to make his left turn! Fortunately, I had anticipated his maneuver and scrubbed speed so that when he did pull out into my path, avoiding a collision was simply a matter of squeezing the brakes a bit harder. Had I assumed that he would see me and proceeded at normal speed, there would have been a nasty crash. It would not have been my fault in the eyes of the law, but I would be the one in bandages. 


My mantra for all such situation is to expect the worst. If I am prepared for the least appropriate, silliest behaviour on everyone elses’ part, then I can keep myself safe. Should I casually assume that everyone will respect my presence on the road and especially that everyone will actually see me and the motorcycle, then there will be some painful lessons ahead.  I don’t want to go there. 


I really don’t think that most people wilfully ignore the existence of motorcycles, but somehow because we are not expected, our presence does not always register. The post-collision and grief-stricken cry of “I just didn’t see the motorcycle” is all too common – and very real. We become invisible when on two wheels. 


Horns, flashing headlights or loud pipes might help, but these aren’t the answer for personal safety. Certainly making yourself as visible as possible can’t hurt, but the real safety net is in your head! Practice being invisible! Don’t assume that others will see you at all. It will astonish you how many potentially nasty situations can be avoided long before they have a chance to happen. Once again, safe riding is a head game. If you are prepared for the unexpected, then there won’t be any nasty surprises.   


Dress to be seen, keep your eyes moving, and ride safe! -- Alison Green 




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seth hammond
8/27/2009 2:46:59 PM
I believe that periodic articles on countersteering would save many readers from bad accidents or death. It's always amazed me at the number of longtime riders who have no idea that they bobble before they go in the desired direction. In some situations there's no time for a corrective bobble. I know at least two former riders nearly killed but seriously crippled due to their ignorance of countersteering.

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