Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The best defence...

I came across an interesting situation on the commute to work this morning.  I was travelling in the inside lane (of 2 lanes) in a 70 zone when just around the bend I notice a car stopped in the outside lane about 60 or so metres ahead of us.  I say us because there was a car in the outside lane to me left, basically keeping pace with me and keeping me level with her front quarter panel.  We were the front two vehicles ahead of a steady line of traffic in each lane behind us.

OK I suppose it isn't really interesting - unless you're interested in safe, defensive motorcycle commuting. To me, as an advocate for riding bikes to work and as someone who has a vested interest in being able to do so safely, it presented a great example of the hazards you face every day riding a motorbike in traffic (but may not have thought about).

Imagine a car parked in the left hand lane opposite the Keep Left sign
At 60km/h a vehicle covers 100 metres every 6 seconds.  Given we were traveling at 70, and that the parked car was less than 100 metres away, I'd estimate the car beside me had 3 seconds in which to analyse her situation and react to it before she slams into the stopped car.  At this point I am acutely aware of my position on the road relative to her: I am beside her on the road; she can't see me out her windscreen, and she can't see me in any of her mirrors.  The only way that she will know I am beside her is if she actually turns her head and looks, and registers that yes there is something there.

Based on this, I decided that there was potential danger to me if I just continued along as is and did nothing.  From that point it was pretty simple reasoning: if I slow down to make room for her to merge in front of me, I am placing myself in danger of being hit by the car behind me who may not have put 2 and 2 together, or just may not be paying attention.  On the other hand, the road ahead of me is clear, and my bike can out-accelerate her car without even trying.  Solution?  Twist the wrist, and put about 2 car lengths between me and her in under a second.  She merged in behind me and was able to get past the stopped car without slowing down, and the commute remained uneventful, just the way I like it.

And that's the moral of this little tale: if you want an uneventful commute, you have to be proactive in making it one.  Sometimes the best defence is being prepared to twist the wrist and accelerate away from potential danger.

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