Riding Aware

A couple of weeks ago, I talked a bit about the inherent dangers of riding.  Sure, there is risk, simply because of the exposure, but there is reward.   Today, I want to address mitigating risk.  Every rider has to make the decisions that effect their own safety.  Certainly there is the protection aspect, in terms of clothing and helmets, but that's a subject for another day.

Today, I want to talk about the on the bike experience, and mitigating risk through awareness.  I'm not an expert on the subject, if you want that, go talk to Gary or Dan.  Both have more knowledge about safety than I do.  I can only relay my own experience and what I observe from that.   The thing is, that between the lessons of the MSF classes, and a bit of seat time, you can learn alot.   Now, some of what I do as a rider comes from my driving.  In the years I've been driving I've had 4 accidents.  When I was 17, I was rear-ended at a stop light, and though the accident was 'not my fault', in hindsight, I could have prevented it had I been paying more attention.  That same year I had one that was blatantly my fault (though it was ticketed as a no fault) turning left from a stop sign, I hit a lady that was coming through the intersection.  Visibility was poor and I trusted the guy waving me out, I knew better, it was my fault, I don't care that she was speeding, or anything else, I failed to find her visually and that is on me.  The third crash came at 21 when I totaled a race prepped Audi Quattro on a race track, again, this is my fault, and it all stemmed from a mental mistake, not focusing on what I was doing and braking too hard, too late and in a bad spot because of that mental lapse.

The fourth incident was truly a dual fault accident, and it was ticketed that way.   But no one was hurt, and it was a learning experience, where had I been a bit more tuned in, I probably would have been able to prevent.  I saw probably, because I'm not 100% sure that it would have changed things.  Not being in a rush, and going to the other side of the parking lot to use the light would have, and because of that, if there is a light, I use it.

This last incident occurred just 2 years ago.  I had run to the grocery to grab a few things the night before thanksgiving, and was turning left out of the lot. The road at that point is 3 lanes, 1 north, 1 south and a turn lane in the middle.  Across the street from the entrance I was exiting, is the entrance to an excellent italian restaurant with an excellent wine cellar.  It was around 7PM, so it was quite dark.   As I started to turn left, I failed to see the navy blue Mustang without it's headlights on yet nail the gas to eek in front of me coming straight across from the restaurant across the 3 lanes and into the grocery store entrance I was exiting.  Needless to say, I hit him in the side with my left front fender.  As an aside, either the Chrysler Pacifica is a tank, or the Mustang is tin-foil, because the Mustang side was destroyed from wheel to wheel, the Pacifica required a new bumper, fender and headlight.  

I made a mistake there, but I learned to adopt a safer habit.  These types of events are what make up our 'wisdom' as we age.  When I approached the transition from car  driver to scooter / motorcycle rider, I recognized that I didn't have the 'wisdom' to jump in right away, and as a father and husband, I needed to mitigate that risk, so first, the MSF course.  Second, seat time with experienced riders, third, seat time in controlled 'safe' environments.  Finally seat time on the road.  Then after the seat time establishes some habits, consciously think about what you have to do, every time you get in the saddle.

The first thing about mitigating risk is the most important in my mind, and that is, take your time.  By rushing, you make mental mistakes, and more importantly, don't give yourself enough time to react to a situation.  Even after years of bicycling and now my time on the scooter, I still don't feel that I could react quick enough to avoid an issue if I'm traveling too fast and operating in a 'rush' mode.  

Second in importance is to keep your eyes moving.  Doing this, and consciously watching to the little signals that hint at bigger ones, the turn of a wheel, the direction of a head in a car, the change in texture or color of a spot of moisture in the road, the rustle of the bushes where a dear it preparing to dash.   

Third for me is the general catch all.  Remembering that I am my only defense against stupidity, mine and the other guys.  It's a little bit like the famous auror, Mr. Moody in Harry Potter says, "Constant Vigilance".  My awareness is my best defense.  

Content by dru_satori, edited on a Mac using SandVox (because I'm lazy)