A Fallen Rider

The following post was written about two years ago. I found it in my blog’s drafts and decided to share it after all this time.

A coworker of mine died last Saturday in a motorcycle accident. The rider was traveling too fast while a car made a left turn in front of him. I went to go see where it happened, partly out of respect, but mostly out of morbid curiosity. I saw the road damage before I noticed the street sign. The white dust they thrown down to soak up the oil was still clinging to the asphalt. I walk around the site and noticed broken cable from a turn signal and shards of the plastic fairings. The sight of a broken foot peg, sends chills up my spine.

I’ve been riding for two years now. My worst fear is being lulled into a false sense of security. I read accident reports, statistics and look at gruesome photos from riders involved in crashes to remind myself of the realities. The stories incite sympathy. I analyze the statistics with a detached curiosity and I wince at the photos.

All of those combined didn’t add up to the sight of that snapped foot peg.

Cars making left turns is the single greatest cause of fatal motorcycle accidents. At every intersection you have to scan for this threat among many others. “Does that left turner see me?” “Does the truck behind me see me?” “Does the driver to my left see me?” “Does that kid near the crosswalk see me?” We all take our invisibility pills before you hop on our bikes. Perhaps I never needed one. I’ve felt isolated throughout most of my life. I go unnoticed and blend in throughout the day.

Now my life depends on people acknowledging my existence. You are utterly alone, and the only recognition the world gives you is a head on collision, a side swipe or a rear end.

On the way home from the scene I trail behind traffic and spot a left turner waiting to make his move. As the last car passes he accelerates quickly and he whips a U turn as I rock on the throttle and swerve to the right. Not a close call, but I make sure it didn’t turn into one. After every close call I don’t feel angry anymore. To be angry implies that it should have been otherwise, but wishing it wasn’t so won’t save you from all the negligent drivers on the road. Instead I smile and congratulate myself on another successful maneuver and then scold myself for not doing better so I don’t lull myself into a false sense of security.

After looking at this entry my perspective two years ago seems foreign to me. At least now a days I can say that I’m not as negative and don’t feel as disconnected and defensive about the world and my fellow drivers. We’re all out there trying to survive in one way or another.

  • http://jeffmartin.com Jeff

    Not as negative, huh?

    Good writing, glad you shared it.

  • k12

    Glad you feel more connected ! But you can never let your defence down on the bike.
    Being connected has at least given you more insight as to why a car may left turn in front of you ,and given you an essential empathy with the psychology of other road users.
    Basically you have developed a second sense with experience, and this experience shows that you never stop learning and never let your defence down. Fortunately luck still plays a part in our survival.
    Always enjoy your posts!

  • cashstore1

    Sorry to hear about your co-worker Bill. Whenever I get on a bike I always tell myself to be humble on the road as you can’t predict what is going to happen. Many accidents can be avoided by being very defensive, but you can’t avoid some things like a wild animal jumping in front of you. One time I had one of those tires rip off a Mack truck in front of me.
    I also assume that every car is going to make a left turn in front of me. Assuming otherwise can get you killed.
    I happen to know a lot of bikers, and not one of them has been killed, but a few were injured. One of the injuries was do to cockiness on his part.
    With a clear mind, being defensive, and using common sense, you are fairly safe, but you never know.

  • http://www.atlasrider.com Atlas

    @k12 and @cashstore1

    I suppose when I said that I don’t feel as defensive anymore, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t defensively at all. I think a long time ago I was defensive to the point of mania, and now I am more “poised” than “purely defensive”. I basically wanted to convey that I don’t have a “me vs. them” kind of attitude while I’m riding anymore.

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