In the last two posts, I illustrated how cagers don’t notice motorcyclists on the roads and how they often misunderstand motorcyclists riding habits as selfish and rude.I understand that not all motorcyclists are perfect, no more than all cagers are really jerks. It’s mix — there are some motorcyclists out there who ride selfishly and horribly and dangerously, giving the rest of us a bad name. And there are some cagers out there who have taken it on themselves to be freeway vigilantes, giving cagers a terrifying reputation among motorcyclists.
Incident the third.
My husband switches lanes in an interesting manner. It is designed to catch the eye of the surrounding drivers and make them aware of his presence. Many motorcyclists (myself included) switch lanes in the manner of a cager — we signal our turn by hand or turn signal (often both), shoulder and mirror check, then drift into the lane.
John does the signal and shoulder/mirror check, but rather than drifting into his intended lane, he aggressively throws his bike into the lane. There’s really no other way to describe it. The first time I saw him do it almost two years ago, my heart leapt into my throat — I thought he was about to wreck. It’s a full lean, almost parallel to the ground, followed by an abrupt straightening up. It’s very eye-catching, let me assure you. The thing is, he’s in complete control the entire time.
Last week on his way up to work, he got off our exit onto the freeway, doing this maneuver. He proceeded to quickly move over to the far left lane (our freeway is a two lane road, so including the exit lane, three lanes) and just sort of slab it (freeway riding) to work.
Except some 20-something kids who had gotten off at the same exit saw his lane-changing style and decided that his “crazy swerving all over the road” was “dangerous,” so they pulled up next to him in their SUV. The female driver began squirting her windshield wiper fluid and running her wipers so it squirted at John, laughing and pointing at him as she did.
Remember how I mentioned the freeway was a two-lane freeway? It’s like that for quite a while, so John was stuck, blocked by the cars in front of and behind him and the SUV to the side of him that was now squirting windshield washer fluid all over his helmet visor and motorcycle. Unless he wanted to pull a seriously illegal (and, incidentally, impossible, due to all the road work and lack of a shoulder) move and speed away along the shoulder, he was stuck next to that SUV for about 23 miles.
He followed them when they pulled off at their exit to find out why they’d endangered him like that — slicking up his tires with wet, soapy fluid and obscuring his view. Obviously, he wasn’t in the best temper. The explanation they gave was that he was riding dangerously, “Swerving all over the road,” and, “Speeding in and out of traffic.”
Apparently they felt so passionately about his actions, they informed him that they’d even called in his plates to the police, which had John laughing pretty hard a few hours later (after he calmed down from their possibly unintentional attempt to kill him).
Side note here — if you call the police to tell them a motorcyclist is riding like an insane person, swerving in and out of traffic and speeding dangerously, but you’re able to easily and coherently read that little teeny tiny license plate, the police might guess you’re a retarded liar. Just sayin’.
Look, if you don’t like how a motorcyclist riding, don’t take it on yourself to be a road vigilante, okay? Maybe you’re shaking your head saying, “He’s going to get himself killed,” or, “He’s going to get somebody killed.”
Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. You don’t know. But do you want to be the road vigilante who, in an attempt to “teach that guy a lesson,” ended up accidentally killing that guy?
So in my last post I talked about how one of my friends, while an otherwise nice guy, could end up being an agent of death for a motorcyclist. Well, there are others who do see motorcyclists but actually have it out for us. They may think we’re rude, or unsafe, or just selfish road-hoggers. They don’t understand many of the perceived “rude” motorcyclist behaviors are for safety.
You know how we swerve back and forth within a lane? We’re taught to do that. It’s because we can. It’s to avoid the slick oily spots that cars leave behind, constantly put ourselves in the best line of vision, and avoid blind spots of other vehicles. It’s safe riding.
You know how in some states (CA) it’s not illegal (or legal) to lane-split, and how in other states, it’s not even legal, but motorcyclists do it sometimes anyway? They usually don’t do it to be jerks. There are jerks in every case, I admit, but lane-splitting is actually an extremely safe way for the experienced rider to handle stop-and-go traffic. If a rider is lane-splitting, they are less likely to be made into motorcycle pancake because someone got distracted for a second and didn’t slam on their brakes in time.
Well, here’s a safety issue that happened to John and I this week that may have been mis-read as dickishness by the drivers around us.
Incident the Second
John and I were riding 2-up on his TL1000R (also know as the Tiller, or as I call it, The Sand Thumper, because it makes the same sound the sand thumpers make in Dune.) We came up on some construction. Traffic is at a standstill, and John turns off his bike as we wait for the flaggers to wave us through. I sit up and look around.
We’re at an intersection normally regulated by a light, and the road is being repaved. Since it’s a busy intersection, flaggers are waving the cars through in shifts. The portion of road we’ll be riding on is the portion currently being worked on. The road is scraped and grooved, ready for repaving. It’s the sort of surface that if you’re on two wheels, it’s better to be going 35 miles or a little faster on, the better to keep your balance. There’s a large orange “Motorcycles Caution” sign to the side of the road.
Just in front of us is a little beat-up black VW something or other. Jetta, I think. Anyway, the flaggers finally wave our line through, John starts up the bike (he’d turned it off while we waited), and we start moving forward.
The minute we hit the grooved pavement, the VW slows down. A lot. The truck in front of them was going at a normal pace. The car in front of that truck continued at a normal pace. The beater VW? Slowed down to something like 10 mph. I kid you not. John revved the throttle and the car sped up ever so slightly, then slowed right back down. John was right on his tail, and he revved the throttle again.
I know how this looked to everyone else. To everyone else, it looked like the meanie motorcyclist was threatening the poor teenage kid driving through a construction area. To everyone else it looked like the Big Bad Biker had an attitude. He was revving his engine, and noise equals bad. Do you know what John’s motorcycle horn sounds like? An anemic goat. Seriously. You wouldn’t even be able to hear it. That’s why he revs his throttle — you can hear it. (I do honk my bike’s horn — it’s loud.)
I was riding passenger, though, and I knew what was going on. I could feel in my thighs the way that John was struggling to keep the heavy bike upright at those low speeds on that grooved pavement; the way the road was grabbing the tires and trying to flip us down. I could feel the tremble in his chest muscles from stabilizing the wiggle in his handlebars. I’ve ridden on grooved pavement in the past, and I know the heart-hammer feeling in your chest at the strangeness of how the road feels.
I also knew that much of the issue was the speed we were going. I knew that if we could add just a few mph — 15, 10, even 5 — everything would be a lot easier, a lot less of a struggle. I was angry at the kid in the beater VW for driving so slow on the grooved pavement — he has four wheels! What’s he worried about? It’s not like a four-wheeled beater VW is going to flip on grooved pavement! I was also scared we were going to wreck. Sure, at those slow speeds, it probably would’ve just hurt, but I didn’t want to have to buy new helmets.
Once the kid pulled to the side of the road and waved us by (everyone else glaring at us like we were death-bringer-baby-killer-orphan-dolphin-thingies), we rode home. But not before an old lady shook her finger warningly at me and her husband frowned at me in disappointment from the cab of his truck.
Yes, what is this world coming to?
My husband and I ride motorcycle. He’s been riding since October of 2007 and has put a lot of miles on his bike. He rides to work (64 miles round trip) on an almost daily basis, and goes on a day long (8-14 hour) ride every week to two weeks. He loves riding.
I don’t get to ride quite as often. First, I don’t have a job to ride to, second, we don’t have gear for our son, and third, I’m scared of being around cagers. Let me tell you, cagers are jerks.
Cagers are what riders (in our area) call car drivers. In the past week, three separate events have happened that have reinforced my strong belief that cagers need to learn to drive.
I’d like to point out something really quick here — motorcyclists need to have a license to get their motorcycle endorsement. That means they know how to drive a car. Then they take a class and/or riding test to get their endorsement. So they’ve taking two driving classes learning how to operate a vehicle and deal with traffic. In addition, motorcyclists belong to a culture that strongly encourages taking follow-up classes. Everywhere we go that’s motorcycle-related — to buy gear, motorcycle parts, fix or tune our bikes, or even just hang out in a group or online — riding classes are promoted, from beginning to advanced to defensive. And we’re encouraged to take them every few years to keep our skills fresh.
In contrast, how often does the average car driver take a driving class or test? Take a moment to think about it . . . That’s right. Once. When they’re 16 or 17. And that’s it.
Now for the first of the three incidents.
Incident the First.
I was on my way up to Seattle from Tumwater with a friend of mine (“Ted”). He noticed a motorcyclist speeding by in the right lane, and made a derogatory comment about how fast the guy was going in the right lane. I pointed out that the motorcyclist was going about 70 mph (10 mph faster than the speed limit), while my friend, who was in the far left lane (technically the passing or “fast” lane) was going 55 mph. I could kind of see why, with people block the left and middle lanes, any vehicle would blow by in the right lane.
Anyway, I made some comment about how his lane positioning was better than other bikes I’d seen that day or something, and Ted said he hadn’t seen any other bikes. I kind of laughed in disbelief, because seriously, no.
I mean, it was 80 degrees and cloudless out. We’d passed something like 80 motorcycles just between Olympia and Tacoma. Sure, they weren’t in a huge pack or anything, but it’s not like you can miss a moving vehicle, right? I mean, seriously! So I was poking fun at him for this completely ridiculous statement, and a couple of motorcyclists ride by us. Of course, I say, “There go three right now!”
He says, “Where? Oh! I see them! Cool.”
And he wasn’t messing! That’s when I realized that my instructor in the MSF course wasn’t lying to me when he said that cagers don’t see us. Let me tell you — shock. I just stared at Ted. I mean, he’s one of my closest friends. He’s a good guy. He’s smart and funny and nice. Sometimes he runs stop signs and sometimes he forgets to signal a turn before he does it. He doesn’t always pay attention when he’s driving, but I wouldn’t call him the absolute worst driver in the world (that’s my dad).
But he could totally hit and kill or severely injure a motorcyclist. I did this paper for my English 102 class on motorcycle safety. As part of it, I pulled up all these news articles on motorcycle accidents where the car driver was at fault — quoted as so by the officer on the scene. Inevitably, the cager’s excuse was, “I just didn’t see them!”
That excuse just blows me away. It’s a moving vehicle. With flashing lights that signal our turns. And a headlight that we’re allowed to leave on during the day. HOW CAN YOU MISS US?!?
What we eat, from around the world:
- I find it really interesting, in a sad sort of way, how our pantry size seems to grow even as our family size shrinks.
- I find it interesting in a pleasing and happy sort of way that countries less under American influence (re: France, UK, India) had much less soda pop. I especially found the lack of soda pop in France and the UK intriguing, because I thought soda pop was one of the harbingers of all that is modern culture. Nice to know I’m wrong.
- The pictures of fresh fruit and vegetables make me super hungry, while the pre-packaged foods make me kind of go, “meh.” The grains in bags make my mouth feel dry, especially when I realize that that’s likely their most regular food. I wish I could help them.
The first four hours were spent looking at the Pavilion displays (various contest entry stuff like photographs, arts, textiles, dollhouses, Lego buildings, personal collections, etc.), the 4-H animals and general fair stuff. Then we took a lunch break, returned and spent the final four hours on rides. Turns out Little A is not at all scared of roller-coasters. Go figure.
This is Little A and I, re-creating a photograph that was entered in the 2009 Photography competition. I believe it was under the “Composition” category, though I could be mis-remembering.
The actual photograph had about 3-4 kids, positioned like Little A and I are. Except the first one was sitting cross-legged. The actual photograph was also in a wooded area, with huge trees arcing all about and the dramatic swoopy moss we have around here weeping down. The light was diffused and golden between their arms, too. It was a really cool photograph.
Little A and I don’t really do it justice, but Little A was taken by my admiration of the photograph and wanted to do one like it. So here is our humble tribute.
Now. Doll houses! I love the doll house display at the Fair. As a kid, I would beg my dad to let us stay at this display, but he always dragged us off to the model trains.
Curse you, model trains.
Anyway, it was especially cool because the Lego stuff and the doll house displays were in the same room, so it would have been nearly impossible to get Little A and I out of there before we wanted to leave. At least not without a crowbar or some serious bribes. So I was able to linger and enjoy the magic of miniature doll houses all I liked.
The Lego displays were pretty cool, too. Buildings, towns, etc. I was pretty impressed by an artistic entry in the Pavilion (once again, no photo, sorry), of a dragon built out of various Lego Bionicle parts. That was cool.
Anyway, this is what I’d consider a pretty standard Lego city, but Little A loved it. He had me lift him up so he could see the upper levels of the display.