How close?
February 2, 2006 4:02 PM   Subscribe

How close does a motorcyclist have to be before you see them? [link is qt video] As was recommended by the original poster, put down any beverage; this will probably startle you. (from livejournal's motorcyles community) [you bet there's more inside!]
posted by Eideteker (137 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Another start seeing motorcyclists ad. [also qt]

In the U.S., the penalties for killing a motorcyclist are often less than the cost of a speeding ticket. And while it's every rider's responsibility to avoid dangerous behavior, such as inebriation and excessive speed (though going slower is generally less safe than going slightly faster than average— not than the speed limit), those of us who ride safely deserve as much respect and attention on the road as your average driver (or perhaps more, as we're reducing congestion, increasing gas mileage, and occupying half the parking space). The last comprehensive motorcycle accident study in the U.S. was performed over 25 years ago, and was localized to the Los Angeles area. European agencies have conducted studies more recently. Also, in most European countries the motorcycle fatality rates per mile are lower. Only Great Britain is more dangerous than the United States (these statistics according to the International Motorcycle Conference held in 1991, and so are themselves 15 years dated). So what's up in the U.K. and U.S.?

[full disclosure: I am a motorcycle commuter. I am a member of the lj motorcycles community, but not the owner. I am a member of the AMA, as well. Yes, I have my own fucking blog.]
posted by Eideteker at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2006

No wonder they got into an accident...they were driving on the wrong side of the road!
posted by slogger at 4:06 PM on February 2, 2006

Great post, Eideteker.
posted by knave at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2006

But...the motorcycle was not visible on the road in the first take, and then they either digitally added it or had a different viewpoint in the second. With that trickery, not nearly as convincing as it could have been.
posted by felix at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2006

I saw this on TV last night and literally jumped backwards
posted by A189Nut at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2006

1) It's a bullshit ad because you literally CAN'T see the biker in the first take--it's a straight road & there are no obstructions; you would have seen his light.

2) The biker would have to be an idiot to go that fast through that intersection.

3) This is why I will never own a motorcycle.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:11 PM on February 2, 2006

(Note that I do advocate for defensive driving in general, but I don't appreciate fake scare ads.)
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:13 PM on February 2, 2006

BS. You can step through the clip frame by frame and it's different the second time. There is _no_ bike in the first take when it comes out of nowhere.

And WTF. Don't speed through intersections like that either. Jackass motorcyclists.
posted by xmutex at 4:15 PM on February 2, 2006

Eideteker, good post--I didn't realize the lack of current data.

Questions though. I don't ride, myself, and don't think I will out of fear for my safety.

1. Why do you ride?
2. Are there advantages that riding a motorcycle give you that riding in a car don't?
posted by plexiwatt at 4:17 PM on February 2, 2006

Err yeah so what sirmissalot said.
posted by xmutex at 4:18 PM on February 2, 2006

I sure have heard of the "Kawasaki Ninja", but never thought they could sneak on you like that.
posted by qvantamon at 4:18 PM on February 2, 2006

Combine this with the study about trucks being the most dangerous vehicles on the road (that is, to other drivers) and what do you get? A shitload of dangerous roads for everyone. The problem is that there is no easy answer for what to do.

Incidentally, I just learned maybe an hour ago that a buddy from high-school was killed in a motorcycle incident on this past New Year's Day. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to his wife yet (who, strangely enough, was my first high-school crush).

This strikes me strongly as my wife and I (Just married last Friday! Yeah!) are both making constant business trips between LA and Las Vegas, which means tons of driving in and between two of the most dangerous driving areas nationwide.
posted by mystyk at 4:19 PM on February 2, 2006

plexiwatt, you can cut through traffic jams between lanes, and it is much more economic. And you can go to some nice clubs with pool tables where someone with a beard will start up a fight.
posted by qvantamon at 4:20 PM on February 2, 2006

I drove a motorcyle (only) for several years in my youth, before I could afford a car. In my opinion, from what I saw, most accidents are caused by bikers doing dumb things.

So I came up with a rule for myself: in traffic, treat a bike like a car.

That means to be on the road in about the spot a car driver would be.... about halfway between the center and the left side of the road. And don't do things that cars can't do.... if a car can't fit into a space, then DO NOT GO THERE.

You are surrounded by hundreds of people in fast-moving, multi-thousand pound vehicles. Nearly all of those drivers have no real formal training. Even if you drive perfectly, if they make just one sufficiently bad mistake, you're dead. So it's incredibly important to never surprise a car driver, and never put yourself into a situation where they must react or they will hit you.

Having driven a car now for, oh, 15 years or so.... from the other side, I also think those are excellent rules. Our visibility and maneuverability are much poorer. We have big blind spots. If you pretend to be a car as well, we're much, much more likely to see you.
posted by Malor at 4:22 PM on February 2, 2006

I thought that ad was cheating. As xmutex said, you can go frame by frame through the first take and the bike just isn't visible. If it wasn't added digitally, the shot is angled so that the driver's head is blocking the view of the bike. I know I have a pretty big head, but it's not so big that I block my own view of the road.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:22 PM on February 2, 2006

Definitely two different shots spliced together (look at some detail like his hand on the wheel - its a different hold).

So its a shock film - but a real crash, right?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2006

Are there advantages that riding a motorcycle give you that riding in a car don't?

Well, in London (relevant as that's a UK road safety ad), motorbikes and scooters are exempt from the £8 per day congestion charge, which is applicable to all cars/vans/etc. entering central London during the day. So, yes, a motorbike (or a scooter, which I ride), has a massive advantage - no £40 per week charge for your daily commute.
posted by influx at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2006

"MegoSteve: I thought that ad was cheating"

It doesn't matter that it was cheating, or digital. The whole purpose of it is to be affective and remind you to lookout for motorcycles.
posted by Sprocket at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2006

Yes! Another teleporting ninja biker off the road!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2006

The whole purpose of it is to be affective and remind you to lookout for motorcycles.

Couldn't it be honest and also remind motorcyclists not to rip through intersections like a total jackass? I mean, responsibility's gotta go two ways here.
posted by xmutex at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2006

you can cut through traffic jams between lanes

Yet another stupid thing bikers do that endangers not only themselves but everybody else. One hot day a few years ago, stuck in bumper-to-bumper gridlock on the Bay Bridge, I innocently leaned my left elbow out of my open window. Some asshole in a crotch rocket was dodging between lanes at about 40mph and passed me at the moment my arm emerged from the car. I would estimate that three centimeters separated the tip of my elbow from his bike. The moron didn't even slow down.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:33 PM on February 2, 2006

Yes, there looks like some trickery in the video. However, from the driver's perspective and not the passenger's, there should have been some visibility. Would the PSA have been as effective if you'd seen the bike the first time? (in the LJ thread, someone indicates that it was hidden by the driver's nose in profile) On preview, what Sprocket said.

plexiwatt wrote "Eideteker, good post--I didn't realize the lack of current data.
"Questions though. I don't ride, myself, and don't think I will out of fear for my safety.
"1. Why do you ride?
"2. Are there advantages that riding a motorcycle give you that riding in a car don't?"

1. There are a lot of reasons. My father left me his motorcycle when he passed away. I learned to ride and was hooked. You can see so much more outside a box. Also, it's much more dynamic and interactive an experience. You actually have to lean the entire bike to turn, which can be quite exhilirating (and is nowhere near as unsafe as it might seem, due to the gyroscopic stability blah blah). It's more like flying (in that you bank in the turn) than driving, and it's more than point car, press pedal. I often recommend this book to those who want a window into the joy in the mind of a cyclist. Of course, there's also this book, which is not so much about how motorcycling forces you to confront problems, anticipate consequences, and perform preventative maintenance (on your life as well as your bike). I also ride because we're all going to die some day; I'd rather not worry about what I've missed. That said, it's not terribly fun to have to slow nearly to a stop at most intersections because you have to pretend you're invisible. I've only been in one major accident on my bike, and of course, it was someone pulling out into an intersection without seeing me. But like I said, motorcycling is about responsibility. I can't blame anyone but myself if I'm in an accident (and I doubt the insurance money will be much comfort to my fam).
2. Of course. There's the fuel cost, the fun, the cheap/easy to find parking, the agility, the low insurance... I could go on.

I understand your fear, but I advise everyone with the resources to at least take the motorcycle safety course. Learning how to ride and some of the physics/dynamics involved may make you a better (and more observant) driver.

mystyk: Congratulations on your matrimony.

To everyone who's complimented me on the post, I don't care if you flag it, but please share this information with someone you care about. I'd like to think I helped prevent at least one fatality, somewhere down the line.
posted by Eideteker at 4:35 PM on February 2, 2006

I commute on a bike because
1. Even though it's a Harley, it still gets 55 mpg (883-1200 conversion w/ sifton cams).
2. The parking sticker at UCSC is $756 for a car, $189 for a motorcycle.
3. I can always get a parking spot at work.
4. I can lane split in traffic.
5. It only cost me $4000 used, and will probably still be worth that when I sell it.
6. Since I only drive my car on rainy days (30 times last year, I use scratch off permits, so I know) it doesn't have to be very nice or fuel efficient.
Between gas and parking, I save about $7 a day (depending on the price of gas), so I figure it will pay for itself in 2-3 years.
posted by 445supermag at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2006

xmutex wrote: "The whole purpose of it is to be affective and remind you to lookout for motorcycles.

"Couldn't it be honest and also remind motorcyclists not to rip through intersections like a total jackass? I mean, responsibility's gotta go two ways here."

Why should I slow almost to a stop when I have the right of way? It looks like the bike was going faster than it probably was, due to the fact that the driver was at a standstill. 30 km/h (18.6 mph) is 8.3-repeating meters per second. That's over 27 feet in the time it takes to dial a single digit on a cell phone.
posted by Eideteker at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2006

reminds me of this

posted by lazymonster at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2006

I forgot,
7. No smog check.
posted by 445supermag at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2006

Things I've learned since my sister married a nice guy who happens to be a cop/crash reconstruction specialist (figures out who was doing what and how fast in crashes involving cars, trucks, cycles, and pedestrians):

1) Once you're over about 15 mph in any vehicle, even Spiderman doesn't have the reflexes to stop and/or avoid something very effectively.
2) Use crosswalks (especially at night) and pay attention to the signal--if a drunk driver hits you but you were crossing against the light and you die, nine times out of ten it was the pedestrian's fault. Drunkie will get hauled off, but not for killing you, stupid, just for DUI.
3) Use a seatbelt.
4) Inclement weather increases the number of fender-benders, but actually decreases the chances of a traffic fatality (everyone snails down).
5) If you wreck, might as well tell the truth about how fast your were going, because physical laws and algorithms will tell the police everything they need to know, regardless.
6) It takes two to tango--no doubt there are wreckless asshats out there, but being in a fatal accident doesn't necessarily mean someone is going to jail. If you follow speed limits and rules and aren't drunk, at worst you might get a ticket. In many cases, you won't.

This is a good post, but what Malor and others said--from a cop's view, motorcyclists need to realize that going at high speeds without the protection of a seatbelt and an airbag doesn't grant you any special privileges, either legally or physically (and know that anecdotally, a lot of cops themselves are motorcyclists. It's just part of the risky game that is driving/commuting).
posted by bardic at 4:44 PM on February 2, 2006

I saw a guy die on a motorcycle once. We were directly behind him on a dry, clear highway . He lost control at about 65 mph, tipped the bike, and started bouncing along the asphalt. We were the first to reach him. He was drunk.

That pretty much cured me of any desire I might ever have to either ride a motorcycle or drive drunk.
posted by at 4:45 PM on February 2, 2006

1. Why do you ride?

It seems to be more fun than almost anything else in the world. Empirical evidence proves it.

2. Are there advantages that riding a motorcycle give you that riding in a car don't?

Well, if you ride/park in a congested urban area, it makes both of those activities MUCH easier, and cheaper, as many upthread have said.

Personally I think everyone should ride a bike. Then there would be world peace and love and happiness.
posted by scratch at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2006

_sirmissalot_ I didn't say it was smart, nor that at sometimes at my car I didn't wish I had something hard or edgy to put out of my window.

Here in Sao Paulo streets are constantly jammed, so everything that needs to be delivered quick is done by "motoboys". There is LOT that needs to be delivered quickly, hence, LOTS of motoboys on the streets. There are also municipal laws tolerating that they move between lanes (otherwise civilization would collapse because our pizza wouldn't be delivered on time). It is not rare to have your sidemirror knocked and broken by some motoboy who thinks he can fit in a 2 feet wide space. I have also seen someone popping the head to check behind a stopped bus to cross the road, and get hit on the head by a fast-moving motorcycle moving between lanes. That person flew a bit before hitting the ground, just like when someone receives a roundhouse kick in Tekken.
posted by qvantamon at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2006

_sirmissalot_ wrote: "you can cut through traffic jams between lanes

"Yet another stupid thing bikers do that endangers not only themselves but everybody else. One hot day a few years ago, stuck in bumper-to-bumper gridlock on the Bay Bridge, I innocently leaned my left elbow out of my open window. Some asshole in a crotch rocket was dodging between lanes at about 40mph and passed me at the moment my arm emerged from the car. I would estimate that three centimeters separated the tip of my elbow from his bike. The moron didn't even slow down."

Lane-splitting is legal in CA and a number of other countries. Lane splitting in traffic jams makes sense, as the chance of being rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic is greater for a motorcyclist than the chance of a collision. That said, you should not go much more than 15-20 mph faster than the slow-moving traffic around you (see again the relative speeds studies I linked to above), nor should you "press your advantage" or otherwise ride agressively.

I'm not looking to be an apologist for all motorcyclists. Some (young and old) do stupid things. It's as easy to do something stupid as it is in a car (moreso than say a bicycle), but the cost is more dire. I'm not saying motorcyclists are all angels, but that doesn't give a single motorist the right to kill one; even one of the stupid ones. I advocate responsibility (I'd like to become an MSF instructor some day) and safety all around. I know it's a pain, but look out for the person doing something stupid, because you don't want to be in an accident that you could have avoided by being slightly more vigilant (nor should you take 3 minutes to evaluate your prospects at an intersection; I said slightly). That's why they're called accidents; because you'd avoid them if you could.
posted by Eideteker at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2006

Couldn't it be honest and also remind motorcyclists not to rip through intersections like a total jackass?

I don't know what the rules of the road in the US are, but from that ad it's clear that the car was entering a major road from a minor road, and should have given way (explanation of the clearly visible road markings here.

The motorcyclist obviously would have been better-advised to have kept his speed to a level where he could have stopped before hitting the car, but the car driver was clearly in the wrong - he should not have been in that position without having first checked that the road he was entering was clear.
posted by influx at 4:51 PM on February 2, 2006

This reminds me of when one of my friends said that they had been in 5 accidents and lost two cars, even though none of the accidents were his fault (proven by insurance company).

A) No one thinks its their fault

B) Even if its not "your fault", most drivers should be able to react to another guy switching lanes out of nowhere, or other unexpected things.
posted by Suparnova at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2006

most drivers should be able to react to another guy switching lanes out of nowhere, or other unexpected things

Once you break double-digit mph's, that's physically impossible. At 65 mph? Fuggedaboudit.
posted by bardic at 4:56 PM on February 2, 2006

Why should I slow almost to a stop when I have the right of way?

As a cyclist (not a motorcycle driver), my answer would be, because I value my life.
posted by drezdn at 4:57 PM on February 2, 2006

I ride a motorcycle, and I can't tell you how many times I've had car drivers turn left in front of me, move into my lane, etc. I ride as if I am invisible.

_sirmissalot_: there have been some studies about lane sharing (AKA lane splitting) being far safer for motorcycles than sitting in traffic. The chances of them being hit from the side are a lot less than being rear-ended.

Besides, there would be a lot less stop and go traffic if more people chose to ride motorcycles and take up less space and resources.

Great post, Eideteker!
posted by letitrain at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2006

Disclosure, again: I lane-split occasionally. I do this when I fear heat-stroke/fainting (it gets hot sitting on top of an engine in 90° weather with protective gear on. Even the mesh stuff only keeps you cool as long as there's wind moving over it) or when I fear being rear-ended. Or, very rarely, when I need to pee badly and the nearest exit/rest stop is a ways up. So if you see someone lane-splitting, don't think: "Oh, man, I should open my door! That cheating bastard!" (I'm not saying you did, missalot; you clearly felt he was speeding unsafely), think: "Man, that handsome devil is getting there more quickly and expending less gas to do so!"

Suparnova: I direct your attention to the calculation performed here. Can you imagine slowing from 25 to 5 mph every time you passed an intersection? BtW, an intersection includes driveways, alleyways, parking lots (and every single parking space in a lot) and anywhere else that a car could come out of nowhere.
posted by Eideteker at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2006

As a somewhat lapsed motorcyclist, I can say that the distance required for most people in a car to actually see a motorcyclist is when the metal hits. In the northern Virginia area, I was nearly run off the road twice by people in cars (not SUVs in this case) who simply began changing into my lane.

Now, mind you, this was not me in a blind spot. I was literally parallel with the driver, and had they even spent 1/10th of a second looking, they would have seen me. In one case, I reached over and hit the window with my fist -- as I had nowhere to go -- and they swerved back. In the other, I was able to take the shoulder and accelerate.

One thing motorcyclists are taught, either through experience or through an excellent Motorcycle Safety Foundation class, is that the performance envelope of even a small bike is substantially different than a car. My small Suzuki SV650, with big me on it, can do 0-60 in sub 5 seconds, leaving a Ferrari in the dust, and stop so fast that its rear tire pops off the ground. Emergency braking -- with a 5,000 pound beast 10 feet behind you -- is not an option. You will be run over before anyone sees your tail light, so often it's safer to accelerate through a situation.

By purely pracitcal measures, motorcycles don't make sense when measured on safety, but for anyone who rides, the difference is amazing. It's also, cheaper by far than a car. While I realize that everyone believes they're a great driver, and it's "obviously" those crazy squids on bikes, from the perspective of someone who has raced both bikes and cars, my experience in DC is that 80% of the drivers on the road have no awareness of their surroundings.

As is taught in MSF classes: the studies may show that most motorcycle/car accidents are caused by the car drivers, it doesn't matter, the motorcyclist always loses. Pay attention, and park your arrogance in the driveway.
posted by petrilli at 4:59 PM on February 2, 2006

I'm sorry, camera tricks don't mean anything, the only reason the cyclist couldn't be seen in the video was because the driver's head was in the way.

Plus, the camera had a very narow feild of view, not at all like a person's eye.
posted by delmoi at 5:00 PM on February 2, 2006

Two of my uncles were in "motorcycle vs. auto" accidents, both as the result of the auto driver pulling out from a side street directly in front of the bike, leaving no room to stop or swerve, just as shown in the video.

One was injured so badly he had to give up motorcycling altogether, the other one was scared so badly he gave it up as well even though his injuries were comparatively minor.

I haven't ridden in many years, but I've been thinking about getting another bike this summer. If I do, it's going to be the biggest, loudest, shiniest one I can find and I'm going to add about sixty more lights - and maybe a dozen or so orange flags on flagpoles of varying heights.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2006

BS. You can step through the clip frame by frame and it's different the second time. There is _no_ bike in the first take when it comes out of nowhere.

And WTF. Don't speed through intersections like that either. Jackass motorcyclists.

There's no bike in the first fame because it's a totaly diffrent take, from a totaly diffrent angle. Although in fact, the actual drive would have been able to see the bike in the first frame, we can't see it because of his head, not to mention the vary narrow FOV. Hardly convincing.
posted by delmoi at 5:02 PM on February 2, 2006

you wanna be a better driver? get a motorbike.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:02 PM on February 2, 2006

I went along with my dad (a biker) to a few Advanced Rider meets (was considering becoming an advanced motorist).

Most of the presentations were about how to ride faster, and avoiding speed cameras.

Funny that when you have an accident involving a bike, its almost ALWAYS the car drivers fault.

also, I had a near miss involving a bike because i simply didnt see him. He chased me down (by speeding) and forced me over to the side of the road to tell me that i was a jackass. He was wearing all black leathers on a black bike.

Jackass, if you give a damn about your safety on a bike, wear something reflective!
posted by lemonfridge at 5:04 PM on February 2, 2006

Eideteker, I appreciate what you're saying, and it's good to be reminded to be more cautious at intersections. I just think a lot of motorcycles are driven by young guys with too much testosterone and not enough common sense.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 5:04 PM on February 2, 2006

Couldn't it be honest and also remind motorcyclists not to rip through intersections like a total jackass?

Give that bullshit a rest. The bike looked like he was going about 30 or 35.

In other words, right around the damn speed limit.

Yes, the add is faked. But were it real, the driver of the auto is 100% at fault.
posted by teece at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2006

It's a shame that no one has updated the Hurt study. I'd imagine quite a bit has changed since then. At the very least, there's a lot more traffic than before.

Why is the U.K. more dangerous than the rest of Europe?
Based entirely on my anecdotal experiences driving over there:
People in the England (at least the South) tend to drive faster through the towns than they seem to in the rest of Europe. Combine that with awkward intersections (those hedgerows and 10ft high stone walls are very pretty, but they're a bitch to see around) and small motorcycles in a hurry and you've got a good recipe for carnage.

Also, based on my readings of UK bike magazines and a few rides over there, English motorcyclists ride _fast_ and on a motorcycle for sure, speed kills.
posted by madajb at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2006

Two of my uncles were in "motorcycle vs. auto" accidents, both as the result of the auto driver pulling out from a side street directly in front of the bike, leaving no room to stop or swerve, just as shown in the video.

Exactly this happened to me on my scooter about a month ago, in morning rush hour traffic. A car pulled straight out in front of me from behind a hightop van, so I had no chance at all of seeing him. Thankfully I didn't hit the car, but I did come off the bike, which bounced across the road on it's side, straight in front of an oncoming bus. The driver, of course, just pulled away and fucked off.

Like the video, I was on a major road, which he was entering from a side road clearly marked as give way. I was extremely lucky to get away with that incident, and the tiniest fraction of a second in my reaction was the difference between life and god knows what.

As a result, I've become much more timid on the roads, and whenever I see a car coming to a junction with the main road on my car, I slow down dramatically, even if they're crawling up to the line at 5mph - I don't want to be a smear on the tarmac this time. Of course, this often just results in the car behind me tailgating and honking their horns, as I've deprived them of a whole extra 2 second lead time on the next red light.

Riding a bike in a major city can be a nightmare sometimes.
posted by influx at 5:11 PM on February 2, 2006

_sirmissalot_ wrote: "Eideteker, I appreciate what you're saying, and it's good to be reminded to be more cautious at intersections. I just think a lot of motorcycles are driven by young guys with too much testosterone and not enough common sense."

Miss: (Of course, as a younger rider myself, I'm going to say:) it's the older motorcyclists, as well, if you follow the "excessive speed" link. A lot of older bikers haven't ridden before, or haven't ridden in decades, and get the biggest engine block they can afford (on credit) so as not to look like a 'wuss'. Then they go to bars, get shitfaced, and crash. I almost put a "itsnotthesizeofyourengine" tag on this fine post. ;)

Just please don't let your attitude lead to an accident! I think a lot of drivers "write off" motorcyclists rather than treating them as fellow motorists, and indeed, a percentage of motorcyclists are to blame for the stereotype (no one ever got noticed by being normal or not standing out). I'll make you a bumpersticker that says: "Motorcyclists can be real assholes, but don't kill them."
posted by Eideteker at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2006

I commuted daily about 15 miles on LA freeways for a little over a year. Most days I lane split any time there was traffic. Which, of course, was all the time. (I've since changed jobs, and no longer have a freeway commute)

One day when riding home I wasn't lane splitting, so when a truck did SOMETHING to come out of nowhere, we both tried to occupy some of the same space. My handlebar clipped his rear quarterpanel, and I bounced off another car, which proceeded to run me over.

All the wheels missed me, and he was already stopping, so I just ended up pretzeled underneath the car for a bit. I came out of it with no injuries to speak of (bruises and a scrape where my glove disintigrated), so I was insanely lucky (and wearing proper gear)

Had I been lane splitting, nothing at all would've happened.

And had I been in the center of the lane, I would've either rearended the truck solidly or been sideswiped by him. (I still have no idea where he came from, and never will). Either would've been much worse.

Yes, anecdotal. But I hate it when people bitch about lane splitting. Done sanely it's much safer than sitting in traffic.

Malor, every formal riding instruction program teaches that there are 3 lane positions, and you should adjust as conditions dictate. Being in the center isn't always correct.

I ride because I love it, not because I can't afford a car.
posted by flaterik at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2006

Everyone I know who has ridden a motorcycle has had a serious accident. Most of them have the give-away wrist scars from the classic fractures. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the risks are pretty clear.
posted by unSane at 5:29 PM on February 2, 2006

Great! A post about taking bikes into account for safe driving!

Ok, I know, I know. People say "bike" to mean motorcycle often enough that I can't really deny that it's an illegitimate use (maybe even more than they say it to mean bicycle). But it annoys the heck out of me, especially when people assume I mean motorcycle when I say I bike to work.

So now to comment a it more closely to the actual topic of the post:

I can sympathize with motorcycle drivers. Those who commute by bike and those who commute by the other kind of bike face largely the same problems: car drivers who don't realize they're there and often don't care, and other bikers (or bikers) who drive unsafely, giving them a bad reputation and make car drivers care even less about them.

Still, I can't help thinking when I pull up to an intersection next to a motorbikist that my bike is so much better than theirs. Mine gets me places plenty fast, unless they're unreasonably far away by the standards of almost anyone in a major city outside the US, and it uses zero gas.

Too bad someone stole my front wheel they other day though >:( Why did I have to be too lazy to lock it up properly?
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:30 PM on February 2, 2006

I was in a wreck last year. A guy nosed between two lanes of traffic and tried to dash across my one lane into a parking lot.
He pulled right out in front of me and I t-boned him at 20mph.

Of course he claimed he didn't see me, but I had total right of way. Fortunately (for us both), I wasn't hurt.

Basically, any biker worth his salt knows the risks going in and pays WAY more attention to the weather, road conditions, the maintenence on his bike and his riding techniques than your average cell phone talkin', music blastin', gadget tinkerin' cager.
Why do I ride? 'Cause on a nice day when there's an open road ahead of you and no destination with all day to get there, there's NOTHING that compares to riding.
posted by black8 at 5:31 PM on February 2, 2006

Uhm, what's lane splitting?
posted by xmutex at 5:39 PM on February 2, 2006

Why do I ride? 'Cause on a nice day when there's an open road ahead of you and no destination with all day to get there, there's NOTHING that compares to riding.

Amen to that, Brother! Even more so if that open road is full of sweet twisties like Highway 9 above Santa Cruz (yeah, you know what I'm talking about, 445supermag!).

I've been down three times, twice with another vehicle involved. I was not at fault in any of the accidents nor was I going to fast. I had one guy pull into the passing lane and come to a dead stop so he could make an illegal u-turn to get to a parking space (that one hurt) and another where a guy without a license and without insurance made an illegal left in front of me and I t-boned him.

My last accident was several years ago and I'm a very experienced biker. I was experienced back then but not anywhere near as much as I am now. I split lanes on the way home, try to be conscientious of angry people stuck in their cars in the traffic and don't rip it up wide open down the center line.

But (as every other biker can attest) there are still a-holes in cars and trucks that think they are supposed to be asphalt vigilantes and "stop them damned bikers" from doing what isn't wholly legal but also isn't illegal (sharing lanes).

The biggest danger facing bikers on the road isn't excessive speed, its lazy ass people in their cars who are too lazy to turn their head and actually look to see if the lane they are changing into is clear or not. The rely on their side mirrors that have huge gaping blind spots in them.

xmutex, lane splitting is also called lane sharing. Its when a biker rides between the regular car lanes hence lane "splitting". I usually call it "center line fever" though.
posted by fenriq at 5:41 PM on February 2, 2006

I only ride a motorcycle and agree that cars should look around for bikes. I was in an accident last year in which a car in the lane to my right decided to make a left turn. The car was a bit in front of me, so I hit my breaks but still ended up crashing into the car. The bike was totaled but I was fine.
posted by spork at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2006

OK, so I rode a '68 Vespa in New York for a couple of years, and got the bug. And now I'm just waiting for the warm weather to get the first, you know, proper bike.

Here's what I keep thinking about. It's a stat that goes something like this: if you ride regularly for 4 years, the likelihood of an accident is about 100%.

It may or not be garbage stat. But I was wondering among the MeFis who ride, what your experience has been. Have any of you *never* had an accident?

Just asking, honestly and seriously.
posted by cloudscratcher at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2006

For me, it'd be more effective if it were real.
posted by batou_ at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2006

"Uhm, what's lane splitting?"

Picture three lanes of freeway, clogged with cars not moving. Now, picture a motorcycle riding up the dotted lines between the immobile cars.

That's lane-splitting.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:47 PM on February 2, 2006

"Have any of you *never* had an accident?"

I have never had an accident, and I've had my motorcycle license for 20 years, although as I said before I haven't ridden regularly in many years.

My dad rode for about 20 years, too, and the only accident he ever had was when he braked for a red light on a wet road and the bike slid out from under him.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:50 PM on February 2, 2006

Yes, there are risks with motorcycling. What I'm talking about is reducing risks. It's more useful in analyzing risks to say "what can we do?" rather than to throw up your hands and say, "Eh, what can we do?"
posted by Eideteker at 5:52 PM on February 2, 2006

Yeah, the red-light slide happened once with the vespa, which sucked but it was ok... but I kept wondering what would have happened to my leg if it had been a motorcylce (i.e. without a front plate wider than the rider).
posted by cloudscratcher at 5:55 PM on February 2, 2006

Picture three lanes of freeway, clogged with cars not moving. Now, picture a motorcycle riding up the dotted lines between the immobile cars.

Oh lard, so it's one of those reasons that drivers of cars hate motorcyclists?
posted by xmutex at 5:56 PM on February 2, 2006

And yeah, Eideteker, I understand your point -- I'm just asking for actual lived experiences, as opposed to the stats that are hard to bring home.

(also, thx for the post!)
posted by cloudscratcher at 5:57 PM on February 2, 2006

You know, it's not always blatant recklessness that can get a motorcyclist killed, on the part of the cyclist or the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s) involved.

Case in point: about a month ago, I was driving our minivan in Los Angeles from the 170 to the 134. I'm not an amazing driver by any means, but I have some racetrack time and a severe aversion to accidents, so I generally pay attention and behave.

This particular freeway transition is two lanes in one direction, in a gentle curve taken at freeway speeds. About halfway through the freeway transition, I catch a glimpse of something on my right side, in my blind spot, and realize it's a motorcyclist.

Here's the thing: I was in the left lane, and there was another van in the right lane. The other van's nose was overlapping my van's tail by a few feet -- and the motorcyclist was between us, and holding the same speed as us.

I don't mind lane-splitting, but generally a cyclist wants to avoid cars that are side-by-side, and if they have to go between two cars they do it quickly and get the heck out of there. By comparison, this guy was between us on a curve, in my blind spot, and holding the same speed as us -- had my attention wandered and I suddenly drifted closer to the right lane, his handlebars would have likely hit one of our vans, if not both. At 70 miles an hour.

Reckless? Not really, just a bad judgement call on his part, but could have been bad.

Mind you, about 30 seconds later (after we were on the 134) he suddenly took off and did a wheelie on the freeway, then slowed quickly and exited. So we're not talking about a quality cyclist in this case.
posted by davejay at 5:57 PM on February 2, 2006

"Have any of you *never* had an accident?"

I've always heard that there are two kinds of riders - those that have been down, and those that will.

It's a good argument for full gear.
posted by flaterik at 6:01 PM on February 2, 2006

davejay, that biker is what other bikers call a "squid" since he will, eventually, be turned into a jellified mass of skin on the road. His behaviour reflects poorly on all bikers.

Not all of us are as incredibly stupid or foolish with our skin. I'm rather attached to mine.
posted by fenriq at 6:02 PM on February 2, 2006

flaterik, damn right, that's why I ride in full gear now.
posted by fenriq at 6:03 PM on February 2, 2006

Ok, I have to say I didn't know lane splitting was any safer. Intuitively (from someone who never rode a motorcycle) it seemed to me it was way riskier (like, people who are not used to this don't usually expect anything to be moving between lanes, and much of that space is in the mirror's blind spot). Guess I was wrong, so, skip that part of my rant above.

Anyway, If I'm signaling a right turn since ten seconds ago, don't move high-speed in the blind spot along the right side of my car while I'm turning (At least here there are laws against overtaking from the right). Seems obvious, but I had to brake many times because of that.

And no, you can't fit a motorcycle in a 2-feet wide space while moving at 60kph. And you don't get extra points for knocked sidemirrors.
posted by qvantamon at 6:03 PM on February 2, 2006

Everyone has a motorcycle story.. I rode from the age of 15 until I was 40 years old. The huge danger was just what happened in that ad, someone pulling out in front of the bike. I managed to lay bikes down a couple of times and avoid hitting a car. I traded the impact for the road burns.

People are careless when they drive. With the advent of cell phones, dvd players, gps screens, etc. we're going to see more of this. The huge number of "old guys" (like me) getting bikes after being off of them for years (or having never ridden at all) will also push the numbers up.

I quite riding when i was 40 after some idiot pulled out in front of my son. My son had the right-of-way, was going the speed limit, there was no opportunity for him to stop. He slide under the other vehicle, an SUV being driven by someone high on pot, the other driver got a ticket, my son died instantly.

Watch out for the bikes....
posted by HuronBob at 6:07 PM on February 2, 2006

posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:33 PM on February 2, 2006

I'm not sure I understand the arguments about reality in this ad. It's not like the crash at the end was real, either (or, at least, I hope not). Nevertheless I thought it made its simple point well: Bikes aren't as easy to see in profile as cars. Remember to check for bikes when turning, otherwise bad things can happen. Not much to argue with there.

As for the speed question, as a pedal cyclist I've experienced this countless times. I've seen people look right at me, make eye contact, then start their turn. I might be going 15-20mph but for some reason people see a bike and seem to instantly think "slow" or "unimportant". Whether a motorbike or pedal bike, or anything, for that matter, it's very hard to judge speed when it's travelling almost straight towards you.
posted by normy at 6:35 PM on February 2, 2006

I taught MSF for 8 years, roadraced for 5 years, and used to commute exclusively on the bike. So I'm relatively experienced.

The thing that has kept me the safest is eliminating the word "accident" from my vocabulary. Crash, collision, it what you will. But in my mind the word "accident" has connotations of "it wasn't my fault" or "it wasn't anybody's just happened".

I take full responsibility for whatever happens to me when I'm on the bike. If I let someone hit me with their car, I messed up. Cut-and-dried simple in my book.

Have I crashed? Many times. But never the same way twice. I knocked over, slid, or otherwise crunched my first bike, a 1980 Honda CB650, at least a dozen times. This included silliness like simply forgetting to lower the kickstand before climbing off, sometimes due to being distracted by a short skirt on campus. Also slid on some spilled sand in an intersection once and slid partially under a parked car but never actually contacted it.

I also once freaked out due to some gravel in a "Caution-35mph" curve while doing 50 or so (still below the speed limit), thinking I was a good rider because I had logged several thousand miles, but target-fixated on the outside of the curve, on the rock bluff I didn't want to hit, and proceeded to somersault my pretty 1990 CBR1000 Hurricane several times while I slid along in the grass along the side of the road on my ass watching it, uninjured.

On the track, I've lowsided at 130mph or so by not paying enough attention and braking on top of a tar snake on a hot summer day. I've also highsided at around 70 mph by using too much throttle on cold tires then letting go of the bike once the side of my boot started scraping the ground, thinking I was down but actually the rear tire was still in contact with the asphalt so releasing the throttle made it regain traction and off I went, superman-flying about 10 feet high and about 30 feet down the track. I also used to use a lot of engine braking on the track (didn't trust my right foot) but once missed a downshift, still made the corner, but forgot to pull in the clutch, kept forgetting that fact as I hit the apex and got back on the throttle, and had the bike engage a gear and lock the rear and make a nice long S-mark before ejecting me over the bars at about 40 mph.

Injuries: Extremely few since I've usually been smart enough to wear full protective gear, even when not on the track. One rib, one separated shoulder (no surgery required), and one broken thumb (surgical pinning required). No permanent damage. The shoulder injury interfered with my racquetball game for a few months, but soon was better than ever.

No regrets here, and I plan to ride forever. After so much track time, I now ride like a blue-haired grandma on the street. Plus I have a new youngster in the house, which has taken away from solitary pursuits like riding and also curtailed my racing and other higher-risk carousing in general. I guess this is what they mean by Growing Up. I'm 39, so had to happen sometime I guess.

Everytime I crashed it was because I was exceeding my own limits, even if only by 1%. Trust me that there are people who have ridden literally 100,000 miles in their motorcycling lifetime without crashing (I've met them in my Experienced Rider Courses), but there's no such thing as "risk-free" riding, or anything else in life. Risk awareness and management are the keys.
posted by Bradley at 6:41 PM on February 2, 2006

The problem with the ad's fakery is that it lets me, a non-rider, say "that's silly - in that same situation I'd certainly have seen the oncoming biker when I first looked right" and dismiss the whole premise, which is just that you should be looking into the lane you're pulling into. It would be ten times as effective if as he looks right we can see the biker but can easily imagine not noticing him.
posted by nicwolff at 6:50 PM on February 2, 2006

130mph or so
posted by Bradley at 6:41 PM PST on February 2 [!]

Dude, if you were doing those 130mph on a public highway, you deserve to be behind bars as far as I'm concerned.
posted by unSane at 6:51 PM on February 2, 2006

(alternatively if you were on a closed course I'm glad you were OK)
posted by unSane at 6:53 PM on February 2, 2006

mon dieu, didn't you notice the clause right before the 130 mph part?

On the track, I've lowsided at 130mph or so
posted by Hat Maui at 7:01 PM on February 2, 2006

I've been thinking more and more about getting a motorcycle soon (Kawasaki KLR 650, not a crotch rocket) after having ridden bicycles for years and years. I've always been good about keeping my head rotating and being 'aware of my space' when on the bicycle, this video was a nice reminder of why as a cyclist on two wheels with no protection it's important to always be aware of your environment. Just so you know, when I refer to 'riding my bicycle' I mean commuting into downtown Seattle and mixing it up with cars, buses, motorcycles regardless of the weather. I even chased a motorcyle over five city blocks once when he cut me off. Nearly caught him too. . . He would have loved my U-Lock across his helmet. . .
I've also ridden scooters here and there, as well as driven cars (and even owned an SUV at one point).
The overall message I've got after doing all the reading and watching and reviewing of other's experiences on a powered two wheeler is this: Be aware, be prepared. It won't make me invincible, but it will make me safer. And I'm also going to take the motorcycle safety course when I get my bike. From what I understand, those that take the course have a much greater chance of getting through that first year or two (or three or four?) if they have taken the safety course than those who have not.
posted by mk1gti at 7:02 PM on February 2, 2006

Um, the first words of that paragraph are "On the track..."

I assumed people would understand that I meant a closed course race track.
posted by Bradley at 7:03 PM on February 2, 2006

mk1gti: That's what I ride! If you've got any questions, my e-mail's in my profile.
posted by Eideteker at 7:08 PM on February 2, 2006

I rode for 10 years in the Bay Area with nary a drop. Kept the tank side up, as they say. The only driving rule I had was that anything that happened was my fault.
If I smash up my car, I walk away (totalled a Saab, which takes a bit of doing), but if I so much as fender-bendered on my bike, I was toast. So I figured it was my responsibility to make sure that nothing happened. I assumed I was invisible and that everyone was out to get me. Worked like a charm. 'Course, the only lesson learned is that I had 10 years of good luck.
When my son (14) goes to college I'm gettin' another bike. 'Cept my wife says I'm not. We'll see.
posted by johngumbo at 7:14 PM on February 2, 2006

re: lane-sharing:

i think what pisses car drivers off the most is the perception that lane-sharing can't possibly be legal because of the perception that it's akin to cheating -- in the driver's mind, motorcyclists are flouting the rules to beat traffic, like they're better than everybody else, what with their two wheels and their fancy leather gear and their high rates of speed!

it seems to be legal in most states, but i'm curious why that is. sure, it's better for the motorcyclist to not be in danger of being rear-ended, but couldn't they simply move to either shoulder? don't people get injured/cause accidents by lane-splitting? lane-splitting seems like line-cutting to the motorist, and nobody likes a cutter!

finally, a note to responsible motorcyclists: can you please do something about the beanbags that cruise around all over my city on crotch rockets, popping boners wheelies and leaving vapor trails of drakkar? in the alternative, despite Eideteker's admonition, can i nose them off the road, at least?
posted by Hat Maui at 7:18 PM on February 2, 2006

I assumed people would understand that I meant a closed course race track.

dude, got you covered.
posted by Hat Maui at 7:19 PM on February 2, 2006

Wow, that's so cool Eideteker, I was on the bus ride home today and I saw a couple of guys side by side at the intersection in the rain riding a couple of old BMW R80 G/S's with the big dakar gas tanks on them. I don't know if they knew each other or just met or what, but while the rain came down, side by side they looked like they were having a great conversation while waiting for the light to change. I really wished that one of them were me. . .
posted by mk1gti at 7:22 PM on February 2, 2006

I have happened upon two motorcycle accidents, both after-midnight crashes in which the car driver turned left into a perfectly sane motorcyclist approaching in the opposite lane. Terrible. I will never ride a motorcycle.
posted by kozad at 7:25 PM on February 2, 2006

Hat Maui, lane-sharing in the article (the table comparing laws) you linked to is referring to two motorcycles riding side by side, which the article is saying is legal. So it's deceptive.

The lane sharing or lane splitting being discussed here is the California style...the motorcycle passing between cars, essentially riding on the center line.

What's always been interesting to me is that I've read the California statutes, and compared them to the Missouri statutes, and the wording covering this is practically identical, stating that a vehicle must be wholly within a lane, not straddling a lane.

Yet lane splitting is accepted (and therefore "legal") in California. I've spent a bit of time in the Bay Area, and the first time I lane split was over the Golden Gate, returning into the city after a day's riding up the coast. A CHP passed me, lane splitting, so I and my riding buddies tagged along. He eventually merged back into a lane in order to take an exit, and nodded a "good day" at us.

My personal rules for lane splitting in Cali: never more than 10mph faster than surrounding traffic, and always watching the heads and hands of the drivers I'm getting ready to pass. If they're doing to do a banzai lane change, usually they'll make some kind of head or hand movement to give it away, before there's evidence of vehicle movement sideways into me. At even 20mph, a car can change lanes very quickly.

I don't consider lane splitting to be safe, or safer than any alternative, but I do it, looking at it as another type of risk to be managed.
posted by Bradley at 7:30 PM on February 2, 2006

"Have any of you *never* had an accident?"

I've never had an accident on the street on a motorcycle. *knocks on wood and wears full gear* I've crashed many, many times offroad on dirtbikes.
posted by letitrain at 7:31 PM on February 2, 2006

In case I wasn't clear above: lane splitting (or sharing) is not "legal" in any state other than California.
posted by Bradley at 7:32 PM on February 2, 2006

letitrain, Dirt riding actually intimidates me. I've slid around on my little XR100 pit bike, and piddled around on friends' dirt bikes, but only recently bought an XR250 to learn what "real" dirt riding is like. Haven't even bought dirt gear yet. I feel fine at high speeds on asphalt, but relatively slow speeds with questionable traction tense me up. Hoping to overcome that.
posted by Bradley at 7:36 PM on February 2, 2006

I'm with you, Bradley, as far as taking responsibility. I'm an MSF grad (Basic and Intermediate) and I pretty much ride as if everyone else on the road is going to try to kill me, by doing the worst possible thing they can do at any given moment.

Sounds like you've had some pavement-bouncy fun there Bradley! I was a dirt-bike kid, so most of my falling off was at low speed, but rocks and trees aren't friendly to fall on. Also, unexpected gravel-pit flyoffs and wood trucks barrelling down dirt roads can make life interesting!

It hasn't made me crash-proof, but it sure does help. I've got over 25 years experience, with 8 straight years of LA traffic commuting, lane-splitting the whole time, with only two drops, one of which was a car changing lanes on me from the left on the 10 freeway. I almost was able to avoid him, but my left bar tagged his mirror and that was that - my 919 didn't come with a steering damper. I wasn't even lane-splitting, I had a car-length middle lane spot to myself at that point. Fortunately traffic was going less than 30 mph so I didn't go down hard, and nobody else ran me over.

The other drop doesn't quite count because I was going up Laurel Canyon from the Hollywood side at night, and going around a left bend I hit an oil patchabout 3 inches wide - quite invisible in the dark - squarely with the front-wheel contact patch. Bike went out from under me so fast I had time to see it skate away before I hit the pavement. Bruised my collarbone on that one.

I always wear nearly full gear - I don't have the leather pants but at least wear jeans. Everything else though, and a full-face.

"Here's the thing: I was in the left lane, and there was another van in the right lane. The other van's nose was overlapping my van's tail by a few feet -- and the motorcyclist was between us, and holding the same speed as us."

qvantamon, most riders call that guy a "squid," but what I like to call that there guy is a "statistic." I also call him a "frickin' dumbass."

Motorcycling is so much cheaper and more fun than driving a car, as long as you're not a dumbass about it, and stay within your personal performance envelope. It does help to have a bike with a powerful engine, it can get you out of trouble better than huge brakes most of the time.

Oh and Bradley, it's right in the state vehicle law, lane-splitting is completely legal, not just accepted and "legal." And thank goodness for that, since I cut my commute from an hour each way down to 20 minutes each way when I got back on the bike. Whew!
posted by zoogleplex at 7:38 PM on February 2, 2006

I have ridden for the past 6 years maybe and haven't had an accident. I've had some close ones where sweet, little, half-blind old ladies didn't see me coming. The key is being super aware of every potential accident and being ready. Think ahead and you can avoid damn near anything. Of course there are things that won't matter much, no matter what you do. Getting rear ended while at a stop light is a typical fatality. Intersections are good times to be ready to make a maneuver.

In the situation in the ad I would be watching that car and the head movements of the driver. If he was starting to inch forward or if his eye wasn't on me as I approached, I would slow down and get ready to take evasive action. I also always keep my brights on so that people notice me coming instantly.
posted by JJ86 at 7:43 PM on February 2, 2006

Well, never really had a major motorcycle accident, but I do remember a pretty major bicycle accident I was in once. Was riding home from the store one early evening, lights on, and went to pass around a parked car.

As I came right behind the rear of the driver's side door, the female driver proceeded to open the (large and sturdy) car door. I smacked into it full force and bounced backwards. I hit the door with enough force to seriously bend the hell out of the front forks.

As I lay on the ground, clutching the part of my anatomy that hurt the most (and I think you male MeFi's might have an idea there), she stepped out of the car, bent over me, and asked if I was okay.

As I was basically stunned but still able to moan a bit, I guess she thought everything was okay, because she got back in the car and drove away. I, unfortunately, was a bit preoccupied to notice the plates.

Whee. Really.

(My one motorcycle accident involved no real injuries (other than some dings on me - the right gear helps) and no property damage (other than my bike). And it was all my fault. Effectively, I put the blame on certain bikinis.)
posted by Samizdata at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2006

zoogleplex, you need to research your Cali law. I've researched it quite a bit, because I was trying to mount a push here in Missouri to have lane sharing become more accepted. Trust me when I say that your Cali law reads pretty much identically to Missouri law, something like: "A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane". One quarter of all motorcycles registered in the US are in California. If they stopped permitting lane splitting, more people would hop in cages, further clogging your freeways.

Lane splitting in Cali is permitted and accepted, but it's not technically "legal" since it is not addressed in your statutes other than the phrasing above which would seem to make it illegal, and is the clause quoted by my Missouri Hiway Patrol friends when I ask them why I can't do it here.

This site explains the laws, but I can't find a direct link to your California Statutes.
posted by Bradley at 8:00 PM on February 2, 2006

letitrain, Dirt riding actually intimidates me. I've slid around on my little XR100 pit bike, and piddled around on friends' dirt bikes, but only recently bought an XR250 to learn what "real" dirt riding is like. Haven't even bought dirt gear yet. I feel fine at high speeds on asphalt, but relatively slow speeds with questionable traction tense me up. Hoping to overcome that.

I think my years of sliding around in the dirt made me a better street rider. I would never purposefully break traction on the street, but when it does happen, I don't panic.

My very first motorcycle was an XR100, too! I bought it used with paper route money and rode it for several years. I loved that little tank.
posted by letitrain at 8:17 PM on February 2, 2006

Hat Maui wrote: "couldn't they simply move to either shoulder?"

In some cases, there is no shoulder, or it's poorly maintained. Gravel, nails, glass, etc. That said, since my bike's a dual-sport, I've taken it on the shoulder once or twice with no mishap. But the actual road surface is safer (again, this is without a comprehensive motorcycle safety study since Carter was president).
posted by Eideteker at 8:34 PM on February 2, 2006

I just started riding motorcycles in the last 4 months (a KLR 650 as well). I was adamantly against it for a long time, because of the safety issues, but now I find I enjoy it.

Before I started riding I read everything I could on motorcycle safety. I learned that many accidents result from car drivers not noticing motorcycles, in part because of low visibility, but in part because drivers are used to looking for other cars and hence don't notice motorcycles even though they can see them. This is called inattentional blindness (discussion here, example videos here), and can affect any of us. I found the advertisement that started this whole thing viscerally shocking, which was exactly the point even if it was digital trickery, so that drivers will remember and try to look for motorcycles, thus paying attention.

My personal way of mitigating the risk is to use a headlight modulator that causes my high beam to blink rapidly. I also purchased and wear over my protective gear an ANSI Class 3 high visibility jacket. Finally, I also use a bright LED flashing tail light, and will pump it if I am stopped and someone is coming up behind me. I may look like a dork, but at least most people will see me. I ride like they won't anyway, as much as I can.
posted by procrastination at 8:38 PM on February 2, 2006

_sirmissalot_, have you considered keeping your fucking elbow out of the motorcycle lane?
posted by The Monkey at 8:42 PM on February 2, 2006

letitrain, I'm actually pretty comfortable breaking traction on's a "known quantity" to me. For example, turning on to the side road that leads to my house, I usually goose my Honda Interceptor a smidge to step out the rear and see if I can leave a longer darkie than I left last time. I know how much to stand the bike up to keep it in check but also keep it spinning, and it's fun but not scary. Dirt, however, seems random to me...a mix of sand and gravel and leaves and dust and ??? and how do you ever know exactly how much traction you have to play with? Looking forward to figuring it out as the weather warms.
posted by Bradley at 8:58 PM on February 2, 2006

"Assume you are completely invisible at all times".

The best advice I have ever received about riding, from my uncle, a life-long rider.

I frequently tell my motorcycling friends that "cars hate you and want to kill you. Treat cars the same way you would treat wild hungry lions."

Always assume the driver does not see you. Even if the driver looks up at you, waves, and gives you a thumbs up, still assume he is looking right through you and at the '57 Chevy behind you. It is probably the case.

I have been fortunate as to not had a street accident. If you don't fall riding on dirt, you're not doing it right.

To echo what is said above, if you've never ridden a motorbike, then you simply cannot understand the attraction. It is unlike anything else. Some people think it is similar to riding in a convertible, but it is not even close.

Riding a motorcycle is one of the most visceral, life-affirming, truly rewarding, engaging, and exciting experiences one can legally have.

Every able-bodied person should know how to ride a motorcycle. Anyone who has even a SLIGHT interest in riding should take the beginning Motorcycle Safety Foundation course at their earliest convenience. I personally believe the MSF course should be mandatory before a license is issued.

But be prepared... motorcycle shopping usually commences within 96 hours of the class.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:40 PM on February 2, 2006

If I lived someplace where I wouldn't get killed by a car, I'd definitely own a bike.

As it stands, I've been contemplating getting one for use on the track, where the dangers are far more tightly controlled.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:17 PM on February 2, 2006

I don't think you're a dork at all, when I get my KLR 650 that's exactly what I'm going to do, headlight modulator, highly visible jacket or vest, flashing taillight, sounds very much exactly what I'm doing to my bike when I get it. I intend to make it and myself as noticable as I can without looking too bizarre, and if I do look bizarre, better that than dead.

bradley, when I used to be into the Pro Rally scene (high power sports cars racing on dirt roads the world champs would be able to slide their cars on slicker than cow shit mud within six inches of tree stumps on the outsides of turns. I know this because after they all went through I walked up to the stump. It really was that close. I think that as you get more used to loose or slippery surfaces you'll be able to get a better 'feel' for how to slide the bike right where you want it. Sounds like you're most of the way there anyway on dry pavement.
posted by mk1gti at 10:21 PM on February 2, 2006

Some of the difficulty with seeing motorcycles is covered here (not perfect, but a start). Perception is not easy, and motorcycles have one critical disadvantage: Narrow or single headlights.

The human visual system detects "closing velocity" by the increasing visual angle of an object. If you are about to rear-end a fat Hummer, you will see it get wider in your field of vision and quickly you will instinctually realize that you're going to hit it, and stop on the brake.

But for a bike, the single headlight gives no immediate visual cues about how far away the bike is, and the person has to consciously think about it... which takes longer, and often isn't done because the person is distracted with other things.
posted by anthill at 10:29 PM on February 2, 2006

For 10 years, back in the '70's, I didn't own a car, and commuted 30+ miles each way to work, 250+ days a year on a motorcycle. With additional recreational riding over that time, I rolled up over 400,000 miles (went through 2 BMW's doing it).

In my view, the keys to surviving on a motorcycle, in order of importance are:

1) Visibility (including audibility).
2) Predictability.
3) Gear.
4) Your own condition, including fatigue and attitude.
5) Training and experience.
6) Motorcycle condition, especially tires.
7) Trip management (weather, time, route).

Being visible and audible are your first line defenses as a biker. I rode full fairings (Avon, and later BMW's), painted white. Like procrastination above, I used a headlight modulator on a big H4 headlight, but I also added a couple of long throw H3 spot beams on the fairings, and I flipped 'em on at the first appearance of any "threat." I also wore white full face helmets with reflective tape striping. And finally I mounted a set of air-horns on my bike, and wasn't shy about using 'em.

And after 250,000 miles of this, a guy in a garbage truck, looking right at me, pulled out right in front of me, leaving me no where to go but his driver side door. His statement to the cops?

"I guess my boot was greasy, and it slipped off the clutch."

Which is why I needed another BMW.

Riding predictably is vital, but I often used a quick little counter-steered swerve, with a tap on the air horn, to break into an auto driver's awareness, if I saw them creeping or rolling at a stop sign I was approaching. There is such a thing as being too predictable for your own good, and creating a bit of unusual movement to get some attention will usually result in the other guy instinctively hitting his brakes while he tries to figure out what is going on. The BMW's were great for this, because of the long front fork travel and the driveshaft jack effect, which really added a lot of apparent vertical pitch movement to the demi-swerve, too.

Good gear is a must. Nothing but full face helmets, even in July and August. Leathers for me, although some of the new techno jackets with Kevlar and rib plates look interesting, and if I were riding today, I'd look into them. Gloves, boots always. I live in Florida now, and see people tooting around in the summer with shorts, no hats, and flip-flops and I think how sorry they're gonna be, if they live to be anything...

I'm concerned for some posters up thread who are riding because they're "shortening" their commutes by riding a bike. That's not my experience, for the most part. You have to get geared up. You have to check the bike. You have to react to weather and changes in road conditions in ways automobile drivers don't. And even if you're just doing 15 minute commutes, it all catches up with you, clockwise, if you do it enough. Even more so on road trips. I've seen way too many guys pushing weather, time, and fatigue right into an early grave, not to throw a flag on this attitude. Trip management is what gets you through, day in and day out. That means planning routes that avoid traffic congestion, even if they are a little longer. Avoid rush hour situations where practical. Avoid complex intersections where you can. Over time, especially on trips you do a lot, knowing your ground and using it wisely tips the odds in your favor, big time.

But not enough to take the high option deductible on the medical insurance.
posted by paulsc at 10:31 PM on February 2, 2006

Add my name to the "mefite KLR650 cult members riders" list along with mk1gti, procrastination, and Eideteker

Awesome bike. (And one that's just about orthogonal to squidliness)

HuronBob, rubber has more friction than metal, skin, or leather. Laying a bike down won't make it stop faster. Braking as hard as you can, even in a full skid, is better. At least, if you avoid screwing it up and high-siding.

Other mefites: you can be damn sure the idiot riders piss us off even more than you.
posted by flaterik at 10:45 PM on February 2, 2006

PaulSC: My commute from west LA to downtown took about and hour, door to door, in my car.

Did it in 30 minutes flat including full head-to-toe gear on the bike.

(And I wasn't hurrying or splitting when I had my accident on the return part of that trip)

My new 2 mile commute is definitely slower on the bike. But still more fun!
posted by flaterik at 10:49 PM on February 2, 2006

Thanks for the thread, read with great attention. I've been riding a scooter about town for 15 months, although I'm still below 900km (560mi). I'm big, my scooter isn't, so I'm rather slow. I don't think I've ever gotten up to 80kph (50mph) on the thing. (It's a small town).

I don't wear more than a helmet for protection, but that's full face. I confess, I often ride wearing shorts, sandals and short sleeves! I am painfully aware of where my skin would end up if I go down! But I don't go on wet pavement (shit, it's raining now, so I'm stranded). Mostly I only ride between the house and the grocery store (2 miles, maybe).

I have to say, where I am in South Africa, drivers see me. But then, my bike and helmet are red, and the busy intersections are roundabouts.

Worse thing for me is difficulty watching drivers. Being American, I always think the driver is on the left, which isn't the case here (British style here). Funny how driving on the left seems normal to me now (2.5 years between UK and SA), but still screw up looking for drivers. (and I call actual right turns 'left turns', because, after all, it is across traffic. LOL!)

Lots of people tell me I'd be safer on a real motorcycle. I understand why, but the whole clutch thing scares me. I tried once, 30 years ago. But then, I hadn't yet learned to drive a manual car, either.
posted by Goofyy at 11:16 PM on February 2, 2006

mk1gti wrote: "I don't know if they knew each other or just met or what, but while the rain came down, side by side they looked like they were having a great conversation while waiting for the light to change. I really wished that one of them were me. . ."

I never joined a fraternity in college. I never wanted to. But I've grown to appreciate the invisible brotherhood of motorcyclists. We all wave to each other, we immediately fall into conversation, we're old friends at first acquaintance. You find out that some of the nicest people ride, and from the most diverse fields. They're doctors, lawyers, pilots, bankers, professors, photographers, professional musicians. I love motorcycling because it teaches you so much stuff. Learn to ride, ride to learn. You'll also have more uncles (some of them 'dutch') than you can shake a stick at, if you're fairly young. Everyone has advice for me, and then they see that I don't ride a sport-bike. Just don't forget that the second half of dual-sport is sport. That KLR'll go as fast as you ever need it to go, without higher insurance, cheap plastic fairing that becomes expensive after a minor lowside, and people wagging their fingers at you. Ride safe, keep the shiny side up.
posted by Eideteker at 11:17 PM on February 2, 2006

Goofyy: You may not know this, but wet pavement has (I think) about 80% of the traction of dry pavement. What you have to watch out for is the initial rain, especially after a dry period. Dust, dirt, and oil will rise up out of the road surface and slick off to the sides. Best not to ride at the onset of a storm. That said, I no longer fear rain, and I'll ride in snow (if it's not sticking) though I dread it; more for the cold than anything. Unless you're leaning something fierce on your scooter, I wouldn't worry too much about it. But know your limits, and put on some pants, man!

P.S. The clutch is your friend! I did some slow-speed drills today, in first then second gear, trying to go as slowly as possible. I was able to stand up (in a secluded parking lot) in the bottom of first gear without so much as a wobble. The more I learn to use my clutch, the more I adore it!
posted by Eideteker at 11:23 PM on February 2, 2006

cloudscratcher -
Unless you count the two times I tipped over in the parking lot while learning to ride, I've never been in an accident.
My father, who regularly rides 150mi a day has been down once in over 25 years of riding(A deer clipped his rear bag sending him sliding).
Of my close associates that ride, 3 of the 5 have not been down and most of them ride 50k+ miles a year.

So, no, it's not inevitable that you will crash, anymore than it's inevitable that a car driver will crash.
The difference is, what would be a minor fender-bender in a car becomes a whole lot more serious on a bike.
posted by madajb at 11:53 PM on February 2, 2006

Bradley -
Lane splitting is legal (not "legal") in California precisely because there is no law against it.
It's legal because the California V.C. does not specify a maximum number of vehicles per lane. You could (in theory) lane share in your car if you really wanted to, so long as you and the other car were both in between the lines.

Lane splitting does not mean driving down the white line as many people seem to think, you need clearly be in one lane or the other, or you will get a ticket under V.C. 21658.

The official CHP word is "Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible but must be done in a safe and prudent manner." and they've gone on record numerous times (usually whenever some politician wants to ban it) stating that it is legal and is safe.

That said, if you do it stupid (more than 10 or so mph faster than traffic, frantic switching from one side to the other, causing cars to back away, etc) you are going to get a ticket, usually for the above mentioned V.C. 21658 or, more creatively, for "Failure to signal a lane change" since technically, when you switch sides on the white dots, you've changed lanes.

CHP used to make a distinction between "lane sharing"(legal) and "lane splitting"(illegal) but now they've given up and just use the common nomenclature.
"Lane sharing", though, is technically more accurate.
posted by madajb at 12:23 AM on February 3, 2006

The UK's road safety adverts are some of the most dramatic government campaigns I've seen. I don't know how effective they are (can't seem to find any DfT published research), but this one made me jump out of my skin the first time I saw it.

I also have vague memories of an Aussie campaign where the strapline was something like "If you drink and drive, you're a bloody idiot". For some reason that has always stayed with me.
posted by greycap at 12:25 AM on February 3, 2006

The ad wasn't trying to be tricky, it was making a very good point. Perhaps it would have been better if it was shot from a first-person perspective though. We can all say "But there was no bike" with the benefit of freeze frame!

As to the point that the rider was riding like a jackass: That film was in a 30mph zone. Things happen very quickly at 30mph.

When I used to ride, in a situation like this, I watched alternately the driver (to see if he had seen me, or was at least looking in my direction) and the front wheels (to see if he was starting to move), and blew the horn and slowed down if necessary. Usually both. That saved me on two "memorable" occasions.

Ynoxas: I agree that a motorcycle safety foundation course should be mandatory. In the UK, I think the CBT should be mandatory for a car licence too. My car driving skills improved greatly after learning to ride a bike.
posted by ciaron at 12:29 AM on February 3, 2006

Correction - Google tells me it was from New Zealand.
posted by greycap at 12:31 AM on February 3, 2006

Hat Maui -
A motorcyclist can't drive in the shoulder because it's a violation to cross the solid line (except in an emergeny or when making a turn).
posted by madajb at 12:35 AM on February 3, 2006

I've had a motorcycle license for 12 years and tens of thousands of miles in the US, New Zealand and now Japan. I've had one accident, my own fault, alone (low side.)

I commute daily in Tokyo and do so with an Aerostich Roadcrafter. I basically don't get on my FZ1 without it.
posted by gen at 12:36 AM on February 3, 2006

I cannot 100% remember where I heard this, simply that I did. Something to the effect that lanesplitting is not outlawed (in Cali) because the CHP would lose the ability to do it in the process. Feel free to discredit this, but I'm pretty sure I heard this on public radio. Full disclosure: I don't buy ANY lanesplitting arguments. It seems like a sacrifice of safety for expediency and yes some guy on a bike trashed my door as he was lane splitting and I was stuck in traffic, not hurting anyone. Personally I would welcome a commuter/bicycle style lane dedicated for motorcycle use only. I suggest this more as a reward to motorcycle drivers for fuel effeciency and safety for them, not because of my door. I've held motorcycle endorsed licenses in two states, so I'm not a hater. Quite the opposite.
posted by lazymonster at 12:59 AM on February 3, 2006

In New Zealand (at least in Auckland) motorcyclists can use the marked bus lanes.
posted by The Monkey at 2:59 AM on February 3, 2006

My Number One safety tip for motorcyclists: Turn on your headlight! If it's daylight, put on the high beam. If you've got daytime running lights that aren't as bright as your headlight, turn the headlight on.

I rode for a lot of years, and I could almost always tell when I'd forgotten to turn the headlight on, by the car that pulled out directly in front of me. Yes, ride as though you're invisible, but do what you can to make sure you aren't.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:39 AM on February 3, 2006

Kirth Gerson, Since 1985 or so, all motorcycles manufactured for sale in the US for street use are hard-wired so that the headlight is always on. The rider's only decision is high or low beam.
posted by Bradley at 4:48 AM on February 3, 2006

I don't think I ever read a Metafilter thread this long with such a high signal:noise ratio. Why is it that bikes bring out the best in Metafilter?
posted by Jofus at 5:05 AM on February 3, 2006

I've only been riding for 2 years (daily), but have been able to keep out of accidents by riding as though I'm invisible (as stated above). Everytime I come upon a car or intersection, I choose the path that leaves me the most options for escape routes if anything goes wrong.

It's really quite true what everyone says about riding a bike & how it's so different from driving a car. In the mornings, when go out to get on the bike, I'm groggy & still sleepy. As soon as I sit down & take off, I'm instantly awake and alert. When I arrive at work, I get groggy & sleepy again. It's rather strange, like a temporary espresso. Would never trust that to work after drinking.

When it's poor weather & I take my car - there's no mindset change at all. I do, however, now drive the car like I ride the bike, which I hope makes me a safer driver for everyone involved.

Good post.
posted by password at 5:30 AM on February 3, 2006

Motorcycles are dangerous to ride. It is a fact inherent in what they are -- fast; hard to see; easy to flatten; toodling along between large, fast, heavy, unpredictable vehicles; with the rider just hanging on to the top with almost no protection.

Don't expect car drivers to make up for the dangerousness of riding a motorcycle by being more observant. They won't. If you choose to ride a dangerous little wheeled motor in a dangerous place (the highway), it is up to you to save your own skin.

If you really want to decrease your chances of being injured in a motorcycle accident, at the very least you should wear a fluorescent vest and helmet (no cool black crap), drive slowly, and act as if every car is a robot sent from Mars to destroy you. But in terms of your safety, the best answer (barring technological solutions*) is to stop riding a motorcycle.

* It wouldn't be that hard to fit motorcycles (and all other motor vehicles, for that matter) with small transmitters that could, for example, trigger a dashboard warning lamp in any other nearby vehicle. Let each vehicle know the speed and direction of all other vehicles in the area. Like two-dimensional TCAS.
posted by pracowity at 7:07 AM on February 3, 2006

Three simple rules I follow when on my bike

1. Detroit and Tokyo etc. make automobile glass that does not allow a normal driver to see motorcycles through.
2. "Normal" drivers of automobiles have had that operation which eliminates any ability to see two wheeled vehicles.
3. That automobile driver is a. about to do something stupid and dangerous, b. doing something stupid and dangerous or c. continuing to do something stupid and dangerous.
posted by Gungho at 7:22 AM on February 3, 2006

Bradley, there are bikes made before 1985 still on the road. I see them all the time, often with no lights on. Even those with headlights always on should use high beams in daylight.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2006

Jofus wrote: "I don't think I ever read a Metafilter thread this long with such a high signal:noise ratio. Why is it that bikes bring out the best in Metafilter?"

I was thinking the same thing (but didn't want to toot my own horn too much). Bikers just seem to be nice people! Those that accept and address the risks of riding tend to be a lot more together than the average person. Or rather, that sort of responsibility tends to bring out the best in people; I don't mean to make riders sound like they're all better than everyone else. Like password said, there's a change that comes over you when you straddle a big piece of metal that could easily kill you. It teaches you humilty. As the saying goes: there are old bikers, and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers.
posted by Eideteker at 9:28 AM on February 3, 2006

A Great Ad. Very effective and too true.

That's about the awareness factor of many car ]cage[ drivers of motorcyclists, totally... they see motorcycles like bicycles. As if.

Had the guy been on the celly, changing the CD track and sipping a Venti while lighting up a smoke... THAT would have been a more realistic ad.

Those going frame by frame....are you going to hit the < replay>> button now too? Is your life going by, frame by frame there?

The point being that the driver First looked right ]hmm, nothing there[, then he looked left ]nothing there either[ and pulls out.


He didn't look right again as he should have. Instead, he pulls into a lane without looking if the lane was still free. He's made an assumption driving into a turn, nay a pure guess that the lane was still free./

Leave the guessing to goalies when behind the wheel.

Thanks for the heads up, I still jumped.

I've owned 2 motorcycles and it's all about anticipating stupid actions and being very aware. That and an air horn ]trucker type[. Last one was Kawasaki's Ninja 900 with some mods.

I trashed the first one ]Yamaha Seca 650—feh, shaft drive[ on a twisty road...coming into a curve, with a posted highway 'curve' I'm approaching, a new sign 'direct left' is there, I think, huh? then, I've missed my line, I'm on the shoulder...grass, approaching a culvert where another road merged into the curve. I eased on the brakes, drove into that culvert with a 6 foot high wall doing 60mph. The forks totally bent, I had clip on handle bars, so I went over, flipped and landed on mud, the bike flipped and landed beside me. Toast. No broken bones, huge bruising and needed R&R.

As for lane splitting... you're looking for a trashing. Plain and simple. You can hide a motorcycle in a side mirror with a pencil. They've a tiny silouette and move fast.

Would I get another? You bet. Nothing like driving in the country on a hot day smelling the forests and fields. If you love driving and can't afford a Porche, a sport bike has the handling, acceleration and stopping power of most cars on the road you can afford. My next bike? Ducatti. Sweeeet.
posted by alicesshoe at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2006

One of the things that bothers me here and elsewhere is that there is very little discussion of the disproportionate penalties associated with traffic incidents. You can ram somebody on a motorcycle while drunk and get away with a ticket and a slap on the wrist, whereas if you unintentionally shot the same person with a gun while drunk, you'd probably be looking at a manslaughter charge. As an example, look at what happened when a driver killed two motorcyclists and injured two more in New Mexico.

Driving a car (at least in the US) is treated as a right, and accidents are treated as inevitable. I think that if the law made people more responsible for their actions, they would think a little harder before getting behind the wheel and endangering the lives of others. This goes for bikes as well as cars; yes, riders, you can kill and injure people in an automobile if you try hard enough, and I've seen pictures from some of you that have. Most of the riders that manage that are very dead though, so there's not a lot of punishment to be done.

Also, great post. I've been riding for ten years and racing for five (road racing mostly, any CMRA or MRA peeps here?). Two street falls, both my fault, and both with only minimal injury because of my gear. I used to commute daily, and always wear my Aerostitch Roadcrafter or full leathers when on the bike.
posted by hackwolf at 9:52 AM on February 3, 2006

Thanks for the clarification, madajb! I had read that exact phrasing and thought it was in the statute, but it's only the CHP's guideline.

"As for lane splitting... you're looking for a trashing. Plain and simple. You can hide a motorcycle in a side mirror with a pencil. They've a tiny silouette and move fast."

I'll take the bold step of speaking for all the MeFite lane-splitters here, and explain that we lane-split with some sense attached; we do it when traffic is stopped or very slow only, when the cars are close together and not changing lanes much. We keep our speed to 10 mph faster than traffic, and once traffic is moving faster than about 35 we stop splitting, for the most part. The phrase "mind the gap" runs through our minds constantly as we lane-split; anywhere there is a space large enough in either lane for a car to cut across our path, we assume that's what will happen and slow/prepare accordingly.

One thing a lot of non-riders don't understand is that when we're on the bike, we are doing absolutely nothing else but riding the bike. I'm speaking of serious, trained riders, of course, but I think that applies to everyone posting here.

We are not talking on the phone. We're not talking to anyone else in the vehicle, because there's no-one else in the vehicle. We are not eating. We are not reading. We are not daydreaming. We are not ogling the hottie in the ragtop (unless it's at a stoplight). We're not staring at the scenery. We are not playing with the radio, or even listening to the radio, most of us don't have radios (unless we have Gold Wings).

All we are doing is riding the bike, paying attention to everything that cars around us are doing, paying attention to every little nuance of what the bike is doing, paying attention to every nuance of what the pavement is offering up, thinking way, way ahead of where we are (the recommended think-ahead is 12 seconds, minimum!). We scan, identify, predict, decide, and execute, and that's all we bloody do, because doing less than that can get you killed. Notice that most of the accounts of single-bike accidents above are related to lapses in attention.

Motorcyclists (smart ones anyway) pay probably 100 times as much attention to what's going on around them as car drivers do. If you folks in cars took driving as seriously as we do riding, and paid that level of attention, the overall traffic accident rate would drop by probably 90%. That's why, as was said above, if you want to become a much better car driver, take the MSF and learn to ride a bike. I haven't even had a minor fender-bender in a car since I first took the MSF - in 1993 - because I automatically apply the same attention to my driving. Huge difference.

I ride with my high-beam on and that makes me very visible in people's mirrors, in fact I notice that very often people DO notice me in the mirror in stopped or slow traffic, and move over a bit - likely they assume I'm a CHP officer heading for whatever "trouble" is stopping traffic.

Hey, any of you LA guys notice that the UPS truck drivers are probably some of the best 4-wheel drivers around, and that they almost always see us and make room? They're great, IMO. Big thumbs up to the people in brown!
posted by zoogleplex at 12:50 PM on February 3, 2006

there are old bikers, and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers
Very well said. Humility and awareness are two very important factors when out there on any two wheeled vehicle. And a lot of four wheeled ones.
posted by mk1gti at 12:56 PM on February 3, 2006

you wanna be a better driver? get a motorbike.

Agrees 100% with Frasermoo, thought for a long time that it should be a mandatory requirement, one year on the road with 2 wheels.

Have any of you *never* had an accident?

My SO was accident free for about 25 years 'til last summer when a drunk driver t-boned him and I've been accident free for just over 5 years now, we both ride virtually every day, year round.
posted by squeak at 12:59 PM on February 3, 2006

paulsc -
The biggest factor on my shortened commute by bike is filtering.
Not having to wait through 3 cycles of the traffic light in order to get onto the highway saves at least 5 minutes right off the bat.
Then on the other side, not having to wait another few minutes to make that left turn adds up.

You are right though, up here in the PNW in the winter time, some of my friends could probably be be home before I got the raingear on. heh.
posted by madajb at 4:02 PM on February 3, 2006

I raced CMRA Endurance series from 1999-2002 or so. Stopped just before I would have gotten my white plate. Team LandShark, on a '97 Yam YZF600R. Also did some YSR Endurance (2-hour races) with a few teams...that's where I got the few trophies I have. I was never more than a mid-packer on the big bikes, 5-10% slower than the fast guys, but I can hold my own on the little bikes, and truthfully I've never had more fun on the track than when I've had the little YSR's drifting both tires through Little Bend at Cresson or The Bitch (clockwise) at Hallett. Even though you're going plenty fast on the little bikes, they always seemed pretty benign to me, and I felt bulletproof, and was always giggling when I rolled off the bike onto pit lane after my shift.

I agree that bikers give much more attention to what they're doing, both when riding and when in a cage. I have a radical idea: Let's put little 6-inch spikes right in the center of all steering wheels, aimed at the driver's chest, instead of airbags. Airbags and other protections lead to complacency and lazy driving habits. If you knew that if you screwed up and even barely rearended someone you'd have a spike piercing your chest, would you drive your cage more carefully? I think so. Cautious bikers think this way all the time when on the bike...we have to, since a small "oops" can lead to serious pain.
posted by Bradley at 10:20 PM on February 3, 2006

Since we have so many experienced riders on this thread, I want to throw out one more recommendation: Take a track school. My riding skill and comfort increased tenfold after a couple of Pridmore STAR schools. I think I ended up doing 8 of them. Catching the track bug led to racing, but it also made me a much better street rider since I was more intimate with the bike. Being in a safe enviroment and confronting the same dozen corners over and over with no distractions such as the risk of granny pulling out in front of you allows you to concentrate on the nuances of body position, braking, etc. And attending a school instead of an unstructured track day will leave you with many specific techniques to think about, visualize, and practice on the street...long after the school day is over.

And for anyone who likes to read about riding techniques and think about all of the possibilities, I can't recommend David Hough's Proficient Motorcycling enough. Awesome book.
posted by Bradley at 10:36 PM on February 3, 2006

The recommendation for Proficient Motorcylng in seconded.

Bradley, I've thought about track school, but it seems like it'd be realllly spendy. First, I don't think they allow KLRs anywhere near tracks. So I have no bike. Even if I did, or could rent one, isn't it common to go thorugh a set of tires in a day at the track? AND - I often hear the term "track approved leathers". I have full textile gear, but I doubt it's "track approved". And all that is before even getting to any fees...

So, how much did a track school day cost you? Because it sure does sound fun & educational.
posted by flaterik at 4:08 PM on February 4, 2006

Bradley: I hope you recognize some of my data as being from PM and More Proficient Motorcycling (the latter is my current bathroom reading, and leads to much leaning on the can).
posted by Eideteker at 5:46 PM on February 4, 2006

there are bikes made before 1985 still on the road.

And more importantly, Metafilter isn't just for people in the USA.
posted by The Monkey at 6:52 PM on February 4, 2006

flaterik: Here is the schedule and prices for STAR Motorcycle School. Prices are around $350 for a day of training.

And you can always put street tires on your KLR. This link shows the options.

And your full textile gear would be perfectly adequate for a day at STAR school, and many other schools. Just can find one near you. Most have a nice split of classroom and track time, and the classroom sessions give you specific goals and skills on which to concentrate, and in the next track session you concentrate on that, and have instructors riding the track with you and watching you, and they'll lead you into the pits to give you immediate feedback if needed. Good times.
posted by Bradley at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2006

Whoa, Bradley, that page on tires is teh awesum. Thanks! I've got the Dunlop D606's on mine right now, but I've been looking into a more street-worthy tire. This'll make good reading.
posted by Eideteker at 9:43 PM on February 4, 2006

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