Monday, October 15, 2007

Think Halloween's scary?

I can't seem to load photos onto the blog at the moment. So I'm postponing the post I had in mind. There's something weird about how that last sentence flows, isn't there? Postponing the post. Oh well.

I came across this the other day and thought I'd share it with you.

We all know how many bogies and hazards are out there. To successfully survive being a daily bike commuter we need to adopt a three part strategy.

1. Wear the proper gear all the time.

2. Always, always, work on adding to and sharpening our skills.

3. Know the enemy. Use that knowledge to develop strategies for dealing with them.

Here's an item under rule number 3. It's about truck drivers. Bear with me, Dave T.!

This is word for word from an article in our local paper, the Albany Democrat Herald.

Troopers: Too many truckers doing drugs.

The Oregon State Police say nearly 9 percent of truckers sampled last month flunked drug tests.

Sergeant Alan Hageman says it's unacceptable that so many commercial drivers are high when they're running rigs of nearly 80,000 pounds.

In all, 468 drivers on Interstate 84 at Cascade Locks were tested over three days, and 42 tested positive. Five tested positive for more than one drug.

Hageman says the drug of choice was marijuana, with 19 drivers testing positive.

( end of article )

The good news is that 91 percent of the truckers passed the drug tests. I've actually had very few problems with these big rig drivers. For the most part I've found that if I respect them I receive the same in return. This job has its jerks like any other, of course. My overall experience has been positive.

A lot of the problems bikes have with trucks is just physics. Small bike, big truck. Everyone knows about wind blast, suction, debris, etc. I personally won't just lollygag alongside a big rig. On the freeway I'll wait until there's enough room between me and the car ahead of me to pass the truck all at once. One time I was beside a truck when a tire let loose. I nearly soiled my riding pants, let me tell you. Besides that, though, I feel like it puts me at a disadvantage. I worry about getting lost in a driver's mirrors.

Once in a while a trucker's forced into making a sudden move. Sometimes a truck will be in the middle lane of a three lane interstate, for example. If I'm in the hammer lane beside the truck I can't see the right lane. Somebody in the slow lane drifts wide, etc., a driver in front of the truck dives in and suddenly brakes, there's a host of other scenarios. If the truck driver needs to make a sudden move I could escape notice during a quick glance. No matter how good the driver is or how skilled, my smaller bike can easily get lost. I saw an experiment where bikes were placed in a truck's blind spots. Guess how many bikes fit in the blind spot. 28. Yeah, that many. I figure it's my responsibility to stay out of these blind spots.

I won't even talk about the water spray on rainy days. Yikes!

In other situations I give them a lot of room and keep watchful. Interestingly, some of the things I've had to deal with involving trucks haven't been with the truck directly. It's been Idiots who try to crowd the truck, go around a backing trailer, or whatever. Yeah, I capitalized "Idiot" on purpose. Keeping a big space cushion can seem timid but it's actually pretty smart. Not much is really worth being in that a big of hurry over, anyway. Besides, isn't that one of the reasons we claim to ride? We shout "Freedom!!" I say part of that freedom is being free to not be like the Mindless Moron drivers out there. I ride my own ride dictated by my own needs at the moment.

Bikes and trucks don't mix well simply due to their opposite natures. Now there's another reason to be wary. When you're near a big rig there's no way of knowing if it's a driver like our fellow rider Dave or somebody not so competent. Be vigilant out there.

Miles and smiles,



balisada said...

Reminds me of last winter (the winter before last?) when the sudden cold snap caught folks by surprise.

The image that I remember was on the Fox12 morning traffic report and they showed a semitruck that they said was "in the process of jackknifing". As I watched, I could see that indeed, due to the slope of the road (the left lane being higher than the right lane) the truck was slowly sliding from the left lane to the right lane.

Problem was, cars were were still trying to pass the truck and one almost didn't make it.

Trucks are to be respected.

They cannot stop on a dime. They are still subject to the same laws of physics that govern all vehicles stopping distances.

Trucks create wind.

That wind can make things interesting for motorcycles.



Anonymous said...

Passing a big rig one night on a two lane tressel I was "mildly" exceeding the speed limit for a few seconds to get by. (gotta use that power-to-weight ratio to it's fullest!)

As my luck had it that night, I was right in the radar for those seconds. When I was pulled over I carefully didn't admit to speeding, but pointed out the safety concern of having no escape route due to the guard rail if the truck suddenly switched lanes. The cop was pretty cool...

If it went that far, I would like to think the judge would agree with me.


irondad said...

I remember that. It was I-5 just South of Portland,wasn't it? There was also one coming off I-84 onto I-5 North. Either way, the drivers around were crazy.

"Mildly"? We gotta pass this truck. Warp 9 Scotty!

Take care,