"Will they, or won't they?" This is a question that riders find themselves asking quite frequently. Those referred to as "they", of course, are drivers that we're forced to share the road with. It's a guessing game where guessing wrong can be disastrous. The process can also leave a rider mentally frazzled by the end of the ride. I'd like to suggest a better method. Think of capabilities instead of possibilities.
I have a couple of issues with the "guessing game". Firstly, while riding is certainly fun, survival on a motorcycle isn't a game. Winning or losing isn't measured by points on the scoreboard. Secondly, call me a control freak, but I don't like the idea of basing my health and well being on a "guess". Waiting breathlessly to find out if I made a good guess isn't my style.
Is there a better way? In my opinion there is.
Think in terms of capabilities rather than possibilities. Consider an example.
The rider in the picture above is looking across the intersection at this white vehicle waiting at the light. Notice the sign above the stop lights. It's not a protected left turn. The sign tells left turning traffic to yield to oncoming traffic during a green light. This means the rider is having to decide whether or not the white vehicle's driver will turn across her path of travel. Thus begins the guessing game.
Will they or won't they? I talk to a lot of riders. As a professional trainer I tend to analyze their understanding of, and behaviour in, traffic situations. There are a lot of riders who, having guessed that the car won't turn left, relax their preparations. No bogey, no countermeasures. What if they guessed wrong?
Here's the vehicle turning left across traffic. A rider who guessed this wouldn't happen is not only surprised, but they are also faced with a pretty critical situation. Any accident avoidance move has to start from scratch. That takes time that might not be available. Chances of success are worsened by the added adrenaline rush which impairs a rider's abilities in the moment.
The better way is to approach this situation thinking in terms of capabilities. Instead of asking what is possible, ask what the driver is capable of. Then make actual preparations based on that. We know drivers are capable of turning left in front of other large vehicles, not just motorcycles. I was talking to a cop who had a woman turn left in front of his patrol car. He was running "hot" with the overhead lights activated and the siren blaring.
Just recently an elderly couple were killed south of Astoria on the Northern Oregon coast. Both Mike and I have written about the Camp Rilea Military Reservation in the area. It's the place where we both have photos of our bikes with the tank. Anyway, a 72 year old man was driving. His wife was his passenger. Coming out of Camp Rilea, the man turned left into the path of a dump truck. Both the man and his wife were killed. Sad.
If a woman can turn left in front a very visible police car and a man can turn left in front of a dump truck, I'm certain any driver at any time is capable of turning left in front of my motorcycle. I'm not asking myself whether the driver will do it. I'm asking myself what the driver is capable of in whatever situation I am in. Then I take the actual steps to protect myself for when it happens. If the driver doesn't move, then it's a bonus, but I was prepared. No guesswork involved.
I know this seems like a subtle difference. A lot of you are very vigilant and have strategies in place to deal with traffic. I salute you. In my opinion thinking in terms of what drivers are capable of gives me a bit of an extra edge. When a person reaches a certain level of proficiency in an area, sometimes that's how their skills develop further. A fraction of a second here. A certain tweak in the mindset there. The difference between a sharp knife and dull knife is sometimes measured in microns. Those microns, though small, have a huge affect on how the knife performs, don't they?
Miles and smiles,