Keeping from Peeping
A recent video in which a motorcyclist slams head on into a car as it turns left in front of him is sobering. Watch in the background as one girl films another dancing on the side of the road.
You can hear it coming as the biker shifts through his gears in a residential area, his engine screaming. The car he hits was turning left in front of him — the most common multi-vehicle accident involving motorcycles. The dancing girl narrowly avoids being hit by the motorcycle, and the rider lies in unknown condition — his gloves on the ground next to him.
The way to learn from this is to recognize that there is always something we could have done differently to avoid an accident. Maybe that thing was unknowable, but often it is something we can do differently next time, if we survive the learning curve. Sometimes motorcyclists hit a car turning left in front of them and there was really nothing they could do. The slower the impact, though, the lighter the damage. Riding at a high rate of speed on a dirty road in a residential area, where half the people live on the left, is a rookie move.
The rider also seemed to recognize very late that the car was turning, and may have even become target-fixated. Had he pretended he was invisible and assumed the turn, he might have been able to stop completely before impact. Both rider and driver may have also been distracted by the dancing girl. Staying focused on the line of travel is critical, but the trick is to do it without fixating. The following YouTube video has some good advice for avoiding target fixation.
These incidents are as old as motorcycling and predate cell phone cameras. If the rider in that video had acted like he had ridden a motorcycle before, he may not have hit that car. Not that he should have been putting around. We should not ride overly defensively, but warily. We should be aware of our situation and wary of its pitfalls, and we should take responsibility for our own safety. It is up to us to prevent these types of accidents.
It does not come naturally for a car driver to watch for motorcycles. For proof, check out this Chicago Tribune article, in which drivers are reminded that motorcyclists deserve the same space as a car, as though that is news.
In this article on CycleWorld.com, Nick Ienatsch discusses how to ride with controlled aggression in traffic, as if we are invisible.