Last night on my way home I made a mistake. It was a simple lapse of judgement, and while things worked out for me, that same little goof has been fatal for countless riders in the past, and will likely be fatal for many more in the future.
Allow me to paint a picture for you….
I was riding South on the #1 and approaching Mt Sicker Rd (if you want to look it up on a map to get a clear picture of what happened)
The light had just turned green as I was approaching, and there were some cars in the right lane just past the intersection, but there was lots of open space in the left lane. I had just passed someone, so I was already in the left lane in P1 (left portion of the lane), so I chose to stay there until I was clear of the cars ahead of me.
There was an SUV in the left turn lane ahead of me, waiting to turn East.
So if you can picture it, there was a car slightly behind me in the right lane, a couple vehicles just past the intersection in the right lane, and a stopped SUV ahead of me in the left turn lane.
Do you see the danger in this scenario?
I normally do, but my mind was wandering just a bit at that moment, and I missed it.
All of a sudden, a car from the Northbound lane turned left across my path. I had to check my mirrors and brake hard to avoid hitting it. Luckily for me, there was no one bearing down on me in my lane, and the driver of the car didn’t slam on their brakes like they often do when they realize they cut of a motorcycle. To be honest, I don’t think they did even realize what had just happened. I think they made their turn, and went about their day without even noticing that I was there at all.
So what went wrong?
Obviously this was a case of someone making a turn without being sure that it was 100% safe to do, which is something drivers do a lot. If they didn’t have a tendency to enter intersections before they knew it was safe to do so, there wouldn’t be collisions at intersections.
What was my mistake?
Because of my lane position, I never even saw that car waiting to turn left. The SUV waiting to turn the other way completely blocked my view of the opposing turning lane, so the driver of the car never saw me either. I should have realized that my line of site was obstructed and that there was serious potential for a problem on the other side of the SUV. Had I simply moved over the P3 (the right side of the lane), I would have seen the car, and the driver would have at the very least had a chance to see me.
If I had hit the car, it would have technically been the drivers fault for turning in front of me, but lack of guilt is of very little comfort to a corpse. (not to mention that the police and news would speculate about whether or not speed was a factor, since motorcyclists must always be at fault when someone kills them)
Putting technical fault aside, I could have very easily taken really simple steps to have avoided a potentially ugly situation, but I failed to do so, and left open a window for tragedy to climb through.
Visibility is a very important part of safety. It’s not just a matter of what we wear, or having flashing lights on our bikes. If we don’t position ourselves in the right place so that we can see, and be seen, it doesn’t matter what else we do to increase visibility.
“right of way” is meaningless if you’re on two wheels and the other guy(s) are on four. You will still come out second best.
If you tell yourself every time you throw a leg over your bike that “half the drivers out there don’t see you and the other half are out to get you”, you stand a good chance of getting through your first year of motorcycling.