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  • GroupThink

    This whole ugly business in New York with a gang of riders chasing down an SUV and the ensuing violence done on both sides doesn't really surprise me. To my memory this isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened, I seem to remember incidents like this occurring before. I also spend a moderate amount of time on the web in motorcycle forums and therein you'll find some pretty tough talk. The subject occasionally turns to retribution against automobiles for real or imagined trespasses. Comments about kicking doors and breaking off mirrors as well as bravado filled rants about armored gloves and punch-proof helmets often pop up.

    It's an "Us v. Them" world where there is no innocence and every car that drifts around in its own lane is making calculated moves to enrage or hurt us. An inattentive driver who gets surprised and brakes hard and late is brake checking us, a failure to signal or check a blind spot is attempted murder and there are no innocent mistakes.

    In our hard Mad Max view of world we create a place where lethal force could be wielded against us or by us at any danger filled, hate fueled, combative second. Damn cagers. And minivans. And Priuses. And Camrys. And soccer moms. And girls putting on makeup. And fat guys eating greasy burgers. And suits, stockbrokers, and salesmen. And middle aged women....and men. And old farts. And pretty much anybody who pisses us off.

    Think about how often do you hear or read the advice, "Ride like they're all trying to get you".

    What does that mean? It means that every other user on the road isn't just a danger, they're an enemy that is actively seeking to hurt you. Not to say I don't believe in defensive driving; you need to be alert, active and processing your environment. However once you turn the other users around you into active assailants then you open a very curious door: the right of self-defense. Here's a hard question, if you're being actively bullied and threatened when do you stop, stand up and fight? Seems a simple answer in a bar or restaurant. Could be a simple misunderstanding quickly remedied with with an "sorry, didn't see you" or "my bad". On the road there is no such opportunity for sorting blame or assigning motive. In fact, if we pre-assign blame with "they're out to get us" we also predetermine our reaction.

    We are looking for a fight. The problem is often the fight isn't looking for us. I remember a incident I had way back in the early 80s. I was riding a GS550e that was piped, jetted and made a beautiful noise. I was on an expressway that had the occasional stoplight and I was sitting there daydreaming and the light went green. I did a normal, no hurry, no drama launch. After a moment I heard this terrible, sucking, raspy rattle and I looked to my right and right next to me was this POS Datsun with a teenager pilot. He was white knuckling the wheel and had his shoulders and head pressed back into the seat. Clearly he had it to the floor.

    "Oh!" I said to myself, "We're racing..." I held back a moment because I was curious if the thing was going to blow up. Then I turned some ponies loose. I had no idea I was racing. Just like loads and loads of us, lost in a moment of everyday life, don't check our blind-spot or forget to signal or remember we need to be in that other lane right now and bail before we look...

    If we view the world as a hostile place where we wage war in traffic then it's easy to drift into a kill or be killed mentality. We dehumanize other users and suddenly "cagers" are not people anymore but things. Things that are contemptuous, evil, worthy of disposal or destruction. Yeah, we put our heads in a place where once in a mob that guy is no longer a father, brother, husband or son...just a thing that needs to be taught a lesson. Is that the motoring world you want to be part of?

    Be safe.
    Author of "Motorcycles, Life and..." & "The Elemental Motorcyclist"

    http://motorcycleslifeandeverything.wordpress.com

    www.howzitdonecrash.com

  • #2
    Well said!

    Tom
    In the end, regrets rarely come from things done, but from things not even tried.
    sigpic

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    • #3
      I do tend to ride as if cagers either don't see me or are aiming at me, but I don't ride on the offensive. I've always said, "It's better to be alive than to be right." IOW, I know I'm not going to win the battle against a car or truck. I may be irritated about it, but I'm alive to be irritated.
      '02 Shadow Spirit 750 - The R-Honda TRADED IN
      '07 BMW F800 ST - Eyegor TRADED IN
      '17 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT - Phantom

      "I own a Goldwing...when I get cold, I just turn on the autopilot and go downstairs and sit in front of the fireplace and drink hot chocolate. The bike beeps to let me know when we're starting our final approach." -- shonuff

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      • #4
        Excellent post, Crash!

        BTW, I notice that even Lezbert used the word "battle" to describe her traffic relationships (inadvertently, I'm sure, but the point is made, I think--this is the terminology we all tend to use, and it does tend to set the stage for a certain mindset).

        Thankfully, I seldom have to deal with serious traffic. My biggest problem locally is deer--and those evil scheming buggers really ARE out to get me!

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        • #5
          I think it all comes down to accepting responsibility.

          Should that car have encroached on your lane? No. Should YOU have put yourself where a collision was impossible? Yes. Could YOU have made yourself more visible to that car? Probably.

          I'm learning this lesson in a different way with my first puppy. If the puppy poops on the floor, whose fault is it? The puppy, who doesn't know better, or me, who didn't pay enough attention to catch the puppy in the act? Hint, it ain't the puppy's fault.

          The next time you catch yourself sitting next to a car in traffic, ask yourself how you'd feel if that car moved into your lane. Then ask yourself why you're sitting next to a car in the first place.

          It's not us vs. them out there, it's mostly us vs. ourselves.
          Sportbikes are NOT BEGINNER BIKES

          Current Bikes: 2009 Yamaha FJR1300A | 2009 Kawasaki Versys | 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1600
          Past Bikes: 2005 Triumph Speed Triple 1050 (sold) | 1997 Suzuki DR350SE (sold) | 2004 Triumph Speed Four (sold) | 2008 Kawasaki ZX-6R (sold) | 2008 Kawasaki Concours 14 (sold) | 2007 Suzuki Boulevard M50 (sold) | 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 500R (sold)

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          • #6
            I try very hard not to be in that "Bike vs 'cage'" mentality. At least half the time I am the one driving a 4 wheeled vehicle so I realize I am on both sides of the equation. I also often encounter some sketchy driving by folks who have the "Watch for Motorcycles" decals we hand out after completing the BRC stuck on the back of their vehicles. I have to assume that those folks are not "out to get" motorcyclists, it is just that poor decisions or lack of situational awareness happens to just about everyone. How we as riders react to these situations is the key to our survival.

            Last night on my way home I ended up behind a car driving 30MPH on a 45MPH road. I could have rode on their bumper, made them nervous and left myself less following room, but I chose to back off and ride at 30MPH a good distance behind them. The humungo pickup truck that came ripping up behind me was of the opinion that if he rode my tail close enough that I would speed up and similarly intimidate the car ahead so that he could drive faster. I didn't take the bait. At a traffic light on this road the roadway goes to two lanes in each direction a short way on either side of the intersection. I pulled over to the right lane, behind the slow car and let Mr. truck take the left to pass. Of course he had to give me a single finger salute as he passed, to prove his manhood and show me that I shouldn't impede his progress. No big deal, I followed Mr. Pokey for another mile and a half before he pulled off and I made it home safe and sound, and when I checked my male bits were still attached, so I'm good.

            I wish I could say I never get angry at other drivers, or wish ill on them for their actions, but I try very hard not to assume anyone is "out to get me". The normal variation in skills, lack of attention and self-centerdness more than accounts for the majority of what I see on the road.
            Keith

            '11 Triumph Sprint GT - Blue (The fastest color)
            '05 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 - Blue (The fastest color)


            Originally posted by atomicalex
            It feeds my love of machinery to be that close with my whole body.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Kootenanny View Post
              Excellent post, Crash!

              BTW, I notice that even Lezbert used the word "battle" to describe her traffic relationships (inadvertently, I'm sure, but the point is made, I think--this is the terminology we all tend to use, and it does tend to set the stage for a certain mindset).

              Thankfully, I seldom have to deal with serious traffic. My biggest problem locally is deer--and those evil scheming buggers really ARE out to get me!
              Nah, that's just how driving in Houston is, regardless of your vehicle. In rush hour, sometimes people try to muscle their way into your lane. The question is whether or not you back down and let them. If I'm on two wheels, I definitely do. Although, I have been tempted to wear my helmet while driving my car. You know...for that subliminal, "Holy crap! She's crazy! Don't mess with her!" message.
              '02 Shadow Spirit 750 - The R-Honda TRADED IN
              '07 BMW F800 ST - Eyegor TRADED IN
              '17 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT - Phantom

              "I own a Goldwing...when I get cold, I just turn on the autopilot and go downstairs and sit in front of the fireplace and drink hot chocolate. The bike beeps to let me know when we're starting our final approach." -- shonuff

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by KACinPA View Post
                I wish I could say I never get angry at other drivers, or wish ill on them for their actions, but I try very hard not to assume anyone is "out to get me". The normal variation in skills, lack of attention and self-centerdness more than accounts for the majority of what I see on the road.
                Ditto. Although I was much less likely to wish some bad karma on others this season than last. The sad reality is that most people just don't have a clue ... doesn't matter if I'm on the bike or in the car - it's the potential outcome of a collision on the bike vs a car that annoys me.
                2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS SE
                2013 Suzuki DR200SE

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lezbert View Post
                  Although, I have been tempted to wear my helmet while driving my car. You know...for that subliminal, "Holy crap! She's crazy! Don't mess with her!" message.
                  That's what the external roll cage is for... especially with dented and scratched tubes.

                  "Subliminal" is highly overrated!
                  Jeff

                  "Remember when being socially distant was a symptom of a potentially debilitating mental disorder, instead of a government mandate? C'mon, it was just a few weeks ago!"

                  "Modern Liberalism: The embodiment of an irrational fear of letting other people run their own lives."

                  '13 XT250
                  '10 ZG-1400 (operational again)

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                  • #10
                    I was thinking about this as I was riding home, through a huge traffic backup. For the cages, at least.

                    For me, riding is an even more singular activity than driving. I'm on the road, fully disconnected from traffic. I am no longer coupled to the lane, to my little slot. I have no desire to be against the cages or other riders, or for them. I'm completely free of that mess. I just find space and go to it. It's waiting for me. Sometimes I share it, sometimes not.

                    I don't know if it's something different about me, but I don't really get groups. I have trouble getting a second person. So while I can appreciate that group think happens, I don't understand why anyone would do that, when riding offers the freedom not to.
                    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
                    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jehos View Post
                      I think it all comes down to accepting responsibility.

                      Should that car have encroached on your lane? No. Should YOU have put yourself where a collision was impossible? Yes. Could YOU have made yourself more visible to that car? Probably.

                      I'm learning this lesson in a different way with my first puppy. If the puppy poops on the floor, whose fault is it? The puppy, who doesn't know better, or me, who didn't pay enough attention to catch the puppy in the act? Hint, it ain't the puppy's fault.

                      The next time you catch yourself sitting next to a car in traffic, ask yourself how you'd feel if that car moved into your lane. Then ask yourself why you're sitting next to a car in the first place.

                      It's not us vs. them out there, it's mostly us vs. ourselves.
                      Well, I do my best to keep my safety cushion to the front of me. If someone cuts me off, I slow to keep that cushion. If I'm commuting and am in traffic, I cannot control the fact that cars will be next to me, nor is there any place I have the ability to move where that is not the case. That's just how traffic works. Lots of vehicles are in lanes next to each other. What I can do, and what I try very hard to do, is to stay out of the "no zone." But if the lane next to me moves at a different pace than I do, I can't always control that either. I can control seeing things and being aware of other drivers' actions, trying to choose the best lane position, and being sure I can "toodle my horn melodiously" if something is amiss.
                      '02 Shadow Spirit 750 - The R-Honda TRADED IN
                      '07 BMW F800 ST - Eyegor TRADED IN
                      '17 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT - Phantom

                      "I own a Goldwing...when I get cold, I just turn on the autopilot and go downstairs and sit in front of the fireplace and drink hot chocolate. The bike beeps to let me know when we're starting our final approach." -- shonuff

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        "Rides" like this NY one and the Ride of the Century... make it seem like we are doing our darnedest to counteract the "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" campaign.


                        Originally posted by Lezbert View Post
                        I can control seeing things and being aware of other drivers' actions, trying to choose the best lane position, and being sure I can "toodle my horn melodiously" if something is amiss.


                        I tell my students to please be courteous and try to wave with all 5 fingers....



                        If nothing else, this incident in NY was a good reminder for my son to think about what he would've done if he'd been out riding with some friends and crap started happening.
                        Helen

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lezbert View Post
                          Well, I do my best to keep my safety cushion to the front of me. If someone cuts me off, I slow to keep that cushion. If I'm commuting and am in traffic, I cannot control the fact that cars will be next to me, nor is there any place I have the ability to move where that is not the case.
                          Are you sure about that?

                          Next time you're stuck in traffic, think about which lanes only put traffic to one side of you. Then take a look at the space between cars in the same lane. Could your bike fit in there if it had to? If you're riding next to that space, and one of the cars comes into your lane, will you get hit? If your lane is moving at a different speed from the other lanes, how can you spend as much time as possible next to empty space and as little time as possible next to other cars?
                          Sportbikes are NOT BEGINNER BIKES

                          Current Bikes: 2009 Yamaha FJR1300A | 2009 Kawasaki Versys | 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1600
                          Past Bikes: 2005 Triumph Speed Triple 1050 (sold) | 1997 Suzuki DR350SE (sold) | 2004 Triumph Speed Four (sold) | 2008 Kawasaki ZX-6R (sold) | 2008 Kawasaki Concours 14 (sold) | 2007 Suzuki Boulevard M50 (sold) | 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 500R (sold)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jehos View Post
                            Are you sure about that?

                            Next time you're stuck in traffic, think about which lanes only put traffic to one side of you. Then take a look at the space between cars in the same lane. Could your bike fit in there if it had to? If you're riding next to that space, and one of the cars comes into your lane, will you get hit? If your lane is moving at a different speed from the other lanes, how can you spend as much time as possible next to empty space and as little time as possible next to other cars?
                            Not quite sure I'm following you ...

                            That being said ... "lane position should be fluid" and that's how I like to flow. In rush hour I'll move to whatever lane I feel gives me the best ability to SEE and be SEEN and to have as best of a space cushion as I can get.

                            I may go to the left lane and for ME, I'll typically ride in the right portion of the left lane so taht I can see and be SEEN by others in other lanes. One can argue about riding in the left portion of the left lane and that works for them. For me, I don't like not being seen by traffic in the next lane, such that they may think there's an opening and try to move into it .. when Im there but too late to see.

                            I may flow to the right lane for teh same reasons. Here in UT everyone, regardless of their speed, wants to be in the left most lanes. So it's congested over there. Thus I might float over to the right lane and ride in the left portion for the reasons mentioned above.

                            However, with merging and exiting traffic impacting the right lane I may choose to float in the interior lanes, choosing those which best allow me to SEE and be SEEN and to have the best space cushion. I will look for a space cushion that includes space between two vehicles ala lane splitting if I need to escape something. Yes, Lane Splitting is illegal in UT but I'll use that space as an escape if needed.

                            Being fluid is best imho. Be where you can SEE and be SEEN.

                            Sorry for the threadjack
                            Ride safe, ride smart, ride ATGATT because sweat dries faster than scars heal

                            2011 Triumph Tiger 800XC
                            2009 Kawasaki ER-6N

                            * If you love your bike set it free. If it comes back to you, you've High Sided

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                            • #15
                              Even "See and be seen" is no guarantee your space will not be encroached. Last week Ann and I were in trafffic, right lane with a bus lane between us and the curb. Both of us had high beams on (and on Triples they are BRIGHT). Some lady (on the phone mind you) tries to merge from the bus lane into me, no signals. We were only a few feet off her left, I was in her mirror.

                              I saw it coming, spidey senses alerted and yelled at her. Meanwhile, Ann tootled her horn melodiously.
                              When life throws you curves, aim for the apex
                              sigpic
                              08 Spyder RS SM5 "big Bird" \ 12 S'TtripleR "stripper" \ 02 VFR800 "big red" \ 09 KLX250-S
                              Sold: 97 Ninja 500R / 03 SV650N / 01 Ducati 750SS / 73 CB350-Four / 03 BMWF650GS / 08 Gixxer600 / 09 KLX250S "Gumby" / 06 Thruxton "crumpet" / 91 VFR750 /03 Gixxer6 the bass boat
                              my Facebook, SpeedShotsPhotography
                              MITGC #22

                              "I have seen fat kids on Segways go through corners faster."

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