It’s that time of year when lots of Michiganders head north on color tours to go leaf peeping. That means there’s going to be a lot of vehicles on the road. Plenty of those will be of the 2-wheeled variety, including us, as we’ve settled on an itinerary for our fall getaway and are heading out later this week. We’d like to stay “shiny side up,” so please, be careful out there, drivers. Here are some helpful hints for those of you encased in giant steel boxes with 4-wheels and rolled up windows and loud music to help you help us 2-wheels enjoy our time out on the road, too.
Don’t ride up our tailpipes.
It amazes me how unaware many drivers are of how much space they take up on the road and how little space they give others. Every single time we go out for a ride, inevitably we end up watching a car in our rearview mirrors go from tiny to huge in about 2 seconds flat. It’s a bit alarming, like watching a rhino charging up on you.
So. Remember the “3 second rule” from drivers ed? No? Give yourself this little test when you’re out on the road: when the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain landmark, like a street sign, start counting. If you pass that same landmark before “3 Mississippi” passes your lips, you’re going too fast and driving too close. Back off, give us some room, and I promise, those extra few seconds are going to make a much bigger difference to us than you.
Don’t charge up to stop signs.
When did stop signs become suggestions? I see so many people go racing up to a stop sign full-tilt, apply their brakes at the last minute, and then come to a stop about 8 feet past the sign. Do you know how unnerving that looks from the back of a motorcycle on a perpendicular roadway? It looks like you’re not planning on stopping at all and are about to pull right out in front of us — or right into us. We can’t read your mind or your body language, so we have to interpret what’s going on with you by what your car is doing out on the road. Please, let us know that you see the stop sign by doing something nutty like…. oh, I don’t know…. stopping.
Be extra careful at intersections.
If the bad stuff is going to happen out there, it’s most likely going to happen at an intersection. 42% of all traffic accidents involving a motorcycle and a car happen when a car is making a left turn — a good deal of the time it’s when that car makes that turn smack dab into a motorcycle coming from the opposite direction. So take a couple extra seconds at intersections. Really look carefully before you make a turn, or before you start up again at a 4-way stop. Motorcycles take up a lot less space than cars, so we’re harder to spot; please remember to actively look for us.
(I thought I’d include a picture here, was thinking along the lines of a diagram from a drivers ed training manual. But then I Googled images of “motorcycle and car at intersection.” And turned a little green around the gills. Feel free to do that search if you need to see for yourself just how important this friendly tip is.)
Please don’t drink and drive.
Do I need to say any more on this one?
Okay, actually, I do: I really wish that more motorcyclists as well as car drivers paid attention to this one, too. F and I have a strict no alcohol policy when we’re riding, and we always cringe a little when we see a roadside bar with a big line of motorcycles in front of it from folks doing the “TT” ride (Tavern to Tavern). Everybody would be better off if everybody made sure they were alert and sober behind the wheel — or the handlebars.
Put. Down. The. Damn. Phone.
Dude. DUDE. The text can wait. YOU CAN NOT MULTITASK AT THE WHEEL. And if you’re thinking, “Well, that stuff applies to other people. I’m careful about it, so I’m fine,” YOU’RE WRONG. (I clearly feel ALL CAPS STRONGLY about this.) I of course wouldn’t wish an accident on anyone — but if you’re in a car and get distracted, you’ve at least got a lot of car around you between you and the world. We’ve got our motorcycling clothes, our wits, and trust that you care what’s happening beyond your windshield keeping us safe. Don’t leave us with just 2 out of 3.
Don’t park on top of us.
Yeah, we’ve all seen those annoying drivers in parking lots who think that their car is just so special that they manage to take up 4 parking places just to make sure no one gets close enough to scratch the paint job. While a motorcycle can’t do that, generally we do like to have a bit of space around us when we park. We need more room than you’d think: room to get on and off the bike, stretch our legs, maybe we need to swap out gear for something in the saddlebags and then need to repack — and we’d really like to be able to pull straight out of the parking place instead of backing out. And if it’s warm out, we really appreciate having that room to move in the shade.
So when there’s plenty of parking lot to be found, please don’t park right next to us, especially if you have a ginormous SUV. A little breathing space means a lot. Plus, careless can happen at 5 mph just as much as it can at 50, and motorcycles can’t jump out of the way on their own.
Enjoy your color tours as much as we plan to enjoy ours this coming week! See you out there — please, see us out there, too.