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Lethal memory fail: Why drivers see, and then forget motorcyclists (cbc.ca)
80 points by pseudolus 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments

As a motorcyclist and defensive driver I find these kind of articles worrying, because they imply that riders are rolling around trusting other people not to hit them.

The first rule of motorcycling, that you accept when you swing your leg over a bike, is that no matter whose fault any collision might be, it is your responsibility and yours alone to anticipate and avoid all such incidents.

"But he pulled out in front of me" is never a valid excuse for hitting a car. You should have seen them. You should have slowed to a speed where you could evade or stop in time. You should have anticipated their dumbassery and accounted for it.

If you're not willing to accept responsibility for your own wellbeing you should not be on a bike, full stop.

I’m a motorcyclist, and I don’t get how this works for you in real life.

If I’m riding down the road and there’s a car stopped at a stop sign or intersection, and we make eye contact, yes I assume they see me. I do not come to a full stop in the middle of the road to let them turn just in case they forget we looked at each other. There’s no way to ride that defensively and not get hit by car drivers behind me, or make weird illogical trade offs that otherwise increase my risk of being hit. Yes, we can all ride defensively, but at some point we’re trusting other drivers to behave logically.

Cyclist rather than motorcyclist here, and that's correct. You read the body language of cars. If you pay attention - full attention with your head up on the situation, and not on your music or phone conversation - you can read what cars don't notice you, which ones do and will yield, and which ones do but will aggressively move first. You adjust your speed and path to accommodate for that as best as you can, case by case.

Holding to your line every time you know you have the right of way is stupid, because some drivers will violate it either intentionally or inadvertently. It should be the [motor]cyclist's right, but realistically it isn't because we're the ones not shielded by two tons of crumple zone. But defensively yielding every time is also stupid, because some drivers will indeed respect your right of way, and that impedes other users on your same right of way.

The right approach is to judge it case by case with your full attention on how best to react, which changes with every situation.

I think that personal responsibility goes both ways. I love cycling. I used to drive my daughter to school every day.

Whatever vehicle I am operating (or even if I am walking), I should be paying attention as much as I can. Yes, the stakes are much higher for pedestrians and cyclists. Yes, it is much easier to zone out when driving. Adding in texting while driving, and we get more of those short-term memory effects.

I am reminded of this:



In the early days, the automobile makers made a concerted effort to change the culture around "who is responsible". Yes, they standardized the rules of the road to make it safer ... but they also injected into the culture to shift the responsibility to people who are not driving on the road.

In the end, I think for most people, they don't really want to get hurt, or see other people get hurt.

Agreed that everyone wants to do the right thing, I see car drivers doing it everyday on the streets of San Francisco. I also see idiots texting and speeding. But I digress.

Even the ones who are trying to drive cautiously fundamentally accelerate much faster and move faster and have 3000 lbs on me.

We need highly separated infrastructure in cities or an extremely low speed limit (15mph) in cities on non car only roads.

No amount of good will and mutual responsibility is going to solve this problem.

Yeah, architecture can influence choices people make. It is something at the heart of Christopher Alexander’s work on architecture, although he generalizes this to human interactions.

When we look at that, we look at the whole. Safety is only one concern out of many. Fostering a sense of personal responsibility is another. There are others: artistic beauty and grace; personal initiative and prevailing over challenges; kindness and universal kinship towards all of mankind. Just to name a few.

An excessive focus on safety will prevent people from developing that sense of personal responsibility.

So this isn’t something to “solve” like that. We have not even figured out just what it is we want to do as a society. We have not even been able to recognize as a society that people have a diversity of views, and that individuals are at different stages of maturity and growth.

Even so: I generally agree that dedicated infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, and public transportation is way better than this excessive focus on cars and SUVs. Investing into is costly, but we have to look at it as investing towards our children and grandchildren’s futures.

>If you pay attention - full attention with your head up on the situation, and not on your music or phone conversation - you can read what cars don't notice you, which ones do and will yield, and which ones do but will aggressively move first. You adjust your speed and path to accommodate for that as best as you can, case by case.

Cannot agree more. I would go so far as to say the ability to anticipate what another party will do is a prerequisite to being a good driver/cyclist/pedestrian.

Then to throw a monkey-wrench into the mix: people, such as those on the ASD spectrum, who have difficulty decoding or intuiting body language, adapting to it, and giving out the signals about their intentions.

As a cyclist I think you are on point. Like people, cars have body language. It is so telling that I can even tell which cars are at a stop sign in the middle of the night and are waving me through the intersection even though they have the right of way and there's no way I can see into their vehicle (seriously guys, just go if you have the right of way. I don't trust you) as opposed to someone who is just stopped and not paying attention.

Well,it's not an absolute rule to follow in every situation but they key is adjust your speed to enable preventive action. In your scenario I don't stop, but maybe I slow down instead of sailing through the intersection. I can come to a stop faster if the other guy does do something stupid, so at least I have a chance.

As the article suggests(and from my own experience), making eye contact is no guarantee.

edited to clarify my point

> and we make eye contact, yes I assume they see me.

Oh, that doesn't work reliably enough. Far from uncommon for cars that are stopped at a side junction, have a driver that looks, appears to see and make eye contact, then pulls out anyway...

You do seem to develop some sort of sixth sense for the ones that will. Then you can try to get them to see by over-using your carriageway - swerve to gutter then to centre line, etc, expecting and setting up to swerve behind the pulling out vehicle.

While I mostly agree you, I think “never valid” is a bit extreme. My uncle was hit by a drunk driver that turned left into his lane at the last minute on a straight road.

These type of incidents, which are rare and can’t be avoided, is why I took my bike off the road and only take it to the track.

Maybe the first rule of riding is “it’s not the safest form of transportation and you must accept the risk”?

I've always liked "Ride like everyone else is trying to kill you, because they are."

Myself, I'm a cyclist, but a lot of motorcycle rules and bike rules overlap.

Definitely, the common theme is you're on the outside of the vehicle and any impact is gonna be really personal.

I actually feel far safer on a motorcycle than a push bike, because I have much bigger contact patches, far better brakes, stickier tyres and the ability to out-accelerate almost any kind of trouble. I'm also wearing at least half leathers and a proper full face helmet.

As a rider myself, I don't understand that philosophy, and I've never seen another rider follow it, even when they claim to. Certainly, if you believed that, you would never be within a mile of any other vehicle on the road.

"The Matrix Reloaded" featured a 30 minute action sequence showing what it's like when a tiny fraction of other drivers are actually trying to kill you. Spoiler: without Neo swooping in to "do his Superman thing" and save you, you're dead, even if you've got automatic weapons and kung fu training.

If everyone is literally trying to kill you, someone will, regardless of how careful you are.

I'm not being pedantic—there are situations, like the one described in the GP, that you just can't humanly do anything about.

That's really not that helpful as a point of view. If it were really the case you'd avoid using nights at light because they'd just draw attention from all these bloodthirsty motorists and you'd be better off in a ninja suit.

I see your point and there are some things that as a rider you could never be expected to anticipate, like your example where the drunk driver swerved at the last minute. (Even more defensible cases include things like "the control arm broke and the car instantly swerved across 3 lanes of traffic" which actually happened a few years ago in my city, if that happens you just gotta accept that $deity is out to get you).

I'd amend it to "anything that you could reasonably have anticipated is your fault, including people pulling out in front of you, cars changing lanes as if you weren't there, etc."

It’s interesting to me: As a fellow motorcyclist, I agree with your philosophy wholeheartedly. But most bicyclists (who are arguably at more risk from a car/truck than a motorcyclist) disagree with this just as wholeheartedly.

I seriously wonder why this dichotomy exists, especially as bicycles are gaining electric motors capable of propelling them at higher and higher speeds.

As a cyclist, I believe that the driver should be held to the higher standard, but also that I can never trust them to live up to their responsibility, so I gotta be ready to stop and/or dodge any reckless maneuver they make.

We tend to conflate the moral judgement of responsibility/fault with the actual reality of responsibility. If you're driving a deadly vehicle, the moral burden is on you not to kill me, but I still carries the practical burden of not getting killed.

Obviously, if I'm super reckless on my bicycle, I could still be killed by a responsible, blameless driver, but if we're equally careless, I would say I was behaving in a practically irresponsible manner and the driver a morally irresponsible manner. I was stupid, they were negligent.

(I rode a motorcycle occasioanlly for a while, but not enough to get to where I felt other cars were a bigger threat to me than my own inexperience was. "I could die taking this corner.")

> held to the higher standard

This I disagree with. For better or worse, we are typically the ones who are riding on roads designed and built for them. We need to be held to the same standards, if not higher standards as motorcyclists and bicyclists, as we're intentionally playing in their turf, without their safety equipment.

If a bicyclist is careless, they are both stupid and negligent. If a car driver is careless, they are both stupid and negligent. The difference is that being careless on a bike of any type is more dangerous to you than being careless in a car, meaning that a biker can't afford to be careless if they want to go home at night.

>> held to the higher standard

> This I disagree with.

Well the law and society disagree with you. The type of reasoning is very ubiquitous too. The more dangerous thing you are operating the more responsibility you have. We generally have morals that align to it being worse to take someone else's life than your own, though we don't encourage either. A car can do much more damage to others than a motorcycle can. A motorcycle can do more damage than a bicyclist can. A bicyclist can do more damage than a pedestrian. It isn't surprising that the right of way follows the inverse of this; those that are most vulnerable have a higher right of way.

I think you are also conflating two different things. Legally and socially we consider the car to be held to a higher standard because it is more dangerous. Practically when I'm on a bike I have to be more vigilant because I'm more vulnerable and I value my life. But when we say that someone should be held to a higher standard we can take an inverse to check our understanding. Disagreeing that cars should be held to a higher standard is equivalent to saying "cars should be held to less (or equal) standards as bicyclists", which I think sounds kinda absurd.

> The difference is that being careless on a bike of any type is more dangerous to you than being careless in a car

And I think this demonstrates that confusion. The bike is not more dangerous, the car is. There is more danger involved when riding a bike, but the car is definitely more dangerous. There is no way you can argue that a bike can do more damage than a car can. The car is more dangerous, therefore it has more responsibility. But that doesn't mean you should trust them to be responsible. Different things.

First, I'm in no way advocating for taking responsibility away from car drivers. I'm saying that it doesn't matter when there is an incident between a bike and a car.

At the end of the day, the only person you can depend upon to keep yourself safe is you. You can hope everyone else is doing what they can to avoid injuring you, but the most you can do is hope. The responsibility for remaining safe ultimately falls to you (regardless of your mode of transportation - there's always a bigger vehicle).

We can argue legal and moral responsibility until we're blue in the face, but at the end of the day it won't make a dead cyclist any less dead.

The motorcyclist idiom "The car always has the right of weight." is spread about for a reason.

I am not saying this applies to you and GP, but there are those of us who absolutely hate cyclists on the road at all (bike lanes are fine) because many of them have an entitled mentality and indeed, don't seem to care about their own safety, let alone the rules of the road.

Just this morning I had two cyclists cut horizontally across at 40 MPH street in front of me and other drivers. Many of them weave between cars or treat traffic signals as suggestions. Basically they want to be treated like normal traffic when it suits them and ignore laws when they want to. The ones who signal, wear helmets and reflectors and bright clothing, and drive on the road correctly are merely annoying because they hold up traffic and disrupt speeds, which is dangerous in itself because it causes a lot of lane swapping, but I can tolerate them.

I guess what I am trying to say is, thank you and GP for not being among those cyclists who are stupid, reckless, and entitled. I just know that someday I am going to be cleaning what passes for the brains of some idiot cyclist off of my windshield and am not looking forward to it.

I have however driven a motorcycle and while it is very dangerous, it is less so than a bicycle because you have the acceleration and maneuverability to get out of many situations. And motorcycles can drive the same speeds as the rest of traffic. People underestimate how many collisions are caused by traffic disruptions and abrupt changes of speed.

> Many of them weave between cars or treat traffic signals as suggestions. Basically they want to be treated like normal traffic when it suits them and ignore laws when they want to.

I don't want to defend this but rather explain this. Legally we are neither pedestrians nor normal traffic. But there is no explicit law for cyclists. You have to be both and it depends which situations it you are in, which typically falls under when it is most advantageous (or safest).

Specifically to the traffic signals, I'll illustrate first. The only time I have been struck by a vehicle while on my bike was while I was in a shared space (marked with sharrows) and waiting at a stop sign (I've also had cars come into the bike lane and hit/almost hit me, but that's another story that every cyclist has). Statistically this is actually the most likely place to be hit (motorcyclists know this too!). So why do cyclists not stop at stop signs? Because sitting at a stop sign is dangerous. Because to cross the intersection with momentum takes 2 seconds instead of the 5 that it takes when stopped. You are reducing your chance of being struck. This is why you won't see cops pull them over either (unless they are pulling into traffic, which is a different issue). Having momentum also SIGNIFICANTLY increases your ability to dodge things. You are absolutely the most vulnerable when you are not moving. To be safe on a bike you want to keep moving. We can't accelerate away from dangerous situations like motorcycles or cars. Humans don't have that kind of torque. It isn't just laziness or wanting to get to places faster (I'll give you that this is part). If you aren't moving then you are more vulnerable.

Cyclists that are breaking the law are generally doing it from learned behavior to increase their safety. Another common example is riding close to the middle of the road on shared roads. I cannot tell you how many times someone has opened a door on me. I've hit more than a few (most often when in I'm in a bike lane!). Both in day and night (when I have a fucking light that I directly aim into peoples' mirrors to try to make me more noticeable!). It's just easier to ride closer to the center and deal with the driver behind you that is upset and should be on the main roads anyways. Also, lots of dirt and crap accumulates in the bike lanes, so that's why we frequently move out of them. Frequently there's also gutters that would cause us to go over the handle bars.

Frankly, I value my safety over your convenience. That's what it comes down to.

> [the ones that] drive on the road correctly are merely annoying because they hold up traffic and disrupt speeds, which is dangerous

And we all agree. This is why you should argue for not just bike lanes, but protected bike lanes. But frankly most cars don't care about bike lanes and treat cyclists like second class citizens and disregard their spaces.[0]

There are plenty of cyclists that are idiots and doing dumb things that will make you question how much they value their life. But I want others to also realize that cyclists also develop other patterns that may not be straight forward to drivers. Understanding each other and the vulnerabilities we face is how we make everyone safer and how we inconvenience each other less.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

I appreciate this explanation and will try to meet you halfway although I don't agree with all your conclusions.

> Frankly, I value my safety over your convenience. That's what it comes down to.

That is quite natural, although with respect I must say it does illustrate my comments about an entitlement mentality, particularly since it is the cyclist who has voluntarily chosen to put themselves in such a dangerous situation. What many cyclists don't understand is that I value your safety as well, very much so.

That is why things like this:

> So why do cyclists not stop at stop signs? Because sitting at a stop sign is dangerous.

> Another common example is riding close to the middle of the road on shared roads.

...are incredibly frustrating. The reason why we have road laws at all is primarily to make driving behavior predictable. If people drive unpredictably, it raises the risk for everyone. On top of the inherent risks of driving a vehicle which does not have the speed and acceleration to be on the road in the first place.

Do cyclists care that cars might have to swerve into a ditch or another car to avoid them if they are cycling erratically? As far as I can see, they don't. Do they care if their cycling might delay commutes for dozens or hundreds of people? I commend you for being open about the fact that you seemingly do not.

Fundamentally, all of the arguments cyclists make would apply to someone walking on the road or riding a skateboard down it. Yes, it is incredibly dangerous. Fundamentally and inalterably so. It is indefensible when motorists invade bike lanes. They should be fined for that. That is the space for bikes. Sidewalks are the space for pedestrians. The road is the space for cars. (I am speaking from what I see as the logical perspective, not the legal perspective.)

I have been to places like India where there are basically no rules followed about who can be on the road, riding what, or how they are driving. It is total chaos and utterly terrifying. I am incredibly glad it is not like that in the US.

I agree with the need for bike lanes where bikes are heavily used (or if there is good evidence of latent demand for them if bike lanes existed). It often does not make financial sense to build them where they would be used infrequently, as that money could be used for other forms of public transit. Purely from a safety perspective, in my view, where bike lanes are not built it would be better policy for cyclists to cycle on the sidewalk rather than the road, because at least if a bicycle hits a pedestrian there is a low risk of fatality.

I really do appreciate your explaining this so calmly and neutrally however, as I find the self-righteous fury of so many cyclists very annoying as, from my perspective, they are the problem. For some reason this is a really charged issue for many people. Road rage all around, I suppose.

> is more dangerous to you

Emphasis on "to you". I consider it worse to be careless with other people's lives than with my own. I could cause someone else's death with my bicycle, but it's less common than in a car.

Additionally, I'm not cycling on the highway. I'm cycling on mixed-use roads, the majority of which have bike lanes. None of these are car-only roads. Those do exist, but I don't bike on them.

> For better or worse, we are typically the ones who are riding on roads designed and built for them.

There's your problem right in the open. (Interestingly, the first modern roads were built for bicyclists.)

You've chosen to place your life in jeopardy by riding a push-bike in traffic. Surely that bears some consequence?

Often there is no other alternative. If you ride a bike for transportation, you have to live with traffic. Trails and bike lanes are almost non-existent. If you ask, most cyclists would love to not ride in traffic. We are always advocating for dedicated trails and protected lanes so we don't have to ride with large vehicles.

I would be fine restricting bikes to trails and dedicated bike lanes, if they existed. In the meantime we have to find a way to live together, like roommates in an apartment.

If I drive a car, I'm choosing to put other people's lives in jeopardy instead. Seems like the bike is the moral choice here.

Couldn't say about your local laws, but in the US (where I ride) cycling is a right extended to all, but driving a car is a privilege which requires certification. My sense is that the spirit of those laws aligns with some of the discussion here, cars kill (other) people, where cyclists are likely to only get themselves killed.

"You've chosen to place your life in jeopardy by showing up at school..."

Yeah, well, there was a time that riding a bicycle or going to school wasn't nearly as dangerous. But you're going to blame the victims here?

> But you're going to blame the victims here?

I think this needs to be emphasized more. Saying that a bicycle is more dangerous than a car is equivalent to saying that being a bank teller is more dangerous than a gunman. Sure, that may be true, but are we really going to blame the bank teller here?

FWIW everywhere other than public roads the smallest traffic is held to the highest standard (i.e is expected to look out for and plan around other traffic). The rules are basically only go where you're allowed to go (don't walk on railroad tracks and don't be the wise ass who drives the mini-fork lift into the office to deliver the mail) and when you encounter a different type of traffic yield to everything bigger than you. For example: If you are on foot and get hit by a fork lift it's on you. If your forklift gets hit by a truck it's on you. If your truck gets hit by a mining dump truck it's on you. If your mining dump truck gets hit by a train then it's on you. (Obviously these examples don't hold in exceptional circumstances.)

The reasoning behind it is that the smaller the traffic the more situational awareness it has (no blind spots on a pedestrian) and the quicker and easier it is for it to adjust what its doing to account for other traffic.

Public roads have a much more complex set of rules and large swaths of them are usually ignored in specific situations and in general there's a lot more ambiguity over who should do what.

Bicyclists suffer political disability under [typical US] traffic laws. Bicyclists are not afforded a full traffic lane when traveling. Bicyclists are prohibited from the highest quality roads. Bicyclists are required to ride on the shoulder. Even the best laid bike lanes don't give cyclists the right of way. Many many bike routes are shared with pedestrians.

Motorcyclists on the other hand enjoy first class status under typical traffic laws.

I think the rules of the road everywhere I’ve lived in the US (New Orleans, Los Angeles, Boston, and Seattle) has encouraged cyclists taking a lane rather than riding on the shoulder. I’ve seen more and more bike signs right in the middle of the right lane of traffic, too.

That said once night falls I usually adopt the attitude of “assume cars will try to kill me if they see me” and avoid them as much as possible by keeping to back roads and being extra paranoid when I have to cross major streets, despite having extra lights on my bike.

> Bicyclists are required to ride on the shoulder

Where all the dirt and glass accumulate. Where cars pull over (even if not allowed). Where parked vehicles open doors without looking.

> Bicyclists suffer political disability under [typical US] traffic laws.

Yes, but,

> Bicyclists are not afforded a full traffic lane when traveling. Bicyclists are prohibited from the highest quality roads. Bicyclists are required to ride on the shoulder.

This isn't true anywhere I've lived in the US.

Really? Bikes are allowed to ride on freeways where you live, actually out in traffic?

I never said bikes were allowed on freeways.

As a cyclicst and motorcycle rider, I think there are a few explanations.

1. Stopping and going on a bicycle is much more painful and leads to more risk taking behavior.

2. A cyclists own energy isn't nearly as scary as a motorcycle. I often find myself modeling accidents as "what if I ran into this stationary thing" which on a motorcycle you want to be preparing for as it is more likely and higher impact but on a bike. Less so. Unfortunately a moving car hitting you is the more likely scenario. Also on a motorcycle you're managing the traction of the wheels through turns, something I've rarely thought about on a bicycle. So you're just in a lower effort more vigilant headspace.

3. Cars don't feel a constant compulsion to pass motorocycles nor "go before the cyclist can slow them down". So I think the constant back and forth "getting fucked" has setup this bizarre altruistic punishment mindset in both cars and cyclists that leads to fuck bikes on the car side and fuck the laws on the bike side.

Why do you claim that most bicyclists espouse some extremely specific philosophical viewpoint? Have you surveyed a representative sample of cyclists or something? It's just extremely weird to me to make such a sweeping claim about a large group you don't count yourself in.

Right here on HN. In any of the dozens of pro-bicycle articles which appear every month.

For example, discussing almost hitting a bicyclist on a 70mph road at night with the cyclist wearing dark colors with no reflectors or tail light:

>This is absolutely your fault. You're driving too fast for the conditions. You're the one who can't see what's ahead; you're the one who has to drive slower.


> It is not their responsibility to ensure you drive at a pace such that you can stop before striking an obstacle that was hard to see. Should we require pedestrians using the road (like the one without shoulders) to dress in bright colors as well?

And from some other threads:

> >Her not wearing a helment not only derailed her life, but it caused major problems in the lives of everyone around her.

> Blame the victim? How about the driver, was it not his/her fault rather than your sisters?

Here's from someone else:

> While momentum argument is real, my personal philosophy as a daily commuting biker in France is "I'm the more exposed to risk and the more hated road user, so don't get in the way of cars and don't ever dare touch pedestrians"

> That being said, yes I do pass red light when I have good clearance and I don't "emergency brake by courtesy" for pedestrians that are not already engaged in crosswalks or clearly far from my course.

> Theses two paragraphs are perfectly compatible IMHO. It's just that in order to play with the rules you must know and accept them and be aware that you are doing something borderline. And by borderline I mean something specifically NOT dangerous to others and yourself. If it's dangerous it's just plain dumb and irresponsible.

And a justification for breaking the law:

> I was once hit by a taxi while stopped at a light. He he did a right hook turn straight into me. This is why I don't stop at lights if I don't have to, and why I always get towadd the middle lane when I'm biking past a potential right turn zone.

Yeah. A collection of personal anecdotes from an internet forum aren't data supporting your hypothesis for all kinds of reasons. Just off the bat, there is some bias in people who visit HN and choose to comment on threads; secondly, there is some bias in the comments you notice and remember.

Extrapolating from anecdotes to sweeping generalizations isn't intellectually sound.

Not the OP, but I’m pretty sure they are basing it on the same observations I have. The vast majority of motorcyclists I encounter are riding defensively, while the majority of cyclists I see in city traffic are aggressive and ignore most traffic laws.

This is likely selection bias though. The cyclists that you notice the most are bad actors. You don't notice good acting cyclists as often because they don't inconvenience you. This is basically the classic example of selection bias.

Do bicyclists have an organization like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF)?

Most of what I understand about motorcycle safety was taught by various MSF courses. In many states, the MSF is the most direct way to get your motorcycle endorsement. This makes them fairly sticky in the community.

You may be on to something here - I know that I was taught by the MSF, and their comments did stick with me.

In my experience, bicyclists tend to go slower, stick to downtown roads or rural country roads and generally do not attempt the same sort of highway driving that motorcycles do. Eg. Freeway/interstate.

So while they may be in more danger, there is a different set of expectations.

One point of clarification - I as a motorcyclist love rural roads. They make for fantastic, low stress rides. As a bonus in my area, they tend to include a lot of curves, which are lots of fun on a motorcycle.

Fellow motorcyclist here.

visibility. in my case I will ride with the high beams on during the day, if I am directly behind another car in stop and go I will turn them off. I also run small projector/fog lamps down low to form a light triangle which I believe further increases my being noticed. Yet as you imply, I don't trust that I am ever seen.

it isn't just short term memory but people just aren't paying attention to the drive. even in my car I see people on their phone or worse reading their phones display, all in a state that is hands free! the numbers are frightening if you think about it.

it was mentioned in another thread about speed and cars and that the manufacturers have had the ability for many years to keep our cars at legal speeds but none choose to do so and I doubt the public would permit it unless mandated by law. Well the same can be said about smart phones, passenger or not it may well be necessary for them to determine if they are in a vehicle and just not allow the display to be used.

Notice me, hell they have to put their phone down first. People miss light changes and on coming traffic far too often all because of their phones

I will ride with the high beams on during the day

Please quit doing that. It makes it extremely difficult to judge your distance. You think you're doing it to avoid having me pull out, and ironically I'm more likely to pull out because I haven't the faintest idea how far away that blazing ball of light is.

Seriously, do people that do things like this never look to see what it looks like from the other side? Or is it the power of the ol' cargo cult/urban legend/"common sense" (see also: "loud pipes save lives")?

I also run small projector/fog lamps down low to form a light triangle

That's what's going to save you, not being obnoxious with your high beam. It's a not-common pattern, and it establishes that you're not a car with a headlight out.

As a cyclist I usually had 4 lights on the front, one central main/steady light for illumination and then two bar end lights that showed the edges of my handlebars (visible front and rear) and then either another flashing light either down low at the bottom of my forms or on my helmet. And the similar at the back.

The amount of bus drivers and taxi drivers that chatted to me at the traffic lights and told me that the set up helped them judge my distance was great. I really think it helps people figure where you are and how your bike is moving. Plus if any one of my lights was hidden for a moment, there were 3 more to see. And at worst if one battery went I have more to get me home safely. I ride with lights on at all time.

As a fellow motorcyclist (middle aged, and still alive) I completely agree with you. NEVER rely on anyone seeing you. Nobody does see you, and nobody cares. It's your responsibility to see and anticipate what everyone else is doing.

In fact you should know if a car is about to change direction before its driver does. It gets easier with experience; a human driver gives many hints.

In the future, AI-powered cars may not give any hint, or different ones. Just like we advertise new drivers we should absolutely signal self-driving cars.

> In fact you should know if a car is about to change direction before its driver does.

I just feel this deserves repeating. I've had times where drivers who didn't know where they were going cut me off repeatedly. Nothing resulted besides some burned rubber and a few very angry hand signals because I was paying far more attention to them and their trajectory than they themselves were.

While I strongly agree with the spirit of this, I feel there are enough exceptions to this principle for it to be more pragmatically put.

For example: Take a two lane road with no median barrier. Whether cycling, motorcycling or driving I have no choice but to trust that road users coming towards me stay on their opposite side of the road. I have to hope that they are not subject to a moment's distraction, or mechanical failure, or drunk. It's almost impossible to anticipate and avoid incidents like this. If I was a victim of such an incident does that automatically mean I didn't take enough responsibility for my wellbeing? Or does it mean I judged the risks of using a public road and was unlucky, whether due to someone else's dumbassery or otherwise?

My point is that there are many incidents that a diligent, innocent road user simply cannot avoid, and we shouldn't be so quick to apportion responsibility.

That's an interesting example, as if I trusted oncoming cars to stay on their side of the road I'd be dead many times over. It's very common for cars to pull a few feet over the center line to go around an obstacle (such as a bike going their direction...) without adequately checking if the space they're pulling into is unoccupied. This is one of the reasons you want to stay toward the center of your lane rather than drifting towards the middle of the road, even when a bend in the road would make that the natural thing to do.

I don't mean blind trust of course, and you state everyday occurrences of which we should all be ready for. What I mean is a more drastic change, completely leaving their lane and entering yours with no warning. In the case of a serious and immediate mechanical fault with wheels, steering or brakes on a bend, neither party can predict or prepare for this.

Riding a motorcycle has made me a better driver in general. On a bike my full concentration is on making sure I don't die. Constantly running through scenarios. What do I do if the car in front of me slams on their brakes? What if the car I'm passing doesn't see me and tries to merge into me? What if there's something on the road and I have to avoid it? These are all things that have happened to me while riding. You have to be fully aware of everything around you when you ride a motorcycle, and for me that has carried over into car driving as well.

The list of potential actions another road user can do includes malicious punishment passing, failing to stop behind you, and intentional collisions. There is nothing the rider can do to stop these without stopping riding altogether. You also can't brake to avoid a car that goes into the side of you.

At some point, you have to trust others to obey the rules of the road. An article like this is not zero-sum, it doesn't have to make your riding any less defensive.

> You also can't brake to avoid a car that goes into the side of you.

I wear a biker tailbone protector and a back protector + an helmet when I go snowboarding and I'm an amateur snowboarder at best that rarely goes in the park and rides at mediocre speed.

Why I usually don't see cyclists wear some of them protections?

1. Helmets are pretty common for road cyclist in places where the roads aren't super safe. Tailbone & back protection aren't super useful do to the kinds of accidents you get.

2. A big difference is downhill versus (mostly) flat. I only wear my helmet about 10-20% of the time when I'm ski touring. Downhill bikers wear all sorts of padding & protectors.

> Tailbone & back protection aren't super useful do to the kinds of accidents you get.

They are useful for the same kind of accidents that happen to motrocyclists: being hit by something or hitting something.

Why don't drivers? Driving is the biggest killer of young people.

Any vehicle you use for commuting is for convenience. Strapping into armour makes it harder so we don't expect it of drivers while we do expect it of extreme sports.

Supposedly the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers of the road but I've never looked into it.

> Why don't drivers?

They do in fact.

This is the list of the mandatory safety measures in Europe for motor vehicles, it's 24 pages long


> Driving is the biggest killer of young people

It is not driving, it's road traffic injuries, which includes biking.

Anyways it's worse in US than Europe and it's much worse for male than for female.

One could conclude that it's being a young male in the US that is actually dangerous.

> Any vehicle you use for commuting is for convenience

Assuming this is true, it is valid also for bikes or horses.

> Strapping into armour makes it harder so we don't expect it of drivers while we do expect it of extreme sports.

The entire car is literally an armor!


Why are cyclist so afraid of protecting themselves?

> Supposedly the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers of the road

They don't.

>It is not driving, it's road traffic injuries, which includes biking.

It's not from being hit by cyclists.

>This is the list of the mandatory safety measures in Europe for motor vehicles, it's 24 pages long

Quite a lot of it isn't, read articles 6 and 7 and the lists of implementation dates.

>Why are cyclist so afraid of protecting themselves?

After having people maliciously aim their car at you for being in front of them, it's quite patronising to have them assume you're riding unsafely. People in other countries manage much better safety records through infrastructure and education. On the contrary, I don't think there's any safety clothing I can wear that will save me if a car crashes into me. This thread assumes that exists, yet assumes the same doesn't exist for anyone who dies in a car crash. Why don't you wear a helmet when in a car?

Infrastructure doesn't improve where I am because the nasty, tribalist rhetoric swipes any safety issues under the rug by assuming cyclist fault. You've accused cyclists of being afraid of protecting themselves, thus categorising them in a tribe separate from your own. But I'm not separate from you: I'm a driver, too. Yet when I'm in a car with someone and they see a driver do something foolish, I never hear them call 'drivers' idiots, it's always about the singular person. The tribalism makes you think of the other party as less important.

(And the foolish things happen multiple times a day - I can guarantee I'll see someone speed when I drive home tonight)

Accusing me of being afraid of protecting just gives me the impression that you feel I have to earn the right for you to tolerate me in the road. An impression I get every time someone punish-passes me, or manoeuvres assuming a cyclist won't be in their path. And it's so tiring to be told it's my fault when I know how often I see people fail to obey the laws of the road at my expense.

> It's not from being hit by cyclists.

It is included indeed.

Being hit by cyclists is very common in places where bike density is high.

For example: https://nypost.com/2019/08/31/nyc-bicyclists-are-killing-ped...

> After having people maliciously aim their car at you for being in front of them, it's quite patronising to hav

On my motorbike I wear helmet and protections anyway, before having people maliciously aim at me (because you know, accidents can happen even without malice...).

Why are you so afraid to protect yourself?

> > Supposedly the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers of the road

> They don't.

Single sided bicycle accidents are pretty common.

> Single sided bicycle accidents are pretty common

Putting yourself at risk because there are supposed health benefit is stupid.

It's like being anti vax because you read somewhere that one time someone had a fever after a vaccine.

You can have health benefits AND protect yourself from dangers, one does not exclude the other (I would argue that protecting yourself from dangers will benefit your health more than cycling).

When I started riding a wise old motorcyclist told me "Ride like you are invisible".

I prefer "Ride like everyone will try to kill you"

That might actually dissuade a new rider :-) from ever riding !

it's funny because as kids the first thing they teach us is to look around before crossing the streets and make sure that vehicles on the streets saw us and stopped.

Adults are so pendatic about it that we develop muscle memory for it.

The reason is simple: don't assume other people won't make mistakes just because they were supposed to be careful and protect the weakest.

The safer option is to actually be proactive about safety, at the point that we would never think about crossing streets without looking first.

It is considered a severe distraction.

I noticed that bikers (not only them, but especially them) reasoning is kinda reversed.

I'm not a biker myself, I used to ride when I was younger, but I prefer to walk now.

As a walker I've had arguments with biker friends about the unsafety that their behaviour sometimes poses on pedestrians like going at high speed where there are other people around, arriving from behind when in a noisy city it's almost impossible to hear them and making simply suddenly dodging a puddle a life threatening hazard, riding on sidewalks, disobeying traffic laws etc. etc.

There is of course a majority of responsible bikers who are very careful, but what really baffles me is that talking about their own safety is a kind of taboo for a majority of them. Most of our arguments end up with them justifying with "cars are more dangerous, they should be more careful" and when I take them seriously and reply "so if cars are dangerous, why you never wear an helmet or other kind of protections except maybe a flashing light when on the streets?", the answer I get is usually "because it's their responsibility to not kill us".

It's really nonsense to me. I really don't understand the position.

So do you wear body armor and a helmet when out walking? If not, why not?

More appropriately (since armor won't protect you from a two ton SUV), do you wear bright colors, reflective tape, and night-time illumination when walking?

The answer from any smart pedestrian certainly should be yes, but it's surprisingly hard to buy neon yellow jackets or hats. They're rare for bclists and almost nonexistent for mcyclists, of which I'm both.

Apparently most mcyclists would rather be cool than visible.

If I walked at 30km/h on the streets I would definitely wear one

The poster in another comment says he wears helmet and body protections when skying, I think it's just common sense and not wanting to suffer sever consequences for no real reason.

I used to wear an helmet when skating.

Why bikers think they are the only immortal beings on this planet?

I might if I walked in the street. I don't encounter a lot of cars driving on the sidewalk, and in theory I shouldn't encounter cyclists there either.

motorcylists here ignore all noise ordinances and try to be as loud as possible to ppl notice them. One motercyclist told me that his loud noise saved his life more than once.

I personally think they should be ticketed for noise.

> "If you're at a junction and you see a motorcyclist coming, just say 'bike,'" he said. "That puts it into an extra form of verbal short-term memory and you know you'll still remember it's there seconds later."

It's really nice they can come up with a simple rule to sidestep the issue with our short term memory or attention glitching out like that.

like shisa kanko or "pointing and calling" https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointing_and_calling

When i saw that for the first time (in a tram in Nagasaki, as I recall) I first thought the driver is a few fries short of a happy meal. It looks so weird to Western eyes.

Then later reading up about it it actually makes a lot of sense.

Some more material to read up on it:


Lots of subway systems make the drivers do this. NYC does for sure, and I think Montreal as well. I'm sure there are loads of other ones.

In NYC someone played a good-natured prank on them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9jIsxQNz0M

No need for the irrelevant racism. Safety procedures aren't an inherent part of Eastern cultures.

Some US transit agencies do the same point and call.

Where on earth do you detect the slightest hint of racism in my comment? Implied or otherwise?

I'm genuinly curious, since bewilderment about cultural differences certainly does not a racist make.

>> It's really nice they can come up with a simple rule to sidestep the issue with our short term memory or attention glitching out like that.

It doesn't say if they tested that idea. I want to know if it actually works.

They do that kind of thing in other situations, I can't remember off the top of my head though.

>But he also found that participants were much more likely to miss the motorcyclist than the car driver.

Drivers have to sort threats in terms of risk. Cycles, motorized or not, are simply not as much of a threat as cars/trucks. So it makes sense that they would fall off the bottom first. Cars are dangerous to things that are less dangerous than cars and it is inherent I think. At some point we are going to have to stop blaming the driver for stuff like this and place the blame directly on the use of cars. The only real mistake a driver makes is to decide to drive somewhere in the first place.

> Drivers have to sort threats in terms of risk...At some point we are going to have to stop blaming the driver for stuff like this

Missing from your response is that there are both risks FROM and risks TO. We absolutely need to blame dangerous drivers for failing to prioritize the second category.

I mean, it's their fault to be sure, but can you blame them? Drivers have had nearly a century of society bending over backwards to suit them. We rewrote pedestrian law to give cars the right of way in all but a few select spots. We built a highway system and cut neighborhoods square in half to make road travel easier.

Driving has become far too casual, too "just a thing you do." People don't respect it anymore. I'm a car guy and I see it every day, people rolling around in cheap, crappy cars who have no respect and no interest in driving; driving is the thing they have to do to get to the thing they actually want/need to do. That's it to them. Because of that they see it as something that needs to be tolerated, an accepted nuisance, and because of that, they purposely distract themselves, try and pass the time. Make this boring, arduous task go quicker so they can get their shit done and move on to more interesting things.

It doesn't matter how good you are or not behind the wheel; if you just don't care, you're a fucking danger to everyone around you. That's something not nearly enough people appreciate anymore.

Edit: Tucking fypo.

"people rolling around in cheap, crappy cars who have no respect and no interest in driving"

I enjoy driving, and should mention that in some ways the most fun I ever had was in a $500 1990 Nissan Sentra. Plenty of people in fancy cars dgaf about the act of driving, and plenty of folks in cheap cars (especially ones where keeping them running these days is a labor of love) care more than you might think.

It's wrong to conflate conspicuous consumption with quality. Expensive cars are usually bigger and more dangerous. It's also wrong to conflate cars and driving. Loving cars doesn't make you a safer driver, and may well be the opposite, since it focuses your attention on your vehicle and not the social interaction of driving.

Maybe it's just my experience, but near every time I see someone pull a boneheaded move, it's a Kia, or a Nissan, or a Hyundai. I'm not saying buying an expensive car means you drive better, there's no link there, but what I will say there is drivers of expensive cars are often more aggressive, occasionally to a dangerous degree, but honestly? I'm relatively okay with that, because they'll cut you off in traffic but then they race off and that's that. Meanwhile somebody in a shitty Kia SUV is doing the speed limit in the left lane and holding up 4 miles of traffic. shrug

Maybe it's a socio-economic thing. Maybe they're stressed out from working low-paying jobs. I dunno. This is my experience and I know it isn't scientific data.

And to be clear, when I say I'm a car guy, what I mean is I enjoy both cars and the act of driving. Not to toot my own horn here but I'm going on 12 years of driving with nothing beyond a speeding ticket.

Edit: As an aside, I don't drive a particularly expensive car either so I'm not snobbing here. Most of the time I'm in my F-150 which is a little posh I suppose but hardly the most expensive thing on the road most of the time.

> I'm not saying buying an expensive car means you drive better, there's no link there, but what I will say there is drivers of expensive cars are often more aggressive, occasionally to a dangerous degree, but honestly? I'm relatively okay with that, because they'll cut you off in traffic but then they race off and that's that. Meanwhile somebody in a shitty Kia SUV is doing the speed limit in the left lane and holding up 4 miles of traffic.

What you just said is that you're OK with reckless endangerment and not OK with inconvenience. I would ask you to please reconsider your feelings here.

Slow people cause traffic jams, which in turn cause accidents. I've read multiple papers and articles about how slow left-lane travel causes safety hazards for everyone involved due to passing on the right, which is objectively less safe, causing more lane changes than is otherwise necessary for those trying to get around them, and the big one, causing deviations in the "norm" speed in a flow of traffic, which is the single best indicator for where accidents will occur.

I'd be happier still if we could not have people who go too slow or too fast, but failing that and given the choice between, if fast people are left to their business to cruise at whatever speed in the left lane, unobstructed by slow drivers, everyone is demonstrably safer. But because people conflate moving slowly with moving safely, it's considered taboo to say that out loud.

> I've read multiple papers and articles about how slow left-lane travel causes safety hazards for everyone involved due to passing on the right

This is a false dichotomy. There is in fact a third, safer alternative when driving already at the speed limit, which is not passing at all. Again you've chosen to prioritize convenience (speeding) over safety.

Speeding is not inherently unsafe. There are numerous places all over the world and even a few in the US where there are no enforced speed limits. When there isn't one, people tend to drive at a speed they're comfortable driving at. Your judgement on the safety of that speed is irrelevant to knowing how safe it is.

> Speeding is not inherently unsafe.

It very much is unsafe.

In some studies they find that speeding does not cause more accidents.

But speeding is still unsafe because speeding makes the accidents that do happen much more likely to be fatal.


The laws of physics??

I observed this as a cyclist as well and I don't know why. I'm a fan of Japanese cars, but 90% of the cars that endanger and almost sideswipe you are Japanese or Korean subcompacts. The other dangerous ones are entitled German luxury car drivers or the occasional pickup redneck but those are much rarer.

Exactly. One thing, at least in the US (in general) is that many people have similar feelings about driving as the GP, this includes the police. What it translates to is bad drivers are not held accountable for their actions.

Police in many cases use driving enforcement as a means of raising money, rather than reducing risk. Much of the infrastructure is designed to make driving easier and faster. We as a society need to make it unacceptable to drive at all dangerously, and introduce better alternatives (buses, rail, protected bike lanes, etc), and yes, driving needs to become less convenient in order to make other non-drivers safer on and around the roads.

No, it's part of human nature to be concerned about threats to ourselves above almost everything else. It's not only natural, but it's probably not possible to fully turn off this tendency.

Claiming that people should automatically be as concerned about being a danger to others as they are about danger to themselves is a nice thought... the world would be a good place if that was the way things worked... but it's not. Even the most educated and enlightened people put their own safety first and the threat to others second, because we're all human.

I think a credible threat of serious punishment would go a long way. Unfortunately the justice system and police have completely abdicated any responsibility they might have there.

Maybe instead of attempting to find fault we should roll the dice in accordance with the speed vs lethality tables whenever a driver hits something with another person in it.

Sorry Jim, we're going to have to kill you today. The simulation says you drove right into the maw of a redwood chipper.

That's basically what it feels like using a mode of transportation that carries a high risk of death in a collision.

So can we rationalize hitting pedestrians in the same way?

I've often said on HN that people are a great deal more rational than we give them credit for. We stink at explaining our rational decisions, but they are often quite rational.

In this case, brutally rational... at least in a very short term sense! I of course agree with everyone here that at the conscious level, I would love to prioritize bikes, motocycles, and pedestrians. But I don't drive at the entirely conscious level, and neither does anyone else. A lot of driving occurs at much lower levels.

This is not all bad; if we were all driving at fully conscious levels, we'd all be driving like student drivers all the time. That's what "fully conscious driving" looks like. It is not a desirable thing. It would be much worse than what we have now. Nevertheless, the fact that the rest of our brain is involved means that we must also consider the negative side effects of using our lower systems, and one of those side effects is that it is going to be, by default, intrinsically focused on avoiding immediate negative effects like pain, and much, much less focused on long-term considerations like "what we did to a stranger" or "how long we'll be in court". These systems just don't have a long time preference. Heck, what we are pleased to call our "conscious" minds aren't always all that great at balancing long term considerations.

You can blame these systems all you want, but that's not going to change anything about them.

My personal cognitive hack is to try to see them as walking lawsuits, and feeding the lower parts of my brain lurid, emotion-laden images of what will happen to me and my family if I do hit one of those things out of negligence. My conscious mind really is rather worried about one moment's negligence wrecking everything. It's... better than nothing. But I'm still not really speaking the subconscious' language. It may be "subconscious" but that doesn't mean it's "stupid"... it knows I'm lying if I try to claim that I'm going to be physically hurt if I hit them.

Sure, there are straight up sociopaths driving around and I agree that it would be good to get such people off the roads, but I am claiming that is not really all that important in the long run. We need to stop thinking that the problem is some bad drivers and move on to the idea that all drivers are to some extent irresponsible.

I don't think the average driver employs rationality when scanning the road. I think their attention is governed simply by probability.

99% of activity on the road are moving cars and trucks. So drivers look for moving cars and trucks, not fast mcyclists or slow bcyclists, and they largely ignore stationary objects like pedestrians (unless they're present in likely places like crosswalks).

It's the norm for anyone to see what you most expect to see and overlook the less salient stuff as "noise". For outliers like cyclists and pedestrians, I think the only solution is deliberately to become harder to overlook.

Personally, I suggest blinking lights on bcycles and pedestrians, and pulsing headlights (daytime) on mcycles.

I think of it as something like an arms race. Sure, I’d love to have a tiny one seater “car” that is just enough to get me from A to B. But I can only drive that with enough sense of safety for my preferences in a world where I’m reasonably assured to never be hit by a substantially larger vehicle. I’ve been rear ended by a distracted dual axel truck (probably like 3t or something) in the past. I only got bad whiplash, luckily, but just that is enough of an eye opener for a lifetime.

"People don't kill people, cars kill people"?

I had an accident two months ago where something similar happened:

I was waiting on my bike for an opening at a roundabout (rotary for US?) and the car behind me who saw me (he later confirmed it) started looking for a good timing to drive into the roundabout too and forgot about me.

He then started accelerating to drive into the roundabout just behind another car while I was still right in front of him. He completely destroyed my bike (which fell under me so I could walk aside and be safe) without noticing anything.

So.. yeah, the "see bike, say bike" rule seem nice and not a big deal. Please consider trying it :)

As a motorcyclist -- and lifelong learner w/ a degree in cognitive psychology -- I really appreciate demonstrations like this one^1 from Daniel Simons. It's a short video (< 90s), but for many first-time viewers, it's an eye-opening experience.

^1. https://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo

Edit: just saw @elosarv's link to a longer but more relevant "motorcycle invisibility training" video (https://youtu.be/x94PGgYKHQ0

My first thought was that the motorcyclist in the picture almost deserves to be hit for driving illegally and dangerously between two cars - ie lane splitting.

But from the comments, it does seem to be legal some places. But, in all other states in the US besides CA, it is explicitly illegal. It still seems unsafe even it is legal.

And that's how people usually react when someone is hit on 2 wheeled vehicle: trying to find a reason the rider deserved it.

It's built into the language of articles about crashes too. You'll see 'it is not known if the rider was wearing a helmet'[1] without any similar remarks about the driver of the car. Or the oxymoronic 'police are still investigating the accident'[2].

[1] I wrote this, then searched to find an example. Here: https://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/2018/05/vehicle_crashes_i...

[2] As above. No action being taken, yet they know it's an accident. Written 2 hours ago. https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/burton/burton-bridge-crash-...

And that's how people usually react when someone is hit on 2 wheeled vehicle: trying to find a reason the rider deserved it.

If I’m in a car and disobey the traffic laws and get in an accident with someone who was following the law - by definition, I’m at fault.

What you deserve and what you are at fault for are not the same thing. Fault is a legal concept - as you said, by definition - of who is responsible for the outcome. But that doesn't mean that breaking the law means you deserve broken bones and misery: things you deserve are things you should be rewarded with or punished by for an action. If you deserved it, the punishment for illegal lane splitting (or an equivalent crime, like speeding) would be for the police to take a baton to your knees.

After jumping to blaming the rider, you graciously accepted you were wrong about the law in some jurisdictions. Unfortunately, you then continued trying to blame the rider without taking the lesson that you may not be aware of what's safest for a bike rider to do. The only explanation I see for this is that you place people on bikes in a different mental tribe to your own.

If I drive into oncoming traffic, run a red light, fail to stop at a two way stop, etc. why shouldn’t I expect to be in an accident? I’m intentionally breaking the law and drivers expectations.

Why shouldn't the other road users expect you to break the law?

You drive with the expectation that someone will be going the wrong way?

Well if you're hit while lane splitting, it's because someone didn't indicate or look

And if you are hit while driving the wrong way, is it also because someone wasn’t looking? The lane splitter did something they knew was illegal (in the jurisdiction in question), why should I be on the lookout for illegal behavior?

From even a practical standpoint, if I’m on a motorcycle, I know that I’m at an increase risk of injury. Why wouldn’t I be more careful?

No, that's not true. Take the simple case, you're not belted in (therefore disobeying laws, let's choose California, for example) and the light turns green but it turned for both you and the other side because of a malfunction. You would be marked down as no one at fault.

You were both obeying the traffic laws. In the case of lane splitting where it is illegal - one person clearly wasn’t. Not wearing your seat belt didn’t cause the accident.

Oh no, one person wasn't following the laws: no belt. You'll get ticketed for that in CA (where the scenario is set).

That's to illustrate precisely the idea you mentioned. The violation of laws must contribute to the accident for it to count towards fault.

Now that it's clear to me that you agree with that, I'm happy to close the discussion.

And most people will agree with that if directly asked the question. But given a situation with even the slightest hint of potential ambiguity, people tend to basically erase the familiar elements and scrutinize the people who are the most unusual.

Lane splitting is safe (safer than not lane splitting, in congestion) provided the motorcycle doesn't go too much (ca. 15 mph) faster than traffic.


> safer than not lane splitting

The study itself explicitly states that they don't have the data to reach any conclusions about the relative safety of splitting vs not.

What the study shows is that riders who were lane-splitting at the time of an accident sustain fewer injuries than those who weren't. It mentions some differences between the two groups -- lane-splitters are more likely to be commuting and have better safety gear -- but glosses over how that impacts the injury rates.

I don't have another study to cite but motorcyclists who commute are likely a much less injured group than recreational riders. For a host of reasons, from not engaging in as much risky behavior -- who wants to die on the way to work? -- to being more skilled on average due to experience.

In my experience, lane splitting is much safer. It has saved me from violent rear-end collisions on several occasions.

I'll also go as far as to say that commuting is certainly more dangerous than most recreational riding (the exception being recreational riding when the drunks are out, e.g. midnight on the weekend) due to traffic density. The text-and-drive crowd is also more active (both on their phones and on the road) during rush hour, perhaps because driving inattentively seems like a safer practice at lower speeds.

> commuting is certainly more dangerous

Commuting being a seemingly more dangerous activity doesn't preclude commuters from being a lower-risk-of-injury group. Age could be another factor -- older riders are more likely to be injured in motorcycle accidents, and might be less likely to commute or lane-split.

The study is crap. It lacks the data to control for other factors and draw meaningful conclusions about much of anything.


I don't see where in that study it shows what you claim. They specifically say:

> This study is not without limitations. The primary limitation is our lack of exposure data. To estimate how the risk of being involved in a collision changes when motorcyclists chose to lane- split, we would require information on both the lane-splitting and non-lane-splitting riding that is done by some identifiable sample of motorcyclists. The collection of these data is fraught with problems, and the current study did not attempt to collect such data. The current data set cannot be used to compare the collision risks for lane-splitting or non-lane-splitting riders.

A lot of things that "seem" unsafe to people who only drive will seem a lot different if you try other forms of transit. When pedal-cyclists take the lane (ride in the middle) it's not to piss you off, it's to make sure you see them or don't try to pass if unsafe, but plenty of people are surprised I don't just ride in the gutter or door zone, "for safety".

Lane splitting is legal in many jurisdictions, and it's only unsafe if the motorcyclist doesn't observe a few basic safety rules:

- If there's a gap ahead in stopped traffic, assume a car will pull across it and adjust your speed and attention accordingly

- If it looks like a car will change lanes without indicating, assume they're going to do it

- Assume nobody can see you and ride accordingly

As a cyclist I have to basically assume any car door will open at any time. How do you square that with lane splitting? I know it happens; I've seen dash-cam from incidents where a passenger opened their door during slow traffic and took out a motorcyclist lane-splitting.

Lane splitting is generally quite safe if: a) Other motorists are expecting it and paying attention and b) The motorcyclist isn't going much faster than other traffic (if I remember correctly, where I live the law is that you shouldn't go more than 15mph above the speed of the traffic).

I used to lane split when I had a motorcycle as the highway traffic was terrible for my morning commute and it was generally fine, though you would occasionally get an idiot doing that thing some drivers do where they indicated a lane change as they were doing it and without checking mirrors so you have to be very careful.

a) Other motorists are expecting it and paying attention and

In jurisdictions where it is illegal, why should a motorist any more “expect it” than they should expect a car to do any other illegal behavior? Of course safe driving 101, is that certain common behaviors you should expect.

Well, if it is illegal that is another thing entirely. But where I live, it is legal and basically every motorcyclist does it.

From what so can tell, it is illegal in Canada - the article is on a Canadian website.

It's legal in the UK for good reasons, in the event of the car behind not stopping you won't be crushed between the two cars.


It's common here in France and it wouldn't surprise me if it was considered safer; however I highly doubt it would be safer in countries/states where cars don't expect this to happen.

There's a second factor at work beyond memory - it's the human visual perceptive system. Bikes are not always moving across the visual field, and they aren't fitting the pattern of a bigger single-color smooth object so it's effectively camouflage.

This is an outstanding vid on the whole subject illustrating the problem and some avoidance methods. This should be taught in rider training but it's not (US).


Also an excellent video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x94PGgYKHQ0 - tongue-in-cheek but highly relevant "invisibility training for motorcyclists" by FortNine

Fantastic video, thanks for sharing!

Perhaps it’s just my training class, but we did get exposure to the SMIDSY and the Anti-SMIDSY maneuver, including watching that video.

This was in Montana, US.

Nice. Who was the provider?

I've been through the MSF's BRC, ERC and ARC and there's a glaring lack of detailed techniques like this. IMHO it should be taught before figure eights and all that parking lot stuff.

I don't recall the specifics. It was part of a "pass this course and skip the practicum for getting your license" program. It was 2 days long, with 2 hours of lecture and 6 hours on the bikes.

LATER: It's the Montana Motorcycle Safety Foundation that ran the course, and it was the "MSF Basic RiderCourse".

> (taneq) I'd amend it to "anything that you could reasonably have anticipated is your fault"

I agree with your amended comment. In 30 years of motorcycling I managed to avoid hitting cars that pulled out in front of me. I lost count of the drivers that would pull up to a side junction, look in my direction, actually lock eyes with me and then pull out in front of me.

Eventually I encountered a van driver who had perfected the maneouver so that I relaxed at the last second, just before he accelerated into my path. I hit the side of the van. Fortunately I got away with a few bruises and a bent bike, but it could have been a lot worse.

The incident made me realise that caution and good reactions aren't enough to guarantee accident avoidance. I no longer ride every day, which is a pity as I still love motorcycles.

Driver is used to look for wide vehicles with two headlights. It’s easy to overlook a motorcycle. I have something similar with street lights - sometimes after passing through intersection I realize I had no idea if it was red or green light. It was green obviously, but processing happened in my lizard brain, not the conscious one.

Since I know how this works, I’m more vigilant on my motorcycle. I always slow down before the intersection, sometimes well below the speed limit if it’s crowded. I don’t look at drivers, I look at wheels. I can see wheel rotation quicker than whole car movement.

Didn’t die yet, so I assume it works.

I think it possibly all boils down to our built-in instincts. We have evolved to be on the lookout for things which constitute a personal danger. (Those people who don't/can't are quickly allocated to the Darwin Awards competition.)

As a driver, a huge 20-ton truck is a very noticeable personal danger. Once seen, you make sure that you know where it is at all times when you're near enough to be 'damaged' by it.

On the other hand, a cyclist/motorcyclist, even when seen, is assessed as a 'negative danger'. That is, the cyclist is more at risk from you, rather than you from him, whether or not a collision actually occurs.

This means that a cyclist can be disregarded as a danger threat, and may be 'blocked out' to some extent. The amount of blocking out, I would expect, is a function of gradation amongst other present threats. In other words, if a huge truck is present, you're more likely to 'unsee' the cyclist.

This all happens subconsciously, and is just part of our evolution over millions of years as a species. As such, it probably means that we need to find ways to produce an 'un-natural' outcome rather than the current 'natural' situation..

A few months ago I was in my car, preparing to pull away from the curb. I saw 3 bicyclists, 2 closer and 1 further away in my rear/side-view mirrors coming down the street, so I waited. I was shocked to find myself pulling out after the first two had passed. It was like I'd forgotten the 3rd guy completely.

Luckily I caught myself in time and nothing bad happened, but it scared the crap out of me to realize my brain was being an asshole again.

A few tips from a long-time motorcycle rider...

1. When crossing a car that could potentially accelerate into your path, train yourself to keep a hand on your front brake.

2. Get better at emergency stops. Train your self to "wait for the weight", meaning progressively apply front brake so that the weight of the bike transfers to the front tire before full application. Practice emergency stops so you don't end up with a fist full of brake or over-hammer the rear. Try to train yourself to at least glance in the mirror when doing an emergency stop, to see if what is behind you could be more dangerous than what's in front.

3. Get your bike ready for emergency stops. Buy a bike with ABS, if possible. In the states, ABS is not yet the law for new bikes, but the decrease in insurance premiums usually means that ABS is practically free. Also, don't cheap out on tires - get high quality tires that match your riding (warm/cold, wet/dry, etc.)

4. Buy a tail light blinker - when your brakes are applied, it blinks the tail lights, and makes it much more obvious that you are stopping.

5. This may be a bit contriversial - I try to get near one side of the lane when I stop. My theory is that if a car is coming in "too hot", it gives them the chance to swerve and hit the car in front of you.

6. Be seen. I don't think that guy got the huge bike for visibilility like the caption said, I think he just likes Honda Goldwings. The real way to be seen is to wear neon (or at least loud colors) and add running lights to your bike.

7. After reading tons of accident reports in my area, I can say to be extremely careful when taking a passenger. There seems to be a lot of accidents on country roads with riders 2-up that get hit by cars or deer. My theory (also from taking on riders) is that the 2nd rider is a significant detriment to manuverability, and manuverability is the motorcycle rider's main positive safety attribute. Just take it slow when 2-up, and stay off the road when the deer are out.

8. This one I can't stress enough - don't become complacent. The majority of rider deaths are those over 50 in the U.S. Always look at cars like they are going to try to turn on you. Look at cars in the oncoming lane - are they slowing down? They could try to turn on you, cover the brake. I have found that this mindset gets pretty exhausting in urban traffic, and I have changed my riding habits to ride out in the country roads more than urban.

9. Wear a helmet and use the strap! I can't count how many YouTube videos of crashes that I have seen where the helmet ways lying 15 feet from the accident because the rider didn't strap it down.

10. Buy an appropriate bike. Smaller bikes are safer. It's in the U.S. safety statistics (DOT? can't remember which one) that the larger the bike, the more dangerous. My theory is that large bikes are less manuverable, which accounts for a lot of it. I'm not going to try to talk anyone of their liter bike, but please be realistic with your skills, and remember you can always trade up to more powerful as you gain skills. It took me 10 years of riding before I felt comfortable on my 125HP Kawi Z900. More a thing of maturity and restraint than the ability to control the bike (which has a great progressive powerband, easy to go slow).

One of my pet peeves is the proliferation of blue-white LEDs into areas where the previous generation of light technology was perfectly acceptable and safe. I think car owners trick up their cars with blue-white LEDs (as replacement headlights, or as "light bars" and floodlights) because they confuse blue-white LEDs with the spectrum emitted by the high intensity discharge headlights [0] that were formerly used on expensive cars.

Motorcycles have long had mandated daytime running lights, as it helps make them more visible. Do modern motorcyclists intentionally retrofit super-bright Blue-White LEDs thinking they help improve their visibility?

What would be a good way to reach motorcyclists to help them realize their blinding lights aren't actually as protective as they presumably think?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlamp#High-intensity_discha...

Good list. I haven't been riding for a few years, but I had boiled all of this down into one golden rule: Assume every car IS out to kill you. This is basically your rule #8, but a little more succinct.

Adding to your list, I'd also suggest rule #11: When riding on a multi-lane street or highway, never ride adjacent to another vehicle. Speed up to get ahead or slow down to fall behind. This helps to avoid the other vehicle making a lane change into your path. Keep out of the other vehicle's blind spot.

11. Vary your speed relative to traffic to create relative motion for other drivers to see.

That is a good one. I should add to that, and this may be contriversal, that riding slightly faster than traffic is better than riding slightly slower. When I am approaching traffic, the ability to respond to traffic is in my attentive hands. When traffic is approaching me, I have to wonder if some texting teenager is going to ram into the back of me. Now, some might say that "speed kills", and that is true, so YMMV, that is my own personal take (and honestly it would take all the fun out of it going slower than traffic!).

Rule 0: These rules are useful for bicyclists as well.

here is a tip: just drive a car. I understand that there are things you can do to lower the chances of getting hit, but at the end of the day there is way more risk associated with this mode of transportation.

Only safer because of all the other motorists. So we're stuck in a transportation arms race now and the only way to win is to pilot larger and heavier hunks of steel. Ok I'll start driving an APC so I don't even notice my next high speed collision with a car, maybe then I'll drag the flaming wreck behind my war machine for a few miles without realizing it. The visibility out of this contraption just isn't that great. I trust you'll understand that I just didn't see you!

Btw sorry it takes up 4 parking spots and gets 2mpg. Y'see, we're also in a competition to use the greatest amount of shared resources possible before we die.

i don’t think like that. I am saying that pragmatically if you want to live longer you should not ride a bike.

we are all make mistakes on the road. small or big, the consequence of that mistakes are far greater when you are on 2 wheels. It’s not even about size or mass, it’s about the fact that your body is going to be projected into a tree/a car/sidewalk etc.

"Cars kill too many people on motorcycles, so I'm going to drive a car rather than a motorcycle."

Are you familiar with the prisoner's dilemma?

That is often (but not always, due to economics or parking that favor a scooter or motorcycle) possible for motorcyclists, but is often not possible for bicyclists to whom, as other commenters have pointed out, these suggestions also apply.

One of the most annoying aspects of this, minus the whole dying part, is the reactions it leads to after near-misses. Since people effectively "don't see" motorcyclists, they often assume we're "riding crazy" if there's a near miss, since from their POV we just warped into being a moment previous to the incident. People are already biased towards not blaming themselves, so this just makes it worse.

It's even worse in "accidents", where the motorcyclist might not be able to give their side of the story immediately due to injuries. Now the police report is heavily biased (in practice), which makes sure there will be future insurance issues.

i'm a lifelong (nonmotor) cyclist finally learning to drive. what i notice is that driving is a lot more complex than cycling. you have so little space and so much vehicle. you have to stay in lane, take care when cornering. you are ultimately relying on cyclists or pedestrians not to do anything rash because the chances of you being concentrated on something else when a sudden crossing happens are significant. In which case you will definitely not see them.

I've done both for years and driving is definitely not more complex than cycling. The number of motorists who spend 90% of their drive time staring at their phones (and usually not causing an accident) attests to that. Cyclists on the other hand have to pay attention to the road to avoid hazards, other road users to avoid death, as well as balance their own weight the whole time (how many cyclists do you see putting on makeup on their way to work?).

Motorists should need to pay attention to their surroundings more since they've chosen a means of conveyance that can quite easily maim or kill due to a moment of inattention, but is that reality? No, because the risk is mostly externalized.

You simply forgot how hard it was to learn to ride a bike, and you aren't accustomed to driving yet.

you have to stay in your lane and pay attention even as a cyclist.

the consequences of a mistake are the ones that are really different - but on the upside you way less likely to get seriously hurt in a car vs riding a bike.

on top of that: it’s really fascinating for me to see people putting the burden of their own physical safety on other (ef if you know that a driver has practically a zero chance of seeing you in a situation why not protect yourself? it doesn’t matter that you’re right if you’re dead)

> you have to stay in your lane and pay attention even as a cyclist.

Sure, but my lane is 2x+ my width, and my body spans the width of my vehicle.

When I drive a car I'm not familiar with, it takes some time to get a sense for how wide it is. With a new bicycle, it doesn't--it spans from my left hand to my right hand. (My last driving experience was a short bus for the first time ever, after several years of not driving at all. A normal sized car is a lot less tricky, but still wider than and not centered on my body.)

Many drivers use their phones while driving. Few, if any, cyclists do. That seems fairly strong evidence for the relative difficulties.

I don't see anything in the article about how they differentiated instances of "saw but failed to remember" from constant bearing decreasing range accidents which are well known. How is this different?

Edit: Why the downvotes? Is my question probing at something people find incompatible with their ideology?

from the article:

> Chapman always sent two vehicles from opposite sides of the road during those trials — either a car and a car, or a car and a motorcycle. Then, right after the participant pulled out, he would stop the test and ask them to use a laser pointer to point where the oncoming vehicle(s) had been on the screen.

> What Chapman found was that, every once in a while, there were instances where the driver had failed to report seeing the motorcycle and the car, even though an eye tracking device showed that they clearly looked at the oncoming vehicles. But he also found that participants were much more likely to miss the motorcyclist than the car driver.

I read TFA (hence my question). That passage you quoted (nor any other part of the article) does not answer my question as for how this is different than constant bearing decreasing range accidents which also happen more with "smaller than the observer is used to" objects. Basically your brain thinks the object is static (or slow moving enough to be static for all practical purposes) and stops processing there. I still fail to see this is not just a subset of that.

The picture shows clear target fixation on the motorcycle. So active processing, and common sense indicates that a motorcycle in the middle of a street is actually moving.

Later when the motorcycle is only in peripheral vision, it's quite likely that constant bearing decreasing range contributes to the motorcycle being forgotten.

But this doesn't change the thesis, which says that the motorcycle is more likely to be forgotten because it's smaller. Because it's smaller, it's more likely to have the constant bearing decreasing range error, which means it's more likely to be forgotten.

To summarize: the effect may be useful in understanding why this happens, but doesn't change the thesis.

That URL is downright bizarre.

It's not: Right of Way, but:

Right of Weight

I've fired up the laptop for this one and it'll be my final comment of too many today.

I rode a motorcycle as my only transportation for years, in Florida, throughout many Summers and tourist seasons. I've also driven extensively on four wheels for local delivery and on eighteen for interstate freight. I have come to a holistic view of a problem that I believe encompasses all motor vehicles. I'll take this opportunity to express it, in no particular order.

First, the issuance of a driver's license needs to depend on more than the applicant merely having a pulse. Ideally, a full semester, comprehensive course on the principles of driving should be prerequisite for graduating highschool, else a third party alternative equivalent ought be required. The vast number of avoidable deaths and injuries exceeds any alternative. The constituent issues are many. Here are some observations.

Enforcement: LE needs reform. The emphasis on traffic citations seems overwhelmingly directed at revenue generation rather than practical safety, eg erratic, inconsistent speed enforcement; seatbelt violations (I'll get back to this *1); and automated traffic light citations are emphasized over myriad moving violations and generally irresponsible vehicle operation. This gets a bit complex for various reasons. Speeding is, regardless of reason, socially acceptable, even perceived as a right. In the right lane, I am perpetually tailgated even when traveling 5mph over the limit. It's often worse when precisely at the limit. I have never seen (or heard of) anyone ticketed for tailgating. It isn't infrequent for drivers to even display marked hostility to a driver obeying the speed limit, in any lane. Yet, speed traps (all those I've observed) are primarily effective at collecting fines, but not in long-term discouragement of speeding. I've seen school-zones that if regularly monitored, could dent the national debt in fines. But no consistency. I've yet to observe an officer pursue anyone for failure to signal, reckless maneuvers or irresponsible cellphone usage. I understand that this varies elsewhere, to some extent. While there are obviously difficulties involved in effective enforcement of such examples, effort could help.

Ignorance: I propose this be dealt with mostly through required education, which needs many amendments. Psychology is a neglected component of driver ed. There are many who simply don't care. There are many who simply don't know any better. There are more than a few that are much worse and more difficult to address passively. However, if the tremendous volatility of the mechanics involved was more pervasively understood through quality education, people would make different decisions. Silly it may seem, some can actually learn that they are not the only important driver on the road and that the infrastructure itself has inevitable limitations that cannot be bypassed through selfishness. This is hard to teach. The mechanics/physics are a bit easier. Looking before turning is not an elite skill -- people can do this, but often don't. Signaling certainly helps broadcast intent, but is often neglected. That we should do such not just for ourselves, but for the safety of others is frightfully esoteric.

Intersections: In Florida, it is legal to creep beyond the white line in a turning lane with or without an arrow light, then complete the turn after the light has gone red. I typically don't do this and it has enraged many to the point of violence. Similar with accelerating on yellow lights. One might argue that in the first example, I am at fault, though certainly not with the latter. There is a pathology here, one that could be lessened but isn't. Right turns on red are legal in Florida. Many intersections have visual obstructions which cause drivers to lurch beyond the white line to verify clearance of oncoming. Traffic cameras are fond of this, though I've never observed an officer pursue any such instance. This is an example of...

Ambiguity: There needs to be less ambiguity and more consistency.

Motorcycles are not invisible. They are legal motor vehicles and very few people are incapable of seeing them through exerting a standard effort. I reject any mystical cognitive excuses. If motorcycles had a reputation for obliterating cars that crashed into them, they'd become substantially easier to see. Driving large vehicles ranging from pickups to combination trailers, I've seen beyond a doubt a greater tendency to be 'respected' on the road, with expected exceptions. There is a pecking order to some extent.

Consequences of Error: This is a complex issue. If someone punches a stranger in the face, especially under surveillance, the consequences are typically severe. When someone kills or injures another driver, particularly a motorcyclist, there is a general tendency to go through the paperwork, clean up the mess, and place the responsibility on a third party, ie insurance and legal system, which often does little. An 'accident', however atrocious, is often given the benefit of the doubt if no overtly criminal activity is present. This is in part for good reason, because it is presumed accidental, but also makes atrocities remarkably easy where otherwise more difficult. Unfortunately, intoxicated driving gets most of the attention, while soberly bad decisions and brazen irresponsibility is systematically forgiven.

There is almost never a good excuse for hitting a law abiding motorcyclist. Most vehicle accidents are preventable. Our priorities are deranged.

1. Seat belts are safety features and worth using, for sure. Motorcycles don't have them, thankfully. It can be argued that a seatbelt could, in some rare instances, prevent an otherwise unsecured driver from harming others. I am quite convinced, however, that in most cases, the seatbelt protects only the user. Therefore, it would seem more productive in the conquest of safety (and revenue) that officers focused less on what drivers were willing to do to themselves and more on what they are willing to do to others. At the very least, proportionately. Much more to say. Too much said for a comment.

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