13/7/2006

Defensive Riding

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:18 pm

I may have already said it here, but Cam and I were chatting on the phone the other day about ‘defensive riding’, and I thought I’d talk a little bit about what that means to me.

Cam told me the story of his brother (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, and he has a few brothers so that helps!) who was riding along the shoulder of the road at about 85 km/h to avoid slow traffic moving at 40 or so. He came around the corner and there was a load of bricks that had fallen off a truck on the shoulder, and he had nowhere to go but to pile into them, breaking his wrist and ankle.

I think it’s legal (or at least winked at) to hit the shoulder when you can, but I’d want to be going a lot slower than that: I always imagine a distracted driver in a car whose kid suddenly vomits the Happy Meal into the back seat, and who instantly and without warning pulls left onto the shoulder to clean up… if you can avoid that person, then you’re probably driving defensively.

So I think part of what defensive riding is about is imagination, and a gift for spotting worst-case scenarios and avoiding them. The most common response on the part of car drivers who hit motorcyclists or are hit by them because they pulled out at the wrong time is “I didn’t see him”. So make yourself as visible as possible – my bike is bright red, my helmet is grey and gold but pretty noticable, and when it arrives with our luggage I’ll usually be wearing a bright yellow and black jacket rather than my current all black one – and even then still assume that car drivers aren’t going to see you, and give yourself time and space to escape and evade.

Similarly, bikes can accelerate and brake much faster than cars, but car drivers’ reflexes and assumptions are tuned to the characteristics of cars. That means a bike can sometimes turn up in an unexpected place and time where no car could be – concentrate, if you do that, on getting visible early and often. I’m not a big fan of noisy bikes, but they can be helpful in this regard.

I think a lot of it comes down to imagination and empathy – to trying to see your behaviour through the eyes of the drivers you’re sharing the road with. But the bottom line to me is still the same: defensive driving means assuming every car on the road is actively out to get you, and not giving them the chance.

Woohoo

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:25 am

Suzie started ringing around on Tuesday and immediately got an interview for today (Thursday). She went to the interview today and was offered the job on the spot, so… woohoo!

She’ll be working in Ipswich, quite close to home, teaching job skills and computer courses to people who are unemployed or disabled or changing careers. The training is funded by the government but delivered by a private not-for-profit college. It doesn’t pay quite as well as she’d hoped, but the hours are flexible and about as many as she wanted to work, it’s nice and close and it’s worthwhile work. She may keep looking for some other part-time teaching, but it’s definitely much more comfortable to have her in work than not, given our financial commitments.