On Balance  

Crossing the golden line

Remember Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs?

Nah, me neither.

But right around now, Labour Day weekend, I can’t get away from their big hit in ‘66: Little Red Riding Hood.

What with the world and his seven daughters all headed for Grandma’s house for the last big blowout of the summer, the tune’s inescapable.

“Hey, there, Little Red Riding Hood, do you really think you should”...  go out riding on B.C. roads today?

The thing is, as your friend and mine at ICBC, Lindsay Wilkins, has again pointed out, the Labour Day weekend is especially fraught.

We seem to have about five deaths and 610 injuries every year on these three days.

And those numbers are getting worse, not better.

So, Red, you’ve been on my mind. I was going to write a whole different thing for this week (the mayors got on my nerves, more later), but something’s been bugging me through this season that I just have to get at right now, before you’re out the door for the weekend.

The centre line. The yellow painted divider between you going your way, and me going mine.

Turns out we’ve had a lot of very, very bad crashes that have gone worst for some motorcyclists, and the pattern is that the yellow line didn’t seem to work very well at keeping people from crossing into harm’s way. What with not being concrete and all.

I’ve spent way too much of my life looking at the ICBC published stats about traffic collisions, and at their crash maps, so to cut to the chase, those maps don’t show this pattern about crashes.

They show crashes at intersections, lots and lots of intersection crashes. So we wind up pretty focused on that sort of crash, and sort of lose sight of the stuff that’s happening right out our door, so to speak. 

Best we fix that. 


We have a lot of thousands of people heading out for Grandma’s this weekend. They’re going through “the spooky dark woods” on the very roads where there’s nothing to stop them from crossing the centre line except the vague hope that everyone will play nice and stay to the right side.

Life, though, doesn’t exactly work that way. Riders and drivers are people first, and only secondarily operators of vehicles.

Sometimes the people part, warts and all, is centre stage at the controls instead of the coolly rational and perfectionistic Operator.

And people have other priorities, and various little habits, that tend to override the rules and good guidance of such luminaries as W.J. Seymour, whose trendy 1937 handbook, Car Driving Made Easy, made a pretty good fist of being the last word on the subject of safe driving. 

Little habits, like say the five or 10 kilometres per hour drivers on average exceed the speed limit by. Or, in our case as riders, the extra five or 10 over that (the researchers have noticed, it turns out).

Little habits, like leaving a little late, because Mikey just had to “tweak” the bike as usual, but he couldn’t find the part that was “right there, I know it was.”

Little habits, like pushing just a bit too hard on the corners, and having to run a bit over the line.

There. That one. A bit over the line.

Like I said, I was going to write something else, but there you were this morning ahead of me, a bit over the line on every third or fourth bend.

You weren’t hauling fast at all.I was keeping up without breaking a sweat, and I was on my side of the line full time. So, just a little habit you have there. No big deal.

Except, well, it turns out that it really is a Big Deal. Most of the time, when people crash vehicles, it isn’t some huge and crazy thing they’re doing. Most crashes are people doing some "normal, everybody does it” thing that puts them at risk they don’t even recognize.

Until the odds catch up. Which they seem to do on this coming weekend, a lot.


Crossing that centre line seems to happen when people are tired, or distracted, or going too fast, or just have bad cornering habits.

Guess what shape a lot of the riders and drivers will be in this weekend? Trying to cover too much distance, too fast, too wiped out from working that extra shift, and too determined not to let everyone down by not getting to Grandma’s house for dinner or whatever. 

So, Red, do me a favour, and check your habits, would you?

Leave early for once, take it a bit easy, and remember that Golden Rule is all about not crossing the golden, yellow line:

“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.” (Confucius, 500 BC, give or take).

This particular wolf in sheep’s clothing is our own habit of taking little liberties with that yellow centre line, and it can bite us riders really, really bad.

Dinner, or Grandma, or that wakeboard will keep. Let it.

You matter too.


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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