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On Balance  

Insane attempts at passing

It’s blazing hot still, and it seems like pretty much everything’s on fire, so writing about traffic safety for riders is a bit of a diversion from getting the grab’n go kit together. Yours ready?

I decided to take a break from braking, and have a wee chat about some of the other stuff that’s been making me cringe when I watch other riders around here. There’s two stories I want to tell, to set the stage.

A couple of weeks ago we were having a “family day out,” up the valley some distance, enjoying the air conditioned comfort of the pickup. As we motored along through the twisties (me wishing I was on two wheels), I noticed a rider approaching rapidly and erratically from behind.

Keeping an eye on the shirtless wonder with his costume helmet, I looked for a spot along the rock walls to ease over and let him through, because the double yellow lines are continuous in the area for obvious reasons.

Pointless. Dude ripped across the double yellows, and blew by us on an uphill corner towards a blind crest. I hit the brakes and hoped for the best, saying things about his parentage that don’t bear repeating. We both got lucky, and I didn’t have to get out the first aid kit. Not that it would have mattered – the oncoming logging truck that he just missed wouldn’t have left that option.

Another day, another jaunt to a nearby beach for quality time with the water dog, and a better dressed but even more impatient Ducati afficionado appeared in the mirrors. We were in another double-yellow stretch just a few hundred feet from where I normally take a left off the highway. Before I could flick on the signal light to warn Captain Sporty, he was beside me, doing well over the ton.

A second, literally, after he got back in lane, two other riders came around the bend towards him. Big happy waves. No clue that he came within a heartbeat of ending the bunch of them.

Now for the perspective: another shirtless rider in a costume hat died the other day farther up country, having failed the knowledge test about passing on the right, on the shoulder, in a corner. Unprotected. Three other riders died just recently, single rider head-on into a group.

You can’t make this stuff up.

So, I’m not just being Mr. Nanny State, freaking out about all the times I’m seeing riders making insane passing moves in crazy bad locations and situations. But I am starting to think it’s maybe a thing on social media.

Somehow the message “Ignore double yellow lines, pass anywhere” has gone viral.

I’ve lost count of the times, this season, that I’ve had to nail the brakes and magic some room for yet another exceptionally talented rider, sometimes with friend keeping up, putting themselves in harm’s way. For what?

On a related note, I’ve mentioned before that some of our compatriots of the wheel like to crowd the centre line, possibly thinking that they’re “dominating the lane” like they say to do in the videos. On any stretch of road, but especially through left hand bends, this is simply dancing with death.

Motorcyclists, no matter what we’re riding, cannot, and will not, dominate oncoming traffic. We therefore keep well away from it, if we have any sense at all of what’s good for us. But, again, I’m seeing this more, rather than less often, and wondering who’s encouraging this lunacy.

After all, these aren’t new riders. Invariably, they’re obviously well used to riding, and riding at speed. So, it isn’t a question of simply nota knowing what they’re doing.

Or is it?

Let’s see now. Trained riders, we know, are a small minority of all motorcyclists on the road. Most folks just throw a leg over and figure it out as they go, maybe with help from someone more experienced.

So, lots of untrained but experienced riders out there. Many of whom are also unlicensed. The police estimates I’ve been party to peg it at about 30 percent or more of the riding community who have yet to bother with proving their competence by taking skills and road tests.

Untrained, untested, learning by experience. Trusting their luck. Hmmmm.

Here’s the thing. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a fascinating phenomenon that’s been keeping social psychologists arguing amongst themselves since 1999, when Messrs Dunning and Kruger first published. In a nutshell, the thesis is that people who are crap at stuff are also crap at knowing whether they’re crap.

So they don’t learn from experience. They figure they’re doing just fine.

You can see how this might be the problem that’s showing up in some really crap riding by “experienced” riders. Tailgating, dangerous passing, poor lane positioning, incompetent avoidance manoeuvres. And crashing.

Dunning-Kruger at work.

Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so what would help is if you would collectively put some effort into motivating the untrained and unlicensed to deal with it, and stop testing their luck.

Save a life.



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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



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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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