If you have ridden motorcycles for any extended period of time, you likely have had a “moment” with an automobile — it happens to every rider. Motorcycles have a small visual profile when viewed from the front and rear, and we move around in our lanes, favoring the sides or the middle, depending on the road and traffic conditions. We change velocities with ease, accelerate much quicker than a car, and in a predominantly four-wheeled society, drivers are conditioned to look for an automobile in their mirrors, not a motorcycle.
I can barely go a week without hearing a story from a fellow motorcyclist about how he or she was cut-off by some “cager” that was either not paying attention, or worse, intentionally out to injure them. The truth is, there is no great car conspiracy to run motorcycles off the road, though some drivers do let their road rage get ahead of them, not realizing that a car is two-ton rolling weapon. A great component to being a seasoned motorcyclist is riding defensively, which includes understanding that lawful riding doesn’t always mean prudent riding.
A large portion of my “near misses” I saw before they even happened. A driver on a phone, a car hugging one side of the line, a gap forming in a lane during traffic, all these things are enticements to a driver to change lanes rapidly and without caution. These conditions should also be signals to a rider to be weary of the four-wheeled vehicle near them, as the burden is on us as motorcyclists to ensure our own safety on the road — we are silly to place that burden on someone else, especially someone within the relative safety an automobile provides.
When I hear these near-miss stories, what I rarely hear are the events that happened 30 seconds before the incident. Did the motorcyclist change lanes? How long had they been behind / next to / in front of the car in question? Did they see the driver in his or her mirror? If so, what were they doing? Sure, when they came over into your lane, nearly running you off the road, they were legally at fault, but you were in the wrong to think they wouldn’t do such an act.
Motorcycles conform to traffic patterns that are different from those used by automobiles. It is entirely possible for an attentive driver to check for a clear lane, and within the time it takes to signal and move lanes, a previously unseen motorcycle can take that space. All the “Look Twice” campaigns in the world cannot overcome the reality that if a motorcyclist puts him or herself in a rightful, but dangerous position, a bad outcome can still occur. But what if cars and motorcycles talked to each other?