Almost exactly a year ago I was riding home from work on a Friday on my regular commute. It was one of the hottest days of the year with the temperature near 100. The traffic was somewhat heavier than usual and I found myself behind another rider on what looked to me like a 90’s era Intruder. I remember admiring the Intruder since I’d always liked the styling.
The other rider and I gave each other the usual head nod in the mirror and proceeded through a few intersections in town. Each time we stopped I could feel the sweat beading up inside my helmet and jacket. The last light in town before a long open stretch of two lane road turned yellow as we approached it. I’ve gotten into the habit in yellow light situations of checking my rear view mirrors and stopping if it appears I can do so safely without getting rear-ended. I had room to stop safely so I did; but as I slowed I heard the other rider accelerate to make the light in time.
There was a car opposite the intersection waiting to make a left turn in front of us. The driver hadn’t pulled into the intersection as is common when turning across traffic and was back near the white stop bar. It appeared as though she intended to wait for the next green. However as the rider entered the intersection the driver turned directly into his path. The rider tried to panic stop but didn’t have enough time and slammed into the front bumper, flew parallel to the ground and ended up wrapped around the right wheel of the car, his bike lodged underneath the car bumper near the left wheel.
I pulled off and with the help of a few drivers who stopped was able to attend to the driver and protect him until the ambulance arrived. I saw the driver get out of the car still on a cell phone call. I heard her say “I have to go, a motorcycle just hit the front of my car”. A few weeks later I checked on the rider, he had two broken hips and a broken kneecap.
As a motorcyclist, witnessing a crash like that is pretty unnerving. As I thought about it later I realized there were a few lessons to be learned. One being that no matter how hot it may be we have to stay focused and alert; another that cell phones cause cognitive distraction and it’s sometimes impossible to tell who is on a phone and who isn’t; lastly we have to assume we are invisible in all instances and remember we are not in a car so the mindset has to one of an exposed motorcyclist. The rider in front of me didn’t break any laws and had full right of way but was run down anyway. When I last spoke to his lawyer he was recuperating in a hospital bed in his home. Luckily he was wearing a helmet.
It serves as a reminder to gear up, ride safe and be careful out there. Sometimes assuming a driver will do the unthinkable can help you avoid an accident (because sometimes they do).