I’ve been thinking about SIPDE lately. It’s the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s acronym that’s very handy for riding- Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. They must be done in order. Don’t mix that up. Scanning used to be so automatic is wasn’t even conscious. Then I started riding a bicycle. At 15mph, your eyes can safely wander. You notice stuff you’d never see at 20+mph.
The hard part is getting back to 20+mph vision, which requires consciously ignoring shiny distractions and ONLY seeing the things that matter. Mainly the big, fast things that could kill you. Not much else matters. Not that intriguing billboard. Not that new store that looks like it might be interesting. Not the cute guy waiting for the bus. None of that matters. It’s rather annoying that I have to re-train my brain when switching from bicycle to motorcycle. But there it is.
If I was a snake, I would’ve bit you…
Identifying hazards is pretty simple, but requires an awareness of your environment. Like the guy I had to pull a Lorenzo on while riding the bike path on Saturday. Two men rode side by side through an underpass, convinced they were the only people on the whole bike path, on a Saturday afternoon, and that nobody could possibly need to get some momentum while trying to get up the hill at a considerably faster pace than them. They failed to identify the possibility that others may want to share the path with them, particularly through an area where traffic noise was likely to drown out any calls of “on your left!” I think the only injury was someone’s pride. I thought when they told me I was supposed to ride slower than guys they meant fast guys, not all guys.
Tonight I exited 110NB on 9th st as usual. Except my timing was such that I had to tuck in behind a gravel truck. I could’ve passed him on the left, as there are 2 lanes to the left at the bottom of the exit ramp. But I saw another gravel truck merging from 9th st. Being a local, I knew that the major construction sites are on 7th and 8th, accessible at the very next left turn onto Figueroa. So I waited a second, saw that the 9th st gravel truck was signaling left, and of course the one I could’ve passed on the left also moved to the left. Waiting a second and then passing both trucks on the right was the safer decision.
People think Predicting is hard.
It’s not. Except when you’re riding too soon after your last concussion, you should be able to predict that cab which is lit up as available is going to dive across 4 lanes of traffic, or stop suddenly, or both, to pick up that fare that just shot their arm up. But that’s NYC. LA is a lot less predictable, because most LA drivers are not only NOT professionals, they’re actually not even driving. They’re getting stoned, or looking at their phones, or both.
But some things you can predict. An LA driver will almost always turn right then immediately head for the left lane, and vice versa. It’s an LA thing. It took me awhile to become comfortable riding here (again) when I moved from NYC in 2001, but eventually I found the flow. It’s not a natural, smooth flow like Rome, or even NYC, but it’s predictable enough. Just keep an eye on the front wheels of cars as you’re lanesplitting and try to avoid splitting past a gap in one lane. Someone next to that gap may suddenly decide that’s the void they’ve been looking to fill their whole life. And take it easy diving in as traffic is just starting to slow, those are the people most likely to want to change lanes.
And always expect the car waiting to turn left to not see you. They know you’re not big enough to hurt them, and unless you look like you just rolled off the set of Sons of Anarchy, you don’t look like a threat. So I make myself more visible, because wearing neon pink actually isn’t enough. (proven). When approaching the intersection, I’ll put one hand out in a “stop!” signal, while shaking my head “no!”. As I pass them safely, that hand changes to a thumbs up for good behavior. I don’t care if they were just waiting for those pedestrians in the crosswalk, they still get a gold star for not hitting me.
He who hesitates in war is lost.
This phrase is something I live by. I rarely hesitate when riding in traffic, and when I have I know it wasn’t ideal. Make your decision and OWN IT. Sometimes that decision is “Here is where I get to exercise patience and tolerance. these “muscles” are weak as hell, and could use some practice.” Other times that decision is “fuck yeah I can fit there!” That sort of decision can be fatal if you second-guess yourself because that gap you were counting on is constantly changing. It could shrink to nothing in a split second.
Now go out and RIDE! I’m sick of meeting motorcyclists who live in LA but refuse to ride here. Be part of the solution. And if you’re nervous, find a group ride, or a buddy who’s got some patience to ride with. I suck at riding slow. But the East Side Moto Babes meet up most Tuesdays for a nice chill ride. You don’t have to ride vintage to ride with them, but it helps if you’re a babe.