You Better Get Outta the Way
I’m old enough to remember when St. John’s was a much smaller city. The economy was bad, many parts of the city were rundown and decrepit, and you needed a note from the creator to get a decent job. Life here was different then, on many levels. The pace of life was…well…slow.
Then came the oil money, and things began to change. The city has grown exponentially, with forests being mowed down to make way for new subdivisions and construction in the downtown rivaling that of Berlin after the Second World War. At least 75% of the population seems to be – judging from the immense houses and expensive toys – making a fortune in jobs relating to the oil and gas industry, and everyone is in a MAD HURRY. During the week, get out of the way because they’re trying to get to work to make money. On the weekend, get out of the way because they’re trying to get to a store so that they can spend it. Case in point: the death trap that is the Costco parking lot. I used to have a membership, and I went out there on the bike…once. Never again. It’s just too dangerous. The parking lot on a Saturday afternoon consists mainly of people in huge pick-ups and SUV’s in a rush to fill up their vehicle with pallet loads of toilet paper. I used to think that “Suburban” was a stupid name for GM to call their largest SUV. Why would someone in the suburbs need a vehicle that size? It all makes sense now. It’s so that they can buy stuff at Costco.
This “more/better/faster” lifestyle has had a dramatic effect on traffic. If you’re travelling at the speed limit or even 10km/h over, you’re only slowing drivers down and irritating them. Not such a big deal if you’re in the safety of a car, but when you’re on a motorcycle you’d better keep up or get out of the way.
The highways are getting particularly scary. If you need to pass, do it quickly and while you’re in the passing lane, keep a close check on your review mirror. Cars (and big trucks!) can come up behind you very quickly at a ridiculous speed. Drivers do not see us at the best of times, and many are distracted by their all-important cell phone. I won’t turn this post into a rant about texting and driving, I’ll just say that if I’m ever involved in a mishap because a driver was on his/her phone, they’ll be receiving their Facebook notifications rectally until they have their phone surgically removed.
Unless I’m riding a road with very light traffic, I hardly look at my speedo. I just go with the flow, speeding up a little here and there to stay out of drivers’ blindspots. A little paranoia is a good thing. We motorcyclists need to ride extremely defensively because cagers can take us out in the blink of an eye.
Since this post has taken on the theme of traffic safety, I want to share a very important traffic tip. This is taught in every motorcycle safety course but quickly forgotten by some: the proper way to wait at a red light or some other slowdown in traffic. It’s very tempting to put the bike in neutral and take in the sights for a minute. Don’t do it, it leaves you very vulnerable to being rear-ended. When you come to a stop, leave the bike in first gear, clutch in. Watch your mirror until at least one car comes to a complete stop behind you, and flash your brake light as they approach. This will hopefully make you more conspicuous, but if it becomes clear to you that they DON’T see you, you’re ready to head for your “escape route” that you should have mapped out in your head at every stop. When the light turns green, before you start moving make sure to scan the intersection, so you don’t get t-boned by someone running a red light. They’re obviously very important and in a hurry, so we wouldn’t want to slow them down by getting into an accident with them.
St. John’s is a bigger, faster city now, whether we like it or not. With prosperity comes many problems and we have no choice but to adapt or move elsewhere. Be careful out there folks.