One possible tactic for cars making a left turn toward you
January 5, 2011 at 12:11 am #4304
I have had a few of these close calls since 1980, with cars and trucks turning left without seeing me on my bike.
This is by redsled on 07/24/2009:
When I first notice an oncoming left turner who is within my envelope of travel (i.e., if they decide to go it would result in me having to take evasive action), I evaluate the situation (visibility, night or day, other traffic between us, etc), and may choose to use the “Aim at him” tactic in order to ensure he is aware of me.
I move to right side of my lane, identify the diagonal line between that position and the left turner, and then set myself on a vector heading straight for the driver across my lane, right to left – in other words, I “aim at him.”
Why would you want to change the direction of your travel towards a potential source of danger – it seems totally counter-intuitive. The answer is because my goal is to be noticed by the left-turner, to help the left-turner any way I can, and to set myself up to take evasive action if I need to. Here’s why this works:
1. Help the driver detect that I’m a motorcycle at a very close distance, not a car at a very far distance. With only one headlight a driver’s brain may be fooled into using a depth perception analysis that is incorrect, misinterpreting my single headlight for the lightsource on a car a long way off. Moving across my lane in either direction, left to right, or right to left, helps recalibrate the oncoming car driver’s brain, alerting them to the fact that I am nearby on a bike, not a distant car.
2. Create a perceived threat to the oncoming car driver in an effort to get their attention. By aiming at them you turn yourself into a direct threat to the driver, who will subconciously detect that your angle of travel is on a direct collision course with them, rather than a parallel course. This tactic works if you’re driving a car, too, but it is much more powerful on a bike because of the greater angle of the diagonal line we can travel and stay within our own lane. Obviously you’re only doing this for a part of the distance between you and the point of impact with the oncoming left turner’s vehicle. I usually end up somewhere left of the center of my lane, but not all way over to the centerline.
3. Position myself to take evasive action if needed. Some would say being to the far right is the best position to be in, so you can go farther right if the oncoming car starts to make their turn. If a left turner decides to go it’s because their brain hasn’t seen me. The last thing I want to do is scare them into stopping mid turn, across most or all of my lane. I’d much rather get out of their field of vision so they continue on their way, and I can go around their rear bumper, maybe without even crossing the centerline. If it works, and the driver does decide to complete their turn, it means the first part of my lane that’s going to be clear is the left side, not the right side – and that’s where I want to be. If I bet on the right side I end up having to wait that much longer for their entire vehicle to travel across that side of the lane before I’m clear of it. Why would I want to add that extra time?
I am not speculating on this – I have done it, and it works. When an oncoming driver makes a bad call and decides to left turn in front me I have positioned myself so I am angling toward the left part of my lane. When a driver who decided to make his turn does finally see me, he understands his mistake, sees me starting to take evasive action to his rear, and moves even faster to complete the turn – which is what his brain already decided to do, and therefore is easy to continue executing against. Again – this is not theory or conjecture. I have done it and seen it many times.January 5, 2011 at 7:03 am #28997
I find the post to be almost exactly opposite of what I have read and believe to be true. Google SMIDSY and look around and see what you find. I read a scientific study that examined WHY people don’t see bikes (despite it being broad daylight and plenty of onlookers seeing the bike in hundreds of car/bike collisions). Short answer is our brains are not wired to see the small profile of a bike WHEN HEADED DIRECTLY TOWARDS you. Any lateral movement is picked up instantly but when on a collision course there is little movement to pick up (apart from a gradual increase in size). A good example of this would be a car starts to pull out but only then sees the bike, panics and brakes. That small movement by the car was enough for the bike to move laterally against the horizon and suddenly the brain picks out the threat.
The study also looked at military research (who are not short of research dollars) who WANT to sneak up on things. Heading directly towards your prey is the best way to achieve this. This behavior is also found in the animal world who have millions of years of evolution to perfect this art (or IE if that’s your thing).
I would suggest your “move to right side of lane” is what gets their attention, not the aim at him approach. When I see someone positioning to turn in front of me I do a gentle weave in my lane, but also do as Gary says and check my speed, cover my brakes and prepare to stop (I may even start to brake to begin the weight transfer and to alert anyone behind me I may be stopping).
And this advice is worth what you paid for it.January 5, 2011 at 7:47 am #28996Gary856Participant
I find the above post questionable in a number of ways –
– Riding directly at a car further reduces the driver’s ability to judge your distance/speed. That makes yourself harder to see, because you’ve reduced any side-way movement to the opposing driver and made yourself look like a stationary object.
– From farther away, the angle would be so shallow it wouldn’t make much difference.
– From closer in, the time would be so short it woudln’t make much difference.
– Counting on moving left to clear the car’s tail as it left turns in front of you? What if that driver panicked and stopped mid-turn? You should never “assume” what the other guy would do, because he’d do the opposite.
The normal advice to guard against a left turner is to keep your speed in check, keep your distance, stay alert, cover the brakes and be prepared for a stop. Take any of these internet posts, mine included, with a grain of salt. Your results may vary.January 5, 2011 at 8:55 pm #28998madjak30Participant
When I am going through an intersection with the possibility of a left hand cut off…I position in the right side of my lane, watching the drivers eyes…then I usually wave to make sure they see me, and it comes across as a friedly gesture…
If nothing else, I’m all about keeping up relations…
Later.January 6, 2011 at 12:03 am #29001
Here is the link to that study I was referencing. Get’s a bit technical in places but I found it interesting and it certainly made me alter the way I ride.January 6, 2011 at 12:47 am #29002gitchy42Participant
+1 again to Eon about covering the controls and weaving a little.
Another thing that one of the instructors mentioned is standing on your pegs. This makes you bigger for one, and it is something unexpected that may get drivers’ attention and let them know you are there. Not always possible, but I have found it effective on a couple of occasions.January 6, 2011 at 4:23 am #29004jcwhiteParticipant
HUGE props to Eon for referencing his sources! I just finished reading the paper, and could form my own, reasonably informed opinion, because I knew where to find the information he used. This is the first time I’ve seen someone reference in an online chat forum, and it restores my faith in humanity. Thanks Eon.
Just wanted to point that out. It’s a pet peeve of mine. Sorry, getting back to motorcycle safety discussions now.January 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm #29005TrialsRiderParticipant
Some interesting concepts being presented here: intimidation, hand gestures, stand up riding lol. Reminds me of how a toad blots up to make himself look too big to swallow. Good to see I’m not the only one here with a hyperactive sense of humor.
I like the rule they taught us in Karate: No be there …hence the need for faster more agile motorcyclesJanuary 26, 2011 at 10:42 am #29153Zim_the_GiantParticipant
If it adds to the discussion at all, me, being a rather logical chap, with little motorcycling experience, finds more sense in the standing on the pegs and doing a slight weave than aiming directly for the driver (this seems to make the bike’s head-on silouette even smaller, in my mind). HOWEVER, in my interpretation of Jeff’s scenario, starting in the right travel lane and angeling towards the left would make that lateral movement, or, “weave” that was mentioned. However, if the driver does notice and yield to you, you’ll be the one still headed for him. Probably not the best position to be in, but what do I know? I’m just the newb.January 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm #29157
I think it is best to be as close to the back bumper of the car as possible, and in one of the two car tire paths, so you have the most traction for braking before turning. For the few close calls I have had like this (maybe 5 since 1980), my bike is heading toward the driver’s door while I am braking hard, then I turn right to go behind the car, as it turns left into my lane without the driver seeing me.January 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm #29159
I would caution against standing on the pegs if there is a very good chance you will either need to brake hard or swerve. Both of these are much harder to do if you are standing and I would go as far to say no-one could do either as well as they could when sitting.
There was a very long thread over on advrider where folks recommend standing on the pegs if someone is tailgating you. Consensus was it really works, I guess it does get folks attention or at least make them worried you might fall off and damage their car! But personally I wouldn’t do it in front of a left turner.January 26, 2011 at 11:35 pm #29160
Jeff, I don’t understand what you are saying. How can you turn right to go behind a car that turns left into your lane? Maybe I’m being dense but I cannot picture this scenario. Also I’m not sure what car you are close to the bumper on or why?January 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm #29165
Typical close call- I am riding on a straight 2-lane highway going 55 – 60 mph. I see a car to the right, at a driveway or side road, and they are waiting to turn left onto the highway I am on. They do not see me and turn left directly into my path. I brake hard as I am heading toward the driver’s door, and turn right so my bike goes behind their car, as they are crossing my lane. I had this happen one time while driving a car, and about 5 times on a motorcycle.
Here it is from the driver’s view, turning right in the UK:
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