May 20
Wrong of way
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 05 20th, 2010| icon3No Comments »
Stop Sign

A dangerous place for Motorcycles.

I was on my way to work a few days ago approaching an intersection where I had the right-of-way. I was going at, or slightly slower than, the speed limit. Something caught my attention off on my right-hand side and I glanced that direction. As I returned my gaze to the intersection directly ahead, a lady in a mid-sized SUV came barreling through, running the stop sign.
I tapped the brakes as my heart skipped a couple of beats. I actually had plenty of time to stop, but it was a shock to see a vehicle zoom through an intersection I’d thought was clear. Less than two seconds before, the intersection had looked clear. I’d glanced to my right for about two seconds, then returned my gaze ahead to see a large vehicle speeding across my path. The other driver was going way too fast, and apparently didn’t slow down as I approached. Two seconds earlier, when I checked, she was far enough down the road that she didn’t register with me as a potential obstacle.
This is usually the place we start griping about “cagers” not seeing bikers. The problem here is that I was in my 4X4 Tahoe. There are only two or three larger vehicles on the road, not counting RVs. My Tahoe is maroon and should have been easily visible. I still have the image in my mind of the lady in profile as she sped across the road in front of me. Her eyes were locked forward and I’m sure she didn’t see me. I don’t recall any signs of panic on her part as I closed on her. I don’t recall her being on a cell phone, which is the other bogeyman of modern motorists. Her mind was locked on something besides the road, and she apparently didn’t see me, the stop sign, or both.
Motorcycles are smaller and harder to see, and the consequences to the rider are likely to be more severe. But this incident in my Tahoe reminds me that the feeling of persecution so many bikers seem to hold is probably not justified. I have yet to see any objective data that indicates anybody, either other drivers, the police, judges, or lawyers, hold the safety of bikers as any less sacred.
As motorcyclists, we are responsible for our own safety. We accept the added danger of being out in the elements and uncaged along with the pleasure of feeling the wind in our faces. Feeling persecuted is a far less effective safety practice than riding defensively and at reasonable speeds in easy-to-see clothing.

— Guy Wheatley

May 14
Time to Kill
icon1 Guy | icon2 News | icon4 05 14th, 2010| icon3No Comments »
Toys for Tots run, 2009

Motorcycles negotiate traffic lights along State Line Ave. during the
2009 Toys for Tots run.

Most drivers have had the experience of pulling up to the signal light at an empty intersection, then waiting for the light to change. I’ve sat at intersections, feeling like the last man on earth, waiting for a light to turn. I always get the feeling that if I just pull on through, I’ll discover that the only other survivor of the worldwide apocalypse is an on-duty patrol officer. Right on red helps a little, but what about those times when you want to go straight or make a left? One website estimates average Americans spend two weeks of their lives waiting on red lights.
One possible solution to this problem is the use of “smart” lights. These are signal lights with some way of determining whether there is a vehicle waiting on the side of an intersection that is about to turn from red to green. Most of these use magnetic induction. They are basically big metal detectors buried in the road that detect the metal of a vehicle waiting at the light. Unfortunately most motorcycles either don’t contain enough metal or are too small to register on these devices.
The state of Oklahoma passed the “Motorcycle Mobility and Safety Act” that will allow motorcyclists to proceed through a red traffic light when the signal fails to change, but only after certain conditions are met. The law will go into effect Nov. 1. It will be interesting to see if, or how quickly, other states follow.
As an IT guy, I’m often frustrated when I see people try to solve a social or managerial problem with technology. Instead of buying another expensive filter and writing six pages of code to police Internet usage, just have managers enforce company policy. Technology isn’t always the answer. But sometimes it is.
In this case, we need to get better sensors or a manual bypass. The Oklahoma law only applies to intersections using traffic detectors, and then requires a complete stop. Unless a sign is posted, there is no way to be certain whether a signal light is using a detector. Local riders, who will know, will likely just avoid that intersection. It’s the people passing through who will get stuck and have no way of knowing for sure if the light is using a sensor, or simply defective. This just-drive-on-through solution also fails to resolve the problem of waiting your turn when traffic is going the other direction.
Deploying technology isn’t always the solution and deploying defective technology is rarely the solution. It’s time to step back and determine whether the current state of “smart” light technology is causing more problems that it solves.

— Guy Wheatley

May 6
South State Line Ave.

What looks like a rural road is actually south State line Ave., inside the city
limits and just a couple of miles from my house

I love this time of year. Texarkana is a small enough city that most trips to the places I go take me to the outskirts of town. Even within the city limits there are roads that, at a casual glance, look like a rural area. I frequently run over to Liberty-Eylau from the downtown area. I can either hit South State Line to the loop, or Lake Drive. Either way, I go by areas with open fields and a lot of honeysuckle. The smell has an almost narcotic effect on me.
Riding around with temperatures in the mid-80s and the smell of honeysuckle has got to be one of the most pleasurable experiences a man can have … and tell about. I remember a quote, “those hours spent fishing are not detracted from a man’s appointed days.” Surely, the pleasant and peaceful roaming of scenic and fragrant byways on my two-wheeled steed will be held in at least the same esteem by deity as the slaughter of aquatic life forms.
Newly into short-sleeve shirts, the feel of the wind and sun on winter pinked flesh is almost a rebirth. It’s a yearly genesis experience, reviving me to summer riding. Spring revivals and flower festivals around the area call out and beckon me to come. I’ll start riding more and more in the days and weeks ahead. Sadly my longest trips are destined to be in the dog days of summer, when the heat will lessen the joy.
I will fill the lengthening and warming days with the rides and adventures being promised even now. I will find joy and happiness for the next five months until another enchanted time arrives and nature uses leaves instead of flowers to paint the land with riotous colors.
There is something almost magical about the too-brief rides down familiar roads made new by mild temperatures, azure skies and nature’s perfume. Why are such pleasures destined to be so fleeting?

— Guy Wheatley