Dear Car Drivers,
It's that time of year again (at least in NC). The weather is turning back to spring-like wonderful, and bikers fairweather and hardcore alike are polishing up their chrome and taking to the streets. This includes a whole bunch of newly forged riders. Classes are starting up again, and those of us who learned in the fall haven't gotten a whole lot of riding days this winter (especially those of us who are still too scared to ride to work).
Please, please be patient with us.
Remember when you were a pimply little fifteen-year-old, behind the wheel for the first time? Was it a rush? Sure. But if you're like most of us, putting that car into drive and taking your foot off the brake was pretty intimidating.
Imagine doing that in a convertible. With no doors. And no roll bar. And no passenger seat. Oh, and instead of that comfy bucket seat you were in, you had to straddle the seat. And you had to balance the car, yourself, and anyone or anything you carried with you, all while steering, clutching, shifting, accelerating, and braking. Now imagine you've been driving a car for like 17 years and suddenly have to learn to drive all over again in the aforementioned one-seated doorless two wheeled convertible.
And here's the other bit of information to consider - you remember the hours of driving on the range, while your instructor sat next to you with his own set of brakes? Remember going out on the road with that giant sign that said Student Driver on top? Do you recall all the hours behind the wheel one has to log before getting their drivers license, and, with the new graduated licenses, after? Yeah, one weekend class and a 30 question computerized test and suddenly I'm licensed to be out on a motorcycle, by myself or with passengers, on the same roads you're on. That doesn't mean I'm any good at it.
But I am trying.
So here's what I want you to know.
Listen, just give me a little space, here. I know I ride like a granny, going 5 miles under the speed limit with my left blinker on. I know I jerk around a little when I shift and I know I just stalled the bike out like 37 times when the light turned green. But unless your passenger is bleeding or in labor, give me a break, okay? Think of me as the sixteen year old kid out there trying to learn to drive stick. I can talk a big game, but I've only ridden less that 200 miles in my entire life. Compare that to what's probably close to 250,000 that I've clocked in a car. I'm working on it, but I'm not there yet.
Don't honk. For the love of God, don't honk. It will only make me more anxious, and you know what? That damn thing is loud outside your car.
I'm new at this. I don't trust the bike. And I'm going to wait for every single car to go before I turn, because I'm terrified I'll wipe out on the turn. Not that I ever have, and not that it's especially likely, but just have a little patience.
Yep, if that car pulls out a quarter mile ahead of me, I'm going to slow down. You should too.
Likewise, because I'm taught to scan the road, because I don't have my radio on, and because I'm out and exposed I might see a hazard before you. If you see my brake lights, slow down.
I stop faster than you do. Please leave an appropriate space cushion.
I don't trip stoplights because I'm so small. My bike weighs less than 600 lbs, your car is close to a ton. I do, however, have the legal right to treat a red light as a stop sign if I've been sitting there for more than three minutes (at least in NC). Because I'm still unsure of myself, though, I probably won't. So when you finally pull up behind me, know that I'm so incredibly grateful (even if we then miss the light because I keep stalling out the bike).
I am just as scared as you are that I'm going to go down in front of you, and even more scared that you're going to run me over. It's unlikely, but that doesn't mean either of us isn't thinking about it. The answer to this, however, is NOT to ride my ass.
Stop texting while you're driving. I know, I know, I do it too sometimes, but it's really not safe.
Please, give us room. Be patient, and polite, and we will too. This beginner phase won't last more than a few thousand miles. And always, always, always look twice. "I didn't see him" is no reason to hit one of us. Look, listen, and look again. Everyone wants to get home alive and safe. I have people depending on me, too.
PS - alright, fellow bikers, what did I miss?