Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter driving...

We have had some snow in the area this past week, and by some snow I mean enough to close schools and businesses. I think the most accumulation we've had is 2 inches. It is not unusual to get a couple of inches for a week once a year but it is enough to shut this town down. It has taken me many years to accept the fact that the majority of the local population does not know how to drive in the snow and ice and that studded tires and mandatory tire chain requirements are normal.
I learned to drive in the snow, my birth date is in January so I took my driving test in the snow and I am familiar with driving through the deepest snow in some of the highest mountain passes of British Columbia and Alberta. I've lived in Rossland and Nelson, B.C. so I know snow and I consider myself an experienced driver in snow and ice.
Unfortunately, the other day a driver in the left lane of Highway 34 doing 20 mph believes it is his civic duty, based on his personal winter driving experience, to police everyone behind him. He drove for miles pacing the car in the right lane beside him. We finally got by him but had to go around him on the right as he refused to move over. He is unsure of his driving ability in the snow so he is cautious and drives 20 mph. I understand and support him completely except that he should be in the right lane as he is impeding traffic and creating a greater hazard. Everyone behind him was driving bumper to bumper, door to door, like Irondad describes, a school of fish.
What bothers me is that I am being policed by those who don't know me. This isn't new to anyone who rides motorcycles, we are seen as squids, bikers, hooligans and just plain irresponsible. The only reason to ride a motorcycle is to go fast, and the public perception is exactly that. We ride slightly faster than the flow of traffic, so of course we are labelled as speeders, regardless that it is safer for us.
What people don't understand is that motorcyclists make better drivers, especially in snow and ice. We are attentive and just like we do on our bikes everyday, we practice the physics of momentum, centrifugal force, friction and traction. We don't stiff arm, white knuckle, death grip the steering wheel and drive with one foot on the brake. We ease off the throttle and ease on the brake in one fluid motion, keeping our heads up, our eyes forward, anticipating the SUV, five cars ahead of us, sliding 360º into the guardrail. We don't panic, but assess the situation, survey the traffic behind us in our mirrors and choose our escape plan, execute and get away from the pile up about to ensue. Of course being motorcyclists, we try to never put ourselves in that situation to begin with, we ride in the open, and are constantly scanning our mirrors.

Unless some inexperienced driver blocks the left lane to teach us all how to the school of fish.



  1. I'm glad to see that we are not the only ones in the Country to have these "slow, left lane road hogs" . It's so frustrating having to follow them. I thought you had laws in WA state whenever you have "3 or more cars behind" you must pull over and let them pass.
    Another thing that really gets to me are those left turn triggers. We have 2 loops on left turn lanes and you require two cars to trigger a left turn signal. One loop is for the first car, and the 2nd loops is about 3 or so cars back. The left signal will NOT trigger unless they sense a car on BOTH. Whenever there is a vehicle ahead I always hang back and stop over the 2nd loop to trigger the left but whenever I am first the car behind usually comes right up to my bumper this not triggering the advance green left. I believe riding makes us more alert as drivers and I can usually second guess the cars behind by their body language. It can be so frustrating at times. Take it easy in the snow and do the "sun dance", it may help to bring warmer weather.

  2. He may block your way, but he'll always be a minnow and you a Shark!

    I'm flattered anyone's read back that far in my blog.

  3. Hehe , North Texas here , same problem - ultra slow drivers that don't understand the concept of slick roads , I once drove a Trans AM to go skiing in New Mexico ... ONCE - never again - going up is easy, down on the other hand .... ( I don't ride my bike in the snow / ice > one year we had a 90 car pileup because of black ice ) I just don't trust the idiots around here not to run me over .
    I agree - left lane hogs that think they are an off-duty Policemen are asinine ( regardless of WX conditions ): Left lane = ANY speed faster than the vehicle on your right , PERIOD . I must admit I fall prey to the "driving a car makes me feel more secure / less attentive in traffic" syndrome , and am MUCH more alert & cautious when riding my bike .


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