While riding home on a lazy Sunday afternoon – with cottagers in more of a rush to get home than we were – following too close, unsafe passing, you know what I’m talking about – I learned a valuable lesson from my friend Tim.
Tim is an experienced rider, and I learned, also a good teacher. We’d been riding all day and weren’t in any hurry to get home, but homebound we were.
The traffic was steady and moving just over the speed limit. Tim noticed I followed cars a bit too close and sometimes didn’t leave enough space for an unplanned stop.
“You’re riding as if you don’t have a worry in the world. That’s not the way to think about it,” Tim said, during a break. “If you’re ill-prepared, instead of being at your best when you need to be, you’re more likely to panic. To stay safe, you have to expect trouble at any moment.
“When you think about it this way, you can relax and enjoy your ride, knowing that, whatever happens, you’ll be ready.”
He went on to tell me this story.
“On another occasion when I was riding home, the traffic in front of me came to a sudden halt. There must have been an obstruction over the crest of the hill. I had been looking well ahead, so I saw the brake lights shoot down the line of traffic, car after car until the emergency became mine. I was able to stop with room to spare, gearing down to first in the process. I located an escape route while I checked my mirror. The car behind me wasn’t stopping so I eased out the clutch and moved forward to give the car additional room, all the while keeping an eye on my mirror lest I needed to high-tail it out of there.”
Tim paused, then asked me a question.
“If I’d been following too close, what do you think would have happened?” he asked, adding there were four events that prevented a catastrophe.
“I was aware of the hazard at the earliest possible time. I had the time to locate an escape route and check for additional hazards. I had the space to stop and take evasive action. And, by getting my bike into first gear, I was ready to take further action, if needed. Awareness. Time. Space. Readiness. These four things can save your life,” he recalled. “Because I was prepared, time slowed down, and I felt in total control. Danger, recognized. Emergency stop, initiated. Escape route, located. Additional hazards, identified. Evasive action, taken. When you do it right, you stay calm and cool under fire. And…