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Getting used to traffic

 
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scootermom
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Tangerine 2009 Buddy 125 -- The Pumpkin Queen

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:20 pm    Post subject: Getting used to traffic Reply with quote

I bought my Buddy, spent the weekend freezing my a$$ off and getting my M class license, and so I just *had* to ride the scoot to work yesterday. I'm pretty proud of myself, but also just the tiniest bit freaked out. Shocked

I read the FAQ on riding and operation, but I couldn't find anything that related to beginner riders starting out and learning to ride in traffic on real roads. By real roads, I mean those with multiple lanes/ speed limits of 45mph. I didn't really have any trouble, and nobody did anything stupid like cut me off or pull out in front of me, but my mind was totally occupied with the following:

1. remembering and using all the info from the MSF class - balance, countersteer, signal, look, stop gently, be seen

2. OMGamIgoingtodie?!
3. WhatifIcrashhowmuchwillthathurt?
4. HolycrapIamgoing45mphandIonlyhavehandlebarstoholdonto!

So, does anyone have any tips to help me move from being comfortable riding around in parking lots and my neighborhood to being comfortable riding around town? Is there a good progression of situations to ride in?

I'm pretty thrilled that I took the chance and rode the 7.5 miles to work and back, but I'd like to do more than just throw myself out there and see how I do.
Smile

Thanks!

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TVB
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could practice riding the "real roads" at a time when traffic's light (e.g. Sunday morning).
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Lostmycage
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two schools of thought. Trial by fire (what you did, sorta) and working your way up to it.

Method one is easy. Go go go and hope for the best. Shocked

Method two means starting out in a parking lot and adding progressively more challenging situations. That's more like riding around on 35mph streets during off peak hours, then going to 45 mph during off peak. Once that's comfortable, trying out the main thoroughfares during rush hour (often, you'll have to go above the speed limit in RVA to keep from getting ran over).

I'm not really qualified to write a beginners riding guide. I'm more of a plan A kinda guy. You're more than welcome to pen it if you like.

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Skootz Kabootz
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the first month or more of my riding life I only took side streets that had little or no traffic. I only graduated to main roads when graduating posed no intimidation at all. Maybe at first I would only ride the big roads for a few blocks before I needed a break in the concentration. If so, I would take the break and head back to my sideroads.

As they teach in the MSF course, never ride outside of your comfort zone or your ability to control your bike/scooter. Better to move from parking lot to main thoroughfare gradually than end up a statistic.

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jijifer
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember my heart beating SO fast my first week as a scooter commuter. 7miles I ride to work are pretty busy and pretty fast. I usually have to be full throttle for most of it. I've never thought "I'm going 45mph and only have handlebars to hold on it." but I have thought "if I go down I'll be broken and chewed up." But there wasn't anything specific that made my heart stop beating so fast. I just got comfortable with my route. I knew which lane was a good lane. I make myself very visible and since I do it every day and most of the cars on the road with me are there every day too, they just got used to seeing me and me seeing them.

Last Spring, my meet up group buddys never considered scooting up to meet me - 40miles each way seemed like too far to go (although I only met them because I was willing to travel that far to meet up) NOW almost a year later, most buddys have upgraded to bigger scoots and if the ride doesn't take all day then they think they've been robbed Smile We all have better helmets that when we started and better gear, too. We've lived and learned together. But it's funny to me to think of the first time I rode "all the way" to the city and how scared I was to be "so far" from home with just my scooter. Getting AAA for motorcycles may have eased my mind, too, since they'll tow for 100 miles Smile

Anyways. Listen to your gut, it'll help keep you safe. Then one day you'll realize you're riding without the anxiety you used to. It's a great feeling.

Have fun and happy scooting!
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PeterC
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A little anxiety is not unhealthy. I was fortunate in that my first scooter experience was within the confines of an Army post (Ft. Belvoir, VA). Traffic on base was quite closely regulated by M.P.s, so I didn't encounter some of the stress of civilian streets. As I gained more experience and confidence, I gradually ventured out into "the world," and even rode into Alexandria and D.C., first on back roads, then on Route 1. At the end of my active duty tour, I rode my scooter all the way up Route 1 to my home near Boston, MA, a 4-day adventure. Just take it slow, take it easy, and try to expand your scooter horizons a little bit at a time. You'll do fine!
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ericalm
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a big supporter of Method Two, easing into riding in traffic. MSF is a good foundation, but it needs to be built on.

Fact is, a number of the crashes we read about or hear about here are new riders who rush into situations they can't handle. I think it's important to be patient, resist that powerful urge to scoot all the places you've dreamed about riding, and work the side streets and low-traffic areas first.

If you're having to think about all the things they taught at MSF while riding, my advice is to take a step back and get more practice in. Almost all of that should be second nature, and the only way that happens is practice. Your mind can;t be occupied with trying to remember all these things—when a car starts to pull into your lane, you have to be able to react properly without having to change your stream of thought.

I learned by trial by fire and I must say it was messy and I was lucky I didn't hit a curb or worse. When my wife was learning, she had the benefit of an experienced rider in the house (me!) and good support from the forum and elsewhere. We did parking lots a few times, then the small streets in our neighborhood. It was maybe a month before we started small trips in traffic. I was impatient, too, but could see her skills weren't there yet. And, IMHO, she learned pretty fast.

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gt1000
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to agree that easing into traffic is the most prudent strategy. Once basic riding techniques become second nature, you're much better equipped to deal with a crisis on a real road.

Rather than repeat Eric's excellent advice, let me just add this: I've been riding on and off for 30-plus years and I've experienced a fair number of very high speed motorcycle runs. I love riding, but the more experienced I get, the slower I ride. For my daily scooter commute, I have 2 or 3 favorite routes that are all designed around strategies to keep me alive. These routes avoid certain streets and intersections, not because I'm afraid of those spots, but because I understand that my risk level increases if I have to ride through those areas. Selecting the proper route is one of the more important steps in minimizing risk and, to me, at least as important as selecting the right gear. I don't really mind riding on multi-lane roads but I will attempt to avoid them if I can.

Put another way, when I ride recreationally, my full concentration is on the ride. I mean 100%. If I find that my mind is wandering, I'll pull over for a rest or a snack. Commuting is different. It's mundane and often repetitive. You might have work or family on your mind, even though you should be fully concentrating on your ride. Minimize your risk by choosing the best possible route. You'll get to know where hazards are more likely and you'll have an understanding of possible escape routes should something go wrong.

Everyone is different so I really loathe giving advice. If I were you, I'd practice techniques in an enclosed area like a parking lot but I'd also recommend working through real, but limited, road hazards on quiet back streets. That's where you get to put all your skills to the test. Choose an area and a time where overshooting a stop sign or running wide in a turn won't be a problem.

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scootermom
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love this forum! Thanks so much for all the really helpful and insightful advice!

I agree, the "easing into it" method is a far better choice for me. I want to stay alive and unharmed to have all the fun that can be had on a scooter!

I think the biggest issues for me right now are centered around getting comfortable on the scooter and feeling good and confident about my skills. I really appreciate that everyone is talking about risk management and risk avoidance instead of "oh just go for it, you'll be fine!".

I like the off-peak road riding suggestion...definitely will be doing that. Especially on the roads I have to ride on to get anywhere from my house.

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Skootz Kabootz
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One other note, you may like to get yourself a copy of Proficient Motorcycling. It is an excellent followup to the MSF course and a must read for any MC/Scooter rider.
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PeterC
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+1 on Proficient Motorcycling. In addition to good instruction, it's very easy and entertaining reading.
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ericalm
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I started commuting by scooter, I ran the routes on weekend mornings a few times first. I "discovered" a lot of bumps, potholes, dangerous ruts in the road and so on that I'd never noticed in a car.
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jmazza
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love this place. I've been reading through replies thinking "Oh I have something to add... no... it's covered. Ok I'll add this... no... someone else said that. Ok I have one more sugg... nope it's covered too."

Great suggestions all around. I will simply add my agreement to the "ride your route during a slow traffic period" suggestion. Learning the route is a big comfort once you are in commuting traffic.
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scootermom
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should probably utilize all of these fantastic suggestions for learning to ride in the dark, too....with the addition of high-visibility clothing and reflective stuff.

You guys are awesome!

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Lostmycage
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ericalm wrote:
When I started commuting by scooter, I ran the routes on weekend mornings a few times first. I "discovered" a lot of bumps, potholes, dangerous ruts in the road and so on that I'd never noticed in a car.


SUM BANG! Scouting ahead (during low tide) is a really good idea if you're going to commute.

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Kaos
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ericalm wrote:
When I started commuting by scooter, I ran the routes on weekend mornings a few times first. I "discovered" a lot of bumps, potholes, dangerous ruts in the road and so on that I'd never noticed in a car.


Its really amazing how different the exact same route can be when you're on 2 wheels. There are fairly slow speed roads around Portland that I HATE to take because of poor road surface, where I could take a higher speed road and feel much more comfortable due to better surface.

I'll also say the longer you ride the less tension you'll have. I look back at the nearly 2 years I've been a full time scooter pilot, and its quite amazing how far I've come. I remember being nurvous the first time I got on a 2 lane 45MPH road. I took the interstate today because the traffic was light and thought nothing of it! (Not that I recommend this for everyone)

Practice, and you'll quickly find that you're comfortable on nearly any type of road.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not much to add, but I'll chime in anyhow. Definitely try scouting out various routes to work during off peak hours. Look for potholes, manholes, big paint stripes... anything that could be slippery when wet or could knock you off balance. If you have a somewhat flexible schedule, and depending on the traffic conditions where you are, you may be able to do your commute during lower traffic times. I go into the office at 7:30 rather than 8:00 and have found the traffic to be pretty light at that time. I've also noticed that I can slip in during the lulls in traffic if I leave at a more odd time, like 7:05. Everyone rushes out the door on the hour and the half hour, which creates a burst of heavy traffic I'd prefer to avoid.

Your experience in traffic this morning was pretty much like mine. I had the same things running through my head when I first started commuting. I found that at almost exactly 500 miles of commuting, I had a big leap in my confidence level. Just keep practicing, push yourself a little bit, but not too much, and you'll be a full time scooter commuter in no time.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I stayed in my neighborhood for a month before I ventured out into the "wild". And that was to a lake about 2 miles away. Top speed 35mph, and 20mph around the lake itself. Once I felt more comfortable I ventured out further and further from home.

Now that I look back at those first few months, I remember riding as if I had blinders on, everything came at me so quickly I could only focus or deal with the situation that was right in front of my scoot.

Two years later I see more and process the information quicker. Though I don't want to seem overconfident, because it doesn't take much to get distracted and all heck can break loose.

Ride safe, have fun
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Lostmycage
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 3:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, this thread turned into a pretty nice summary of advice for new riders. I've linked to here from the FAQ.

At some point there might be a condensed version, but this is a pretty good read through right here.

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scootermom
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lostmycage wrote:
Well, this thread turned into a pretty nice summary of advice for new riders. I've linked to here from the FAQ.

At some point there might be a condensed version, but this is a pretty good read through right here.


Awesome! This thread turned out to be *exactly* what I was looking for, so I hope it helps other new riders, too!

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Diablosi05
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are some great suggestions on here. I really think it all depends on your personality type and comfort level. For me I took the MSF class, had my roommate drop me off at the dealer and drove my brand new scooter home in rush hour! Of course El Paso rush hour isn't that bad. It was a little weird, but after a couple minutes I was fine.

If you not comfortable though definitely take your time. Enjoy leraning to ride cause it is a blast!
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meldot
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got my scoot one month ago, and have practiced 3 times on the weekends. (I got my scoot with the intent of commuting 7 miles to work)-I find times when I know there won't be traffic, it's light out, and I haven't had 17 cups of coffee.
Each time, I try to focus on building particular skills. Last Saturday, it was making turns quicker. On Sunday, it was riding faster than 25 mph.
This weekend it will be riding on slightly busier roads than I have been. Additionally, I try to stay out for at least 1/2 an hour, which is how long my commute will take.
Also, when I am driving now, I try to pay attention to traffic patterns and potholes on my commute route, as well as left turns that have dedicated arrows, so I won't have to play chicken Wink


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jmazza
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

scootermom wrote:
Lostmycage wrote:
Well, this thread turned into a pretty nice summary of advice for new riders. I've linked to here from the FAQ.

At some point there might be a condensed version, but this is a pretty good read through right here.


Awesome! This thread turned out to be *exactly* what I was looking for, so I hope it helps other new riders, too!


*group hug*

And now we're all together in the FAQ for all of scooter eternity. Smile
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Skootz Kabootz
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmazza wrote:
scootermom wrote:
Lostmycage wrote:
Well, this thread turned into a pretty nice summary of advice for new riders. I've linked to here from the FAQ.

At some point there might be a condensed version, but this is a pretty good read through right here.


Awesome! This thread turned out to be *exactly* what I was looking for, so I hope it helps other new riders, too!


*group hug*

And now we're all together in the FAQ for all of scooter eternity. Smile


Awwww... sigh... sniff... Smile

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Lostmycage
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Skootz Kabootz wrote:
jmazza wrote:
scootermom wrote:
Lostmycage wrote:
Well, this thread turned into a pretty nice summary of advice for new riders. I've linked to here from the FAQ.

At some point there might be a condensed version, but this is a pretty good read through right here.


Awesome! This thread turned out to be *exactly* what I was looking for, so I hope it helps other new riders, too!


*group hug*

And now we're all together in the FAQ for all of scooter eternity. Smile


Awwww... sigh... sniff... Smile


Well, now I HAVE to make a condensed version. Razz

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Buddytheelf723
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:03 pm    Post subject: Your not allowed Jitters in Boston! Reply with quote

I ride my new Buddy 8 miles each day, rain or shine, hot or cold from Harvard Square to Downtown Boston. I love the rush! You learn quick to be tough and not take anyones crap!

I usually have a "friendly" encounter once a day with a fellow commuter. Always in good faith though... Twisted Evil

Hey, if you are not living on the edge...you are taking up too much space!

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trackpete
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thing I don't think has been mentioned here and may be a bit controversial:

It helps to keep in mind that people DON'T want to kill you. They don't want to run over you, they don't want to smash you off the road, they don't want to destroy you for fun.

It's okay to relax a little bit and not be keyed up about everyone around you all the time. Be safe, be consistent, be visible, and you will be fine.

How to do this:

- Stay in the right third of the right lane and draw a straight line there. This ensures maximum visibility for you in people's side-view mirrors and allows you to never worry about someone coming into your lane because you can simply slow down.

- Don't worry about people rear-ending you. This is, IMO, one of the worst pieces of advice that a lot of people get. If someone is going to rear-end you there is very little that staring at them in your mirrors is going to help you do to escape, so don't stare at people in your mirrors. Just glance.

- Signal earlier than you would in a car, slow down slowly, turn slowly, etc. Do everything slowly so that people have enough time to notice you doing it.

- If things get stressful, worry about *what's in front.* That is what really matters. Many problems arise when you can't decide whether to look forward or check around for an escape, especially on a bike that does not swerve well.

Most people advocate pretending your are a soldier in a war zone where everyone is out to get you and while that make keep you safe in some extreme situations, usually it's just going to make riding miserable.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with most of the last post but I prefer the left third of the right lane. I'm not as concerned with the car in front of me as I am with the car in the left lane that might swoop in front of the car in back of me thinking I'm not there. I assume the car in front of me probably isn't paying attention to what's behind him and act accordingly...staying back a ways.

When I stop I stay back and give myself enough room to swoop to the side of the car in front of me if it looks like the car behind me is not going to stop in time (luckily I've never had to do that....)

I don't feel I'm in a war-zone, but I do assume that most everyone is NOT paying attention to me, so when the car in front of me pulls off the road I slow to a crawl in case he decides to whip a U-turn in front of me, for example.

My main tip is "be here now". Don't be thinking about dinner, or the meeting, or a conversation you just had with a family member. Focus on the ride and what is happening around you.

We all have different survival styles, and these are some of the ones that have worked best for me. Smile

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i like what the three posts above have to offer helmet


i have been riding just two months now and am out and about in all kinds of traffic. day, night, light and heavy traffic. i haven't been in fast moving "morning traffic" yet, where every other driver seems in a rush. be that is coming next week. my only qualms about that is my engine isn't broken in yet, so i can't really jump on the throttle as i'd like to.

i am surprisingly comfortable in traffic. i don't mind heavy traffic because i can always find a place to move slower in it. don't like the scooter moving slow in front of you? too bad. i'm going as fast as traffic will allow.

tonight i had two cagers turn dangerously in front of me. one did a double u turn cutting me off twice, another turned left right in front of me. i did what i always do when driving: i got on my horn long and hard and gave them a glare. it rattled me but didn't scare me. i expected that going in. someone in my "Who HASN'T Crashed" thread said they ride with an attitude of "full command." i have taken this idea and run with it

a car cut me off making a late left as i entered an intersection to make my own left arriving home. just par for the course, i figured. just kept on riding...

i have not taken the MSF course yet, and am glad i haven't. i will, but not yet. i see posts by new riders around the internet who took the course right off, and they seem terrified of what they've learned, having little or no "real world" riding experience of there own. i have always had this attitude about being on the road: 'what isn't there can't hit you.'ever drive in a car with people who are scared to be in the fast lane of the freeway if the divider wall is close by? it makes them very nervous. thats not me. i can ride a half foot from the wall and not think twice.

at this point i actually feel safer riding a scooter then in a car. i have space all around me, i am out in the open, i can maneuver very well, and i have no blind spots. i own the space ahead, beside, and behind me. and i am small out there. i like it Smile
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peabody99
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Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 1786
Location: San Diego
2015 BMW F700GS, 2016 Yamaha TW200, 1996 Honda Helix, 2007 Buddy 125 (sold 2017)

PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

agreeing with everything particularly practicing route on a sunday Am. It is nice to get to know your route and what things you will want to avoid.

I also agree thinking hard about situations you might not worry about in a car but are very dangerous on a scooter. One example if a left turn when there is no turning lane. Someone behind you may see you, suddenly swich lanes to go around you, leaving someone else barreling up to rear end you. I have a regular appt with a situation like this and I go around the block to avoid a rear ending scenerio.

There is also an intersection in my neighborhood (which I currently cannot avoid due to a bridge closure) where about 1/2 the people run the stop sign. I have complained to the police to no avail, so I really just have to be ready to manuver or wait for the runners to go through. Keep in mind at many intersections with stop signs people forget right of way rules when it comes to 2 wheelers. I think they revert to the unspoken "bigger object has right of way" rule Evil or Very Mad
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ericalm
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Joined: 10 Jun 2006
Posts: 17670
Location: Los Angeles, CA
STELLA FOUR STROKE FURY! + Vespa LX 150/190 + '87 Honda Helix CN250

PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think there are hard and fast rules for lane position that work everywhere other than don't ride down the middle of any lane.

In LA, we have many busy streets with two lanes on each side, a turn lane in the middle, and cars parked along the sides. The left lane is clearly the safest position here. Many cars turning onto the street from the right have a hard time seeing oncoming traffic due to parked cars. If they're making a left from a side street, they often dart out across to the middle turn lane.

Traffic flow and behaviors differ a lot according to location. Even other people who live in CA cities are surprised to discover that in LA, a red light means "two cars and a scooter get to make a left" because we have so few turn arrows here. This also means that when your light turns green, 85% of the time there will still be someone crossing the intersection in front of you.

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a2dmusic
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Joined: 13 Jun 2017
Posts: 17
Location: Seattle
Buddy 170i

PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Digging up a super old thread here, but it's pertinent to me! I'm getting my bike endorsement AND bike hopefully this week (one day of two of the class/exam down, then assuming all goes well, down to the WA DOL and off to pick up a scooter I already have picked out!).

The dealer is in downtown Seattle. Which means my very first ride with that scooter and frankly, outside of the two-day class, will be on rather busy and treacherous Seattle streets, leaden with traffic regardless of time of day.

So option 2 is what I'm inclined to do (ease into it) but... at least with that first ride, I'm going to be in the thick of it. City traffic and visibility issues, multiple highway entry and exits. Most certainly potholes and construction zone perils, and challenging hills. Trial by fire indeed. Any advice or reassuring words? Wink
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mike932
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Joined: 25 Apr 2016
Posts: 141
Location: California
2013 Buddy 170i

PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Watch this video over and over again..... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtG6MRIVtZg
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GoSlash27
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Joined: 29 Apr 2017
Posts: 53


PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll agree with most of the advice given above, but one difference: There is a big difference between confidence and complacency.
The people around you aren't trying to kill you, but a lot of them are either bad drivers, distracted by their cell phones, or both. Many of the remainders will see you, but not "see" you at the same time.

You have to be vigilant and drive defensively. You have to learn to read other drivers' patterns and anticipate what damn fool thing they're about to do before they do it. You have to resist any urge to drive like a fool yourself.

In my experience, I have found that bad drivers primarily stick to the main arteries, so it's a double- whammy. Not only do you encounter more traffic on the main roads, but the drivers are also worse. In contrast, getting off the "beaten path" is not only safer, but also more enjoyable. The air is fresher and the scenery is better.
Having said that... I don't avoid the main arteries totally, but I *do* pick and choose when I drive them.

TL/DR:

You are expected to be able to handle yourself and your bike in all situations, especially the unexpected. You need to be able to do that without actively thinking about it. Your actual job isn't piloting your bike, but rather collision avoidance. You need to be able to devote all of your effort and focus to that task.

Best,
-Slashy
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