May 26, 2006

Parallel attack

More often than not, I see motorcyclists out there, who're just running with the pack. Of traffic that is. They'’re not passing, not being passed, they'’re just hanging around, running more or less as the same speed at traffic. And they'’re not even in a clear lane of their own. They'’re scattered about in a random pattern that only nature can come up with. I see a problem here. No, not of discipline, but of a life-threatening nature.

Motorcycle Roadcraft, the book many police departments around the world regard as the manual for motorcycle cops, says travelling at 10-15 per cent higher speed than the traffic around you is the safest way to handle traffic. That means if the cars are doing 40 kph, you do about 45-50 kph, roughly.

There is a solid reason for this. Think back to the last ride you can remember in details and analyse it. What portions did you feel most 'in control'’ in? Whenever I do this, two situations come up. One is the sections where my knowledge of the road and conditions is near perfect. These are familiar stretches of road, where I know the surface, camber, ambient traffic behaviour, changes weather makes to all three, where the pedestrians usually appear… the entire routine. There is always the unexpected, of course, but the rest is covered. Two, and the relevant one for this post, is when I am overtaking.

This is the move that I have planned. (I'’ll post up on the how to overtake later, okay). I'’ve got the chap up ahead aware that I'm about to come past, and the chap behind also knows that I'’m about to pull out. Why do I feel most 'in control'’ here? Because I have cmaneuver the manoeuvre. The chaps around me have nothing more to do than sit, and wait for me to complete it.

Travelling 10-15 per cent faster than traffic, makes you overtake people almost constantly. If you do it well, overtakes come naturally, you flow through traffic like water and youÂ’ll enjoy that sharp edge of concentration that makes motorcycles so enjoyable.

But what does this have to do with the people lounging in traffic? A lot. You see, every street strategy and street survival book eventually comes back to the same point: – Don'’t hang about. Running parallel to bigger vehicles is dangerous. Pass them, or be passed by them. No status quo. The reason is that if you'’re running parallel, you'’re probably in the driver'’s blind spot. If he swerves, he will take you out. Nick Ienatsch calls it the death zone, and I'’d have to agree. Every time a car has come close enough to cause bodily injury to me, it was because at that time, I was running parallel to it.


Nyctophobia said...

I was doing a bit of research on a similar topic and I recalled this post of yours. Regarding the 10-15 % higher speed, how exactly does that work? Assuming speed based lane disciple, that implies to the lane you are in, right?
And the other thing is, especially on the highway (excluding a mass of similar speed traffic) there is usually a scattering of vehicles with different speeds, right from the guy dragging his feet (or wheels in this case) to the person who thinks he’s playing Need For Speed. The speeds hence vary from 50-60 to 100-120. All this with no signs of lane disciple, makes me ask the question, do you follow the 10-15 % rule or do you follow the natural speed theory? I’m guessing the reply will be “based on the situation you are in”

rearset said...

The Police manual essentially propounds that the safest speed to overtake a stream of traffic doing 30 mph (their units) is 33 to 35 mph.

When you're on the highway, I forget 10-15 per cent and all, and overtake at the maximum speed that is safe. The idea is always to minimise the time I spend running parallel to the vehicle I am overtaking and the time I have to spend in the 'enemy' lane.

As far as natural speed goes, I think I tend to use the overtaking principles more firmly than natural speed. Once I complete the overtake, then natural speed resumes...

Is this clearing up anything? :-D

Nyctophobia said...

yup, thanks !!! : )