Friday, October 31, 2014

Driving and Riding

I spent yesterday not going out.

This was deliberate, because I spent Wednesday with way too many people trying to kill me.

Now, normally, I like to keep the number of people trying to kill me as close to zero as possible, excluding my ex-wives, but sometimes you have to leave the house and run errands or whatever, and when I do that I do it on my motorcycle. I have a Suzuki Boulevard C50T, which I bought brand new a couple of years ago and really love riding. It's comfy enough for daily riding, it's big enough I'm not worried about taking it up hills or on the highway, it's nimble enough that I'm comfortable in traffic, and it's small enough that I get pretty good gas mileage (on the order of a VW TDI, and it's easier to park).

Riding a motorcycle is great, even in the rain; if you're geared properly, the rain isn't even that big a deal: just take a little more care, give yourself a little more space, and be aware of your temperature, and you're fine. I committed to riding my bike in the rain when I bought it because I wanted to get my money's worth from it. If I didn't ride in the rain, I'd probably get to ride it 70 or 80 days a year; if I am willing to ride in the rain I can ride for 300+ days a year (this past February on the anniversary of my bringing it home I ran the numbers and I rode 311 days last year).

Riding a motorcycle is pretty relaxing, too; it requires concentration and attention, and so there's a focusing effect that even a short ride can have that's salubrious to the soul and restorative to the mind. By connecting yourself with the bike and riding with your whole body, you disallow the rest of the world permission from taking over your thought processes, and you get to think about what you want to think about, whatever that may be. Hopefully, it's mostly about riding the motorcycle. But sometimes, what you're thinking about is all the people who are trying to kill you.

Because a bike isn't a car, there are a lot of drivers out there who just mentally edit them out of their mindscape. And because driving a car has become something that most people do while doing something else, it gets dangerous. And I don't think most drivers recognize how dangerous. Even in slow traffic on surface streets during busy times, the average driver is still whipping around a four thousand pound box of liquid explosives and flame at 30+ feet per second. If a car hits me going 25 miles an hour, it's basically like I fell off a second-story balcony onto the car: if I'm lucky, I'll break something unimportant.

Wednesday, it was raining, and that makes me more cautious. So I was able to avoid the three people who tried to change lanes into me. I was able to spot and avoid the SUV which nearly ran me over. I was able to get out of the way of the hot rod on the highway who couldn't stop in time. But really, the average ride for me is a crapshoot when it comes to other vehicles on the road.

I imagine it's much worse for bicyclists, since they don't even have the protection of an engine, but the sheer entitlement of some drivers makes me wonder how there aren't more fatalities every day from traffic accidents.

I probably should try to make this about something, probably something in tech, but that would be a pretty big stretch, but let's try this: if you're designing software or software processes, you need to think about the bike riders: the careful, dangerously exposed, invested users. Try and make sure you're not accidentally trying to kill them. Maybe even add special lanes where the normal users (car drivers) can't go, so they can do what they're trying to do safely and comfortably.

Nothing like a bad metaphor to end a blog post about boring personal shit!