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Old 04-29-2011, 08:29 AM   #1
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Incomplete Pass

Not surprisingly, many motorcycle crashes occur when a rider is passing other vehicles. Speed and use of the oncoming lane can combine with a hasty misjudgment or random hazard to create trouble. What is surprising though is the variety of ways a pass can end in a crash. A better understanding of what exactly can go wrong will help you make passes more safely. The crash descriptions here are based on real incidents, most in the Bay Area.


The Blind Pass

On your favorite twisty road, nearing your favorite series of turns, you're stuck behind a damn minivan. Though the short straight ahead doesn't offer an adequate view to oncoming traffic, you're feeling lucky and pull out to pass. But unluckily, as you pull even with the minivan, an S-class Mercedes rounds the bend coming the other way. Your life flashes before your eyes as you close in on the 2.5-ton German sedan at a combined speed of 90mph, and the last thing to go through your mind in your soon-to-end earthly existence is the trademark three-pointed star.

This is the situation that usually comes to mind when we hear about a pass gone wrong. It can be prevented by waiting for the right opportunity and refusing to rely on luck. But that's only the beginning of a safe pass, as other crashes show.


Passer vs. Passee

You're following a line of cars stacked up behind one slug, and you're eager to get past. With a good view to clear road ahead you pull out to pass. But just as you get to the slowpoke holding up traffic, he turns left into a driveway and you hit his driver's side door.

Avoid passing in a situation where a driver ahead of you has an opportunity to turn left. And when passing several vehicles at one time, be especially wary of drivers further ahead who may not know you're there.

A similar situation involves a vehicle turning right. For example, a tractor-trailer slowing to make a right turn may first swing left, opening an inviting passage near the curb, which will close as soon as the tractor turns. Never pass a big rig on the right.

Though not so common in the Bay Area, these crashes can also occur when a rider tries to pass a farm vehicle. Because they aren't made for the road, they put their drivers at a disadvantage with a poor view of traffic. Give them a break. Approach cautiously, make sure they see you, and wait for a clear opportunity to pass.

Passer vs. passee is the most common kind of fatal passing crash in the Bay Area, having taken the lives of nine riders in the past five years. It is also discussed in the 1Rider thread Five Ways to Crash.


The Concealed Crossing

On a street with four lanes plus a center turn lane, traffic is crawling up to the next intersection 300 yards ahead. But there's a clear path in the center turn lane, which becomes the left-turn lane where you want to turn, so you move into it and proceed cautiously. But drivers in the two lanes on your right have opened space for a pickup exiting a driveway on the right, turning left. The pickup pulls out and crosses the center lane in front of you, and you T-bone it. Similar crashes have occurred when the rider was passing over a double-yellow approaching an intersection and passing in the bicycle lane.

When passing, your protection from cross traffic is the solid line of vehicles in the next lane. You may not be able to see beyond that line, and a driver on the other side may not see you. So where the line is interrupted, you're vulnerable to vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists crossing in front of you.


The Compound Curve

With just one more car in sight on this high-speed rural two-lane, you're itching to get past it to enjoy the next 10 miles of moto-bliss. You wick it up to triple digits and pull ahead, but you're quickly approaching a left-hand sweeper with a poor sightline, so you're anxious to get back to your lane. You swerve right and cross the centerline, but you can't get the bike turned and run off the right shoulder.

To complete the pass you swerve right to get back to your lane. Then, to terminate the right swerve, you must swerve left to straighten the bike out. But at the same time, you're entering the left-hand bend and you must initiate that turn as well. Thus the left swerve requires a substantially harder steering input than otherwise needed to finish the lane change or enter the sweeper, and high speed increases the demand even more. Headed toward the guardrail at an alarmingly sharp angle, you fall victim to target fixation, undeveloped steering instinct, or sheer panic, and you hit it.

A mirror image of the crash described here (passing on the right approaching a right-hand bend) is seen in this video, which was discussed in this BARF thread.

Get your passing done on straight roadway, so you don't have to deal with unknown elements in a curve.


The Suicide Squeeze

Rounding a right-hand bend on a rural two-lane road, you see a tractor-trailer pulling out from a dirt road on your left, turning left, 200 yards ahead. Looking forward to miles of nice road, you don't want to get stuck behind the truck, so you try to pass it on the right before it completes the turn. But you're too late and rear-end the tractor.

This kind of crash can also occur on a multi-lane urban or suburban road. Accelerating hard from a stop light, you try to pass a car that is entering your roadway from a crossover and merging right. But you misjudge and rear-end it in the #4 lane. The same scenario may explain several late-night, high-speed freeway rear-enders in the Bay Area.


The Lemming Effect

Riding in a group of three, you follow the two bikes ahead as they pull out to pass a tanker truck. They barely complete the pass safely in front of an oncoming vehicle, but you're hung out with nowhere to go.

In another group, you follow several other bikes as the leader initiates a pass. But for some reason, he aborts the attempt and brakes. In the ensuing melee, the entire group stacks up.

Mindlessly following other riders in a determined effort to keep up leads to trouble in many ways, passing included. ALWAYS ride your own ride. And when passing, trust only your own eyes and make your own decisions.



We make passes with little time to consider all the possible factors that affect safety, so they are largely intuitive decisions. But better knowledge about how crashes occur informs our intuition and thus helps us to make better decisions.
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Last edited by DataDan; 05-01-2011 at 10:00 AM.. Reason: cleanup
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Old 04-29-2011, 11:15 AM   #2
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good post.

understanding a bit more about what some of all the possible scenarios are, increases rider confidence and decision making
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Old 04-29-2011, 11:45 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DataDan View Post
The Lemming Effect

Riding in a group of three, you follow the two bikes ahead as they pull out to pass a tanker truck. They barely complete the pass safely in front of an oncoming vehicle, but you're hung out with nowhere to go.

In another group, you follow several other bikes as the leader initiates a pass. But for some reason, he aborts the attempt and brakes. In the ensuing melee, the entire group stacks up.

Mindlessly following other riders in a determined effort to keep up leads to trouble in many ways, passing included. ALWAYS ride your own ride. And when passing, trust your own eyes and make your own decisions.
This is what I worry about most when riding with others and it's time for the judgment call to make the pass or not.
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:29 PM   #4
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Excellent synopsis of possible scenarios, and good food for thought. I try to anticipate the moves of other traffic among conditions, but I'm not a mind reader, and no one can anticipate every possible scenario. Thanks.
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Old 04-29-2011, 03:45 PM   #5
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As a rule, when making a pass with others behind me, I immediately move as far to the right as possible after completing the pass to give the next rider someplace to go if he has to pull back into the lane suddenly. It seems like common sense to me, but I notice lots of riders don't do this.
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Old 04-29-2011, 03:57 PM   #6
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:10 AM   #7
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Excellent post
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Old 04-30-2011, 04:04 AM   #8
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the few times i've ridden with one or two other riders, i won't make a pass unless the visibility shows there being enough room for the rest to pass as well.
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Old 05-01-2011, 05:50 PM   #9
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All those long paragraphs make my head hurt.
I just twist the thingy and pass.
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Old 05-31-2011, 02:37 PM   #10
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Excellent post here!! The passing thing is always a crap shoot especially when riding with unfamiliar people. I rode with a guy ONCE that would get mad at cars for not pulling over in the turn outs. He expressed this rage by pulling up beside the cager and slowing to flip them the bird. little did he know that some other riders that were following him were getting hung out to dry in the oncoming lane. Not a good thing. No matter how mad a car makes you just pass and get it over with. Dont instigate road rage.
Another thing to consider is axel position on trailers. I watched a guy stack his bike under a 5th wheel because he was in to big of a hurry to get by. The traveler was attempting to pull over to let the group by. when he turned the tow vehical to the right it actually made the portion of the towed trailer that sits behind the axle to momentarily swing to the left. (imagine the needle on a compase) This is known as tail swing and happens with all travel trailers but not on big rig trailers where the rear axles are all the way at the back of the trailer.
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Old 06-03-2011, 06:26 AM   #11
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I made a decision to cross the yellows on a group ride heading into a rt hander. Made the pass but found myself braking over the dots with traffic both ways. Could easily have been scenario #1. It's a bad thing when you can still remember that moment 9 months later
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:06 AM   #12
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I made a decision to cross the yellows on a group ride heading into a rt hander. Made the pass but found myself braking over the dots with traffic both ways. Could easily have been scenario #1. It's a bad thing when you can still remember that moment 9 months later.
I'd call it a good thing. That's how I feel about my passer-vs-passee close call 10 years ago. Stuck behind a minivan on a mountain road, I finally came to a straight long enough to prevent scenario #1. But as I pulled out to pass, scenario #2 materialized when the driver began to turn left into a campground.
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:56 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by OldFatGuy View Post
As a rule, when making a pass with others behind me, I immediately move as far to the right as possible after completing the pass to give the next rider someplace to go if he has to pull back into the lane suddenly. It seems like common sense to me, but I notice lots of riders don't do this.
And this is something important to remember. They guy behind you may need a place to go. Give him one, or risk being in a tangle.
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Old 06-12-2011, 07:00 AM   #14
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Good post, this is the reason I usually stay sweep. Passing is for the race track IMO. Group ride passing? why? just stick to your pace be aware of your space & let faster riders through. I worry more about those behind me than anything. Simple rule, the street is not Thunder Hill
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Old 06-12-2011, 04:32 PM   #15
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Umm. I could be wrong but I believe they were talking about passing cars. I agree passing people in your own group doesn't make sense unless they wave you to go by.
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