Saturday, August 4, 2012

an observation

I've been riding Merlin on my road the last two weeks and I've noticed something interesting. People in cars and trucks seem to see Merlin and me as either an obstacle they drive around (usually at no reduced speed) or something that comes out of nowhere and surprises them around a turn. Both are understandable. But people on motorcycles seem to have a whole different appreciation for another non-car driver and go out of their way to cut a huge berth and make as little noise as possible. They always wave too. Some people in cars never even look at us. Why do you think that is?


Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Jenna.
I think it is because motorcycles are according you the respect they would like to have from drivers!
Lisa in Maine

August 4, 2012 at 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Ariane said...

Where I live and grew up meeting a horse or horses on the road wasn't/isn't unusual - I was taught to slowly overtake, no indicators and we always wave - or really that peculiar Irish motion of our hand that signals an acknowledgment and a hello :) but I live in a rural place.

August 4, 2012 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, that makes me feel really good. Thank you. My husband and brother both ride Harley Davidsons and my son-in-law has a huge non Harley (which will remain nameless! Because he traded his Harley in for it.) but I still love him too. Anyway, yes, they are very observant and nice and considerate of everyone on the road. I have noticed living way out here in the country, we have a LOT of motorcycles that cruise down our roads. There are horses across the road and my sheep are in the front pastures too. It's the loud noisy rice burner people that always rev up there motors when they drive by as fast as they can possibly go and scare the sheep and horses. They think it's funny. Ha ha, idiots. But the Harley riders are just puttin' along, enjoying the beautiful scenery out here. So I totally agree with you. And I will get my husband to read this. He will really appreciate your words. And if you don't mind, I will pass this along to all his many Harley riding buddies too. They are the best bunch of peple I have ever met and will go out of their way to help all they can. So again, thank you!

August 4, 2012 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Sonny Jobe said...

Motorcycles get no respect from car drivers either. They are giving the you that respect they want from cars. You can't ride and live long using tunnel vision either.

August 4, 2012 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

People in cars think everything is an obstacle in their slalom race on the road--horse, bicycle, pedestrian, other cars. Cars have been engineered to insulate you from the outside world, so now we drive as if we were inside a video game.

August 4, 2012 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger QuilterMary said...

Motorcyclists have experienced too many "surprised" car drivers themselves. They, too, sit on a saddle - while riding their ironhorse.

August 4, 2012 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger QuilterMary said...

Motorcyclists have also experienced "surprised" car drivers. They, too, sit on a saddle while riding their ironhorse.

August 4, 2012 at 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about the people where you live, but there are people here who don't like horses. Mine has even been shot. In fact, there seems to be a large number of people living in their McMansions who don't like to go outdoors at all, they have huge lawns that are mowed and sprayed by other people. They do not like horse poop on the road. They don't wave or smile.

August 4, 2012 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger J.D. said...

I believe they share the same vulnerabilities on the road that you and Merlin share. Just machine horsepower vs. 4-legged horsepower.

August 4, 2012 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

That's a nice counter to our every day experience with motorcycles. Far too many screaming by our house (which is in a 35 mph zone) at 50+mph with the straight pipes making so much noise. They routinely travel in packs of 30+ and block intersections so they can keep their groups together. Living in the state that hosts thousands upon thousands of motorcylcists for Motor Cycle Week, we see some crazy a little geography can change our reality, for sure.

August 4, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Patsy from Illinois said...

I don't think most mean any malice or anything. We are so used to seeing just cars on the road, few motorcycles and fewer horses. I am sure they would like to honk but don't for fear the horse would bolt.

August 4, 2012 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

Well, as both a biker and a currently horseless equestrian, and having just read your jogging post, I think it must be that bikers recognize a fellow nut job. :-D And by nut job, I mean, as I think you do, someone who doesn't care what other people think, and thus goes along their merry way enjoying life's challenges and the freedom of the ride.

Or so it seems to me.

August 4, 2012 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

The vulnerability factor. In cars you can easily get in the habit of imagining yourself in a separate world than everything else. When you don't have that shell, it's a little harder to get in that habit.

I'm about to buy my first vehicle: a Genuine Buddy 125cc scooter in red! I actually have to get a motorcycle license to ride it since it has a engine larger than 50ccs. It's quite exciting!

August 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

I just finished reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and this passage came to mind.
"You see things....on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it's all moving by you boringly in the frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming."

August 4, 2012 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Ruby said...

People in cars who don't wave are the same ones who pick their noses at stoplights. They think if they can't hear you, you can't see them.

August 4, 2012 at 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I see a horse and rider I slow down, quiet down and give a generous berth. I don't want to spook the animal and possibly injury the rider.

August 4, 2012 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Neal and Laura said...

I used to drive a motorcycle, and my thought is that when you're driving on one, you do feel more exposed, and if someone looks right at you, or most likely sees you specifically, you can't help but acknowledge another person! But I'm sure they know how motorcycles can sometimes spook an animal. It can be a much more personal experience...

August 4, 2012 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Imagine you will fly... said...

... you are both 'riders' ... and there is only air in between both of you ... no psychological barrier of metal, glass and plastic ...

August 4, 2012 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Alassel said...

Simply replace "Merlin and me" with "My motorcycle" and you have a very similar experience to those of us who ride the iron horses. I commute year-round by motorcycle in Seattle, have done so for five years now, and the only constant is that everyone else on the road is trying to kill me either through ignorance and inattention or through spite and malice. Thankfully, those with the latter attitude are few and far between, but those with the former can still kill me just as dead.

Ride safe, Jenna and Merlin. :)

August 4, 2012 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Lilac Hill said...

I think that some people who drive in rural areas do not live , walk, or ride on rural roads. They do not know how reassuring it is to get that "nod" that says I see you, your dogs, your horse or your pastures full of animals.In an area with Amish and Mennonite buggies drawn by horses,I am reassured when I make eye contact with the driver.

August 4, 2012 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I think that Lisa, the very first commenter, has it. People on motorcycles want respect and consideration (being NOTICED is a small start) from people who are driving cars.

Also, I think that many people who ride motorcycles do so for the freedom that it allows them...I've heard some of the more vehement ones refer to cars as "coffins". Perhaps they see a kindred spirit in you, on your Merlin?

August 4, 2012 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

There's a neat passage in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" that says something to the effect of; when you're enclosed in the capsule that is a car, it's like the outside world is a completely alien space. You're driving through it, but not really experiencing or connected to it at all. Maybe that has something to do with it.

August 4, 2012 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting... Out here, drivers in cars and motorcyclists are both considerate- its the bicyclists who are jerks.

August 4, 2012 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Jessica Wakeford said...

In addition to seconding many of the comments on here, motorcyclists have to be much more aware of their surroundings so they probably see you much more quickly and have more time to react than motorists.

August 4, 2012 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger deodar said...

I think a lot of cyclists really don't want to find out what 1000 #s of frightened horse could do to their machines (or them!) That said when I had my very first horse, a large fractious thoroughbred, my heart nearly stopped when I saw a group or 10 or 15 motorcycles coming toward me on a rural road. Imagine my surprise when every last one of them stopped, turned off their machines and didn't turn them back on til I was well past. Could've kissed every one of them!

August 4, 2012 at 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Motorcyclists are much more aware of the world around them...we have to be! We're also used to dealing with clueless car drivers and their dangerous disregard for "non-traditional" modes of transportation.

August 4, 2012 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I could be very wrong but it always seems to me that motorcyclists,bikers, and horse riders are enjoying the travel a whole lot more than the car drivers. And in that appreciation they notice things, including what is ON the road. Unlike car drivers who are focused on rushing thru. Just my opinion:)
For those who answered Jenna's post offering help to Holly in Illinois; here is my information:
Hope to "hear" from you soon! Thank you Jenna for spreading community.
Holly, Donovan farm in Illinois

August 5, 2012 at 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't clump people together in groups depending on what they drive/ride as it is rather unfair. In my rural farm area we have our fair share of tractor trailers, cars, motorcyles, bicycles, and horses pulling buggies. I have also been commuting several times a week for over an hour one way to attend college in a medium-sized city. The roads I travel vary from country backroads to highways and inner city.

I have seen alot. I have seen drivers/riders of every age and gender. I have seen great drivers, okay drivers and terrible drivers. I have seen friendly, waving people and down-right nasty people. I have almost been hit by other cars, tractors, and motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic. I've said many of a heartfelt prayer that no one would be hurt if they caused an accident ahead. My car was rear ended by a horse and wagon when I was at a dead stop in an alley and the man in the wagon wasn't paying attention. I have watched bicyclists buzz through intersections not even bothering to follow the traffic laws they expect everyone else to follow. But then again, I have watched people on bikes stop so they were making sure everyone was safe. I have seen motorcyclists not stop at intersections and block traffic so their friends can go through even though it is not their turn. I have also seen many motorcyclists spend their time and money for fundraising to help the needy. I lost a young friend on a motorcycle when he drove too fast and rear-ended the car in front of him. It was stopped with the turn signal on and plenty of time for him to slow down. I also lost a much-loved family member when he was traveling down the road on his motorcyle and a woman pulled out in front of him. Devastating to say the least.

All this to say, once again, please stop clumping people into groups no matter what the group pertains to. It really isn't fair. In each given situation where people are clumped due to what they drive, believe, eat, own or raise there are good and bad, male and female, young and old, experienced and novice.

Sometimes, if you are the first to wave, you might get a friendly wave back, sometimes not. Either way, life is still good.

August 6, 2012 at 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I drive a car, and sometimes a truck. I haven't been on a horse or a motorcycle in over 30 years due to life choices, health concerns and money issues. That is just how it happened in my life and that is okay. I just wanted to say that I enjoy the scenery I see while driving as much as people on horses or cycle. I do my best to notice all that is around me for safety and pleasure.

August 6, 2012 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger 2houndnight said...

I like to believe it is a kindred spirit giving another husband loves motorcycles, I love horses....for many of the same reasons. Feeling slightly more alive when unencapsulted in the confines of a vehicle, enjoying the pleasure of the ride, not just the destination...

August 6, 2012 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Anon, I was not generalizing. I was writing about my actual experiences on my road over the past few weeks.

August 6, 2012 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger ysmeine said...

My mother was thrown from a horse spooked from a passing car. They had to dig the gravel from her leg. She taught us to gives horses a respectable distance whether on foot from behind or driving.

My son rides a moped and he said they don't leave him much room when passing.

August 6, 2012 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger farmhousewife said...

Sonny Jobe, QuilterMary, and J.D. said it. I think it has, also, a wee bit to do with the idea that an individual in a car/suv/truck is "insulated" and does not feel vulnerable; whereas the motorcycle rider feels our same vulnerability.

As I'm typing this I'm not so surprised to read the rest of the comments that have said the exact same thing as my own thoughts....

Nut job - haha!

August 7, 2012 at 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Drew Shiel said...

I see someone has already mentioned Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, so I'll just second that. Seminal book.

August 9, 2012 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Wendy Halliman said...

I ride a motorcycle and for years, rode horses....the love of the open road is the same. On a bike you get the smells, the change in air temp when you cross a brook, the heat of the pavement, etc. Just as you do on a horse. You feel alive! Part of everything going on around you!! Having been thrown from a spooked horse and having been involved in a motorcycle accident, I can say the road hurts either way!!! But I think motorcyclists see horses and riders as vunerable as they.

August 10, 2012 at 3:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, what they said! As a (bi)cyclist, I get that from cars all the time... I think it's all about being present in the world around you. On a horse, bike, or motorbike (or hoofin' it on foot), you're much more vulnerable and oh so much more alive and awake to your surroundings! I try to keep a friendly outlook- it helps... but while it's the rare motorist who returns a smile or wave in the city, almost all the other bipeds and bi-wheelers do!

August 10, 2012 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger Max Piedra said...

Whatever their reasons are, you are all drivers, driving in the same road. It just so happens that you drive different vehicles. Anyway, don’t be bothered by their reactions, just focus on your driving so you won’t find yourself unexpectedly crashing head-on into a traffic collision.

-Max Piedra

December 17, 2012 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Erik Lucien said...

Amen to that, Max! Ultimately, when you’re driving your motorbike on the road, the main principle is always safety. Be careful and watch for anything before you make turns, swerve, stop, or go.

- Erik Lucien

January 10, 2013 at 10:48 AM  

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