“I was thinking, I see bikers block traffic all the time? Do you guys think you own the road? By the way, isn’t that illegal anyway?”
“This is a tricky one and to be honest, it is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Yes, it is illegal. There is no doubt that whomever is blocking traffic is subject to being charged with violating traffic laws which is the least of our concerns since it can also be very dangerous. But, to be honest, I am guilty of it myself.
You will not see two bikers blocking traffic for one another, but you most likely will encounter that in a large group motorcycle ride. Part of it, is because of the unwritten code between bikers that we take care of each other. It is very common within the motorcycle riding community that you are parked on the side of a desolate road relaxing, when all of a sudden biker(s) pull up next to you just to make sure you are okay. Think about that for a second. Strangers lending a hand to one another. Unfortunately, we don’t see enough of that these days.
But besides that, safety is our main reason for blocking traffic. It’s not that we are trying to get to our destination quicker. It’s not that we are reckless. It’s not that we believe traffic laws don’t apply to us. We do it for the simple reason that there is strength in numbers. Five bikes are more visible than one, and thirty are more visible than five. Just look at the picture below to prove this. Riding alone in congested areas can be very dangerous, so we stick together to protect not only ourselves, but also the added benefit of each other.
Even in large groups, we still face dangers from aggressive drivers. No matter the size of the group, there is always that one car that decides to break up the group and jump into our formation. I’ve never understood why someone would do that. Imagine we are riding in a tight formation. At 55 mph, we are traveling at 80 feet per second. If a car cuts us off at less than 80 feet, let’s say 20 feet ahead of us, and now those riding in front of the car hit their brakes, well, you can imagine. So, when driving, please don’t cut us off. The driver will walk away with a traffic ticket, a biker may not walk away at all.
Now, in very large groups, we do divide our groups into a smaller, more manageable size. But regardless, we do it to create visibility. With cars it is much easier. If several cars are following each other, if one falls behind, you can simply call one another to find out their location; but we don’t have the privilege of using cell phones while riding.
In addition, since we cannot communicate with one another, we worry if something happened to a fellow biker regardless of whether it’s a mechanical failure or something more serious like an accident.
Every time we jump on our bikes, safety crosses our minds. As car drivers, you rarely think about your safety when going for a drive. You never worry about what time of day it is nor do you say you are not going to drive now because you consider rush hour traffic dangerous. You simply get in your car and go; we don’t. We are even cautious with the routes we pick, trying to pick the routes with least amount of traffic, left turns and intersections.
“Then just pull over to the side of road and wait for your friend(s). That’s what I would do.
“Cars are a protective shield for its owners. Motorcycles don’t have bumpers, we have bones. Whether it’s one bike or ten, being lined up on the side of a highway is also very dangerous.
It is less dangerous for us to slow down the traffic in one lane to let the other rider catch up. Besides, switching lanes with a large group is never easy and increases the odds of an accident. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s a perfect system, but considering our options, this is our best choice.
In group rides, I have yet to witness an accident or have heard of one in Miami, but I cannot say the same for single riders. As a matter of fact, I would venture to guess that most accidents with cars including fatalities, is probably with one to three riders versus a large group. Unfortunately, even this weekend I will be attending an organized ride for a biker that was killed in a motorcycle accident with the car driver at fault.
So please, watch out for us. We all know your time is valuable. But, the reality is, blocking an intersection may at most take up one minute of your time. Ask yourself if one minute of your time is worth saving the life of someone?
I’ve seen some crazy things when riding, including having a car pass me on a double-blind curve in Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota. If a car or motorcycle was coming from the opposite direction, the results would have been deadly for everyone.
We are no different than you. We work, have homes, friends, and family. We are parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, and sons and daughters. We all want the same things and we all do the same things, we just do it on two wheels instead of four.
Respect, love, and communication.