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Theory on Seattle Traffic
I have a theory about drivers in Seattle traffic.
I suppose my theory is biased, as a motorcyclist.
I have been commuting via motorcycle for about six years. Four of those years have been year-round here in the Pacific Northwest. My research has been via thousands of miles of traffic interaction on Seattle surface streets and highways, express lanes, rush hour traffic, sun, rain, mist, fog, hail, sleet, and even a couple of snowy jaunts home. I do also ride on desirable roads, however this theory of mine is not based on those rides.
The "research" has been mostly rewarding. I regularly feel liberated and freed by my year round motorcycle commuting, it reasserts my strong and independent female persona. If you are reading this article, you must already know the love affair that an individual can have with motorcycling. I say that my "research" about these cycles of drivers has been mostly rewarding because like all motorcycle commuters, sometimes it becomes apparent how invisible I am as a rider, and close calls happen.
My theory revolves around human cycles. I see cycles in drivers, overlapping behavioral patterns that with careful observation and defensive driving techniques are almost predictable. I theorize that there are key components in these Seattle traffic cycles. Some of these components consist of long stretches of sunny weather turning to rainy days (forgotten rain driving skills, excess oil left on the road from dry spells now slippery in the rain), a sunny day following a long stretch of rainy days, Seasonal Affected Disorder (the Pacific Northwest is populated with numerous acute sufferers of S.A.D.), Mondays (with leftover weekend hangovers and not enough coffee, we're all addicted to coffee here in Seattle you know), Fridays (the morning after Thursday night, a.k.a. "Little Fridays"), typical Seattle passive-aggressive driving, and of course myriad personal reasons.
My Seattleite preamble leads me to my Seattleite car-driver hypothesis: a Seattle day in which one "close call" between a motorcycle and a car is experienced, more such "close calls" will follow.
I pride myself on practicing skills and constantly working to become a more proficient motorcyclist. In fact, Proficient Motorcycling by David L. Hough and his successive books have been paramount to my education and skill development. I practice seasonal skills, performance riding skills, inclement weather skills, slow handling skills, swerving, panic stops, one-handed riding, no-clutch shifting, accelerating, braking, and more. My goal is to develop my muscle memory to such a point that it is reliable when my own brain is too slow to process the sensory input received.
This morning, on my normal 6:30am commute, I was the proud beneficiary of 3 close calls matched with three perfect examples of muscle memory. Upon later discussion of my close calls with other motorcyclist friends, I was taught the word "proprioception". Proprioception is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as "the perception by an animal of stimuli relating to its own position, posture, equilibrium, or internal condition". Today, proprioception saved my life, and somehow spontaneously inspired me to split lanes (illegal in my state) betwixt oncoming traffic and my own lane, which was unceremoniously taken from me. It inspired me to swerve around a truck leaving an espresso stand with reckless abandon. Proprioception motivated me to downshift 2 gears and twist the throttle hard, looping around a steering-wheel-yanking sleepy person badly merging into my lane.
If not for my Pinlock, all the panting and hollering I did in my Arai helmet this morning surely would have fogged my visor. I couldn't be more thankful for the Pinlock, and my ongoing skill development and muscle memory, than in times like these.
~Sarah Franko, Seattle Motorcyclist