[Elist] In the Cone Zone

John Del Santo mcbwaycool at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 2 14:39:42 PET 2011

                                         IN THE CONE ZONE 
By John Del Santo 
We’re riding down the road, wind in our hair, breeze on our knees, and there appears a sign that could spell trouble for a motorcyclist: “ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD”.  If we knew the road work was happening there, we probably would have picked another route, but it often comes as a surprise.  How we get through it depends on how we read the road ahead. 
First and Foremost we need to show attention to, and care for, the construction workers.     “Give ‘em a Brake” as the sign reads.  There is usually plenty of warning when lanes are closing and traffic is merging together.  Plenty of warning that is, for those drivers around you who are bothering to look down the road.  A lot of them don’t aim high,  and spend most of their time being surprised by things that happen.   Use your hand signals when slowing in tight traffic… people tend to see that sooner than they see your brake light.  You know there are a lot of drivers out there with a “me first” mentality who get impatient and selfish and meaner than snakes whenever they’re forced to slow down for anything.  Be ready for them to do something radical.  If everyone just followed the rules they learned in Kindergarten…You know, “Be nice”  “Share”  “Don’t hit”, then merging would happen smooth and easy.  
 Cars in the lane next to you that don’t have a decent following distance will suddenly swerve one way or another when the traffic slows down…Don’t stay in anyone’s Blind Spot any longer than necessary and be ready with your throttle, brakes, and horn.  Work zones are famous for rear-end accidents…So in stop-and-go traffic it can be a good idea to position your bike near the outer edge of your lane and keep an eye on your mirrors… If traffic is stopping and the guy behind you doesn’t seem to be paying attention, you can make a move out  between the rows of traffic and not be smushed like a bug. 
We’re keeping a Giant following distance, much more than usual, so we can see far enough ahead to spot any hazards in time to handle them.  We’re watching for unevenly paved lanes, you know… the dreaded Edge Trap… you can probably ride off  the edge, but trying to ride up  the edge will drop you in a flash!  These are especially dangerous at night when all blacktop looks the same and our depth perception is poor.  We’re staying alert for loose gravel, which will lengthen our stopping distance, holes in the road, and steel trench plates…Slippppppery !  We don’t even think  about touching the brakes while on a trench plate !  Be watching for paint lines that used to guide traffic in one direction but now go somewhere else…maybe off the road or into the next lane of traffic.  Watch for the driver in the next lane being confused by that, and drifting into your lane.   
Once we’re out of the Work Zone, we’re prepared for other drivers jackrabbiting up to speed and jumping around from lane to lane trying to make up the time they lost.  Tires, especially truck tires,  can pick up stones in a construction area, and then as they get back up to speed will slingshot those stones back at you.  By keeping a healthy following distance we stand a better chance of not being in range of those thrown stones, and not be feeling like a duck in a shooting gallery.   Following distance is like Money. You can never have too much,  but if you have a little bit less than you need…  you can be in trouble ! 
So,  to avoid turning a Construction  Area  into a Destruction Area,  avoid the Cone Zone if you can…  and if not,  Be Alert,  Ride Easy,  and  Ride Safe !                                             

John Del Santo
 ABATE Safety Officer
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