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Pedestrian Near-miss Story

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Last year, about November, I almost hit a teenager darting out into traffic. The conditions were:

  • Night time
  • Street lights (spaced over 150 feet apart with dark spots in between illuminated areas)
  • Straight road
  • Mid block
  • No adverse weather

I was on duty, on regular patrol, heading into the center of town. I noticed a group of about three or four teens on the sidewalk on my left (sort of goofing around). I was probably doing about 30 mph.

Suddenly, a teen emerged directly in front of me from the dark spots in between the street lights illuminated range and on the outer edge of my headlight illuminated distance ahead.  She stopped in the middle of lane and froze like a deer.

I did not anticipate this and found myself grabbing a handful of brake. Both front and rear. As is typical, even among the well trained, when it is panic time, riders will generally lock the rear wheel, and I did.

I found the rear slide out a bit but I just kept looking straight, kept my arms locked out straight and rode it out.

I literally missed hitting her by inches. Did that get the old heart pumping!

She was distracted by her friends, stepped out into the roadway, never looking. I had a chat with her about would could have happened given a couple of seconds either way. I don’t think she’ll make that mistake again but what a way to learn.

Thinking back on it, I should have identified the group on my left as a hazard and started to slow down (the purpose of slowing down is to buy more time). This may have prevented the need to emergency brake.

Points to Ponder

As stated in the previous post, dart-outs are the most common pedestrian mistake.

Understand the additional hazards that night time riding presents:

  • Dark spots between illuminated street lights
  • Limited peripheral vision
  • Limited illuminated distance ahead on your bike (about 150 feet)
  • Less contrast

Kids (teens) congregating in small groups should be classified in your plan as a hazard. Slow down to buy time (time is your friend).

It is better to over compensate than to find yourself in emergency panic mode.

If you do have to panic stop, how good is your muscle memory. If you have not practiced this technique then it probably will be absent when you need it. Thousands of miles of riding will not prepare you for the emergency braking.

Even I found myself over-braking my rear tire. Quick review of emergency braking technique:

  • Grab clutch, cutting off power to engine
  • Squeeze front brake, front of bike will start to dip
  • Keep your right foot on the rear-brake, do not add any additional pressure (easier said than done) the dipping forward motion from the front brake will cause your right leg to depress brake pedal (if over-braking the rear occurs, do not release the brake, just ride through it)
  • Keep your head up and eyes straight, do no make direct eye contact with impending hazard
  • Keep your handle bars straight, arms locked out

Remember, even if a pedestrian made eye contact with you, they notoriously under estimate approaching speed. They will probably opt to cross regardless. If it is at night time, they think the distance they can see you is the same distance you can see them.

This was a frightful reminder to me, even though it turned out well. The plan is always to detect hazards with even time for you to react so you don’t find yourself in a panic situation. The better you can do this, the safer your riding will be.

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