Following…by the golden rule
It has been discussed here several times, at least once by me, that some potholes in this city are nothing shy of craters. I have seen massive holes in the roads during fair weather seasons, but nothing compares to the damage done by a violent winter. This winter was more violent than most, and we are now seeing the effects of the DOTs harsh treatment of the roads, presumably, in order to make them drivable, after the snow melts. The irony that the DOT’s actions create more dangerous conditions, in an effort to make us all safer, does not escape me. Especially as I have approached a pothole at speed, barely escaping it’s depth.
I am not here to b*%ch and moan about the potholes again (although I would love to vent, for the 4537th time). These road condition have highlighted a safety measure that I am having a hard time adhering to. When I took the MSS safety course, one of the lessons that stood out to me most, and which I have tried to practice regularly, is the ‘four and two second rule.’ The simple act of picking a stationary point in the distance (parked car, telephone pole), and counting the seconds between you and the car immediately in front of you. This lesson has stuck with me, above all others, because it seems the easiest way to prevent unforeseen issues, which could lead to horrible, horrible things. Ideally, you would have four seconds between you and the car ahead. At worst, you should never get closer than two seconds. I believe the goal of the MSS instructor was to prevent rear-ending someone. But an added benefit would be to have a clearer view of the road ahead.
So, in my daily riding, I make sure that I (of course) keep an eye on the car in front of me, but also to occasionally count off the distance, adjusting my speed and open space accordingly. Therein lies the problem. On the streets of New York, in the type of congested traffic we typically deal with, allowing even two seconds between us and the car ahead, is incredibly difficult. I think that I give in to the pressure of angry horns, urging me to move before it’s safe, pressuring me to follow closer than I feel comfortable with. The bottleneck of cars that I encounter, on almost every ride, offers very little in the way of safe space between me and ANY car. Not behind, parked or at crossings, let alone the one ahead of me. Often, I find myself instinctively beginning to count…”one Mississippi, two….” That’s it. That’s all I get. Maybe I need to use a different state?
This brings up our old nemesis, the pothole. I have found that there is very little chance of me spotting these craters, when I am tailing so close behind. The reaction time is now limited, and I have merely split seconds to react. Thus far I have avoided these disasters-in-waiting, but I feel my time is coming. The other day, on an entrance ramp (when most of us would be concentrating on the merging traffic ahead, I realized I had entered a gauntlet of holes, no less than 10″ deep, about the size of a basketball. There is no way, and I mean NO WAY, my bike would have remained upright, had I hit one of these chasms. They were spaced perfectly to eat scooter tires, allowing only the slightest room for error. Fortunately, I barely avoided the tragedy that awaited me, but felt the sting of nerves, for the remainder of the trip home.
Although there is now an easier way to report road condition problems through the 311 service, the rate at which these issues are solved is never going to prevent us having to deal with them. So, best to take safety measures into our own hands. The solution: well, I’m not sure there really is one. If, like me, you cave to the pressure of the traffic surrounding you, there is a very good chance that you will encounter one of these holes. If, unlike me, you can resist the honking and pressure, you will be safer for it, and have a fighting chance at safely getting through this season of splits in the road. Keep an eye out, and a safe distance between….it’s about the only thing we can do.