Update on the Motorcycle Commute

Regular readers of this blog are aware that I had a crash last May whilst commuting on my Harley to work. I had become accustomed to arriving at my office by 0530, sometimes earlier. And my commute to work was almost always in the dark. That was among the reasons of the cause of my crash — cage drivers can’t see motorcycles in broad daylight, so why would I expect a cage driver to see me in the dark? (Even though my bike is extremely well-lit!)

My Spouse asked me …

…not to ride in the dark, and I agreed. I can not see that well in the dark any more, and I don’t trust other drivers to see me, either. So I stopped commuting to the office. All through last summer, autumn, winter, and this year’s spring, my poor ol’ Harley just sat there during the week. It was sad to see it that way and my rider’s heart was torn. I would ride it one day on the weekends, but it was not nearly the same. I was seriously contemplating giving up the Harley all together.

This May, after enduring more non-riding sadness, I had one of “those discussions” with the Spouse. It was either “return to riding more often” or “sell the bike.”

The Spouse knows how much I love riding, and need it for mental health therapy, so I renegotiated my riding terms with him. I could ride to the office again, with the proviso that I wear high-vis armored jacket and leathers over the legs (and of course gloves, boots & helmet that I always wear anyway) and adjust my departure time so that it would be light enough to see for my short commute to work.

Also, I had to make sure that I was riding on the one main highway that I have to use when all traffic signals were operational. In my area, some signals work 24-hours/day and some signals blink yellow during off-hours at minor intersections. It was that “blink yellow” situation that got me in trouble and contributed to my crash last year. A cage driver saw a blinking yellow light and thought it was changing to red and she slammed on her brakes in front of me — then wham! bang! … I glanced off her bumper and went down.

With departure time adjustments, I returned to the motorcycle commute.

Finding the balance between “light enough to see” and “fully operational traffic lights” has been a bit of a learning curve — more than I expected. By trial-and-error, I learned that I have to leave my house at 0513 or later so when I encounter the traffic lights on “main road” at 0530, the lights at minor intersections are not blinking any more, but fully operational. I learned that I cannot leave a minute earlier.

Being such a naturally early riser and starter, holding myself back to wait until 0513 for departure is damn hard! I’m geared up and ready to roll at 0500, and that 13 minutes twiddling my thumbs is difficult for me to deal with. (One might ask, “why can’t you just sleep 15 minutes later?” Yeah, most people can do that, but I awaken naturally at 0400 and just can’t “sleep in” no matter how hard I try.)

Being super geeky and consulting a time-and-date table that gives times of twilight and sunrise and being at 39°N and 77°W, I found that twilight is bright enough to see at 0513 between June 1 and June 29 only. Dates before or after those dates means it’s dark at 0513!

So now I must adjust my departure time to coincide with civil twilight instead of the traffic light operations. And as the Earth’s orbit around the sun makes day length shorter by a minute or two every day past solstice, it means on July 13, my departure time was 0522. By August 1, it will be 0539.

I can continue tweaking my work schedule to arrive later — and work later in the day — until 2 September when my current Acting Boss position will end and I (look forward to) return to being Deputy Dawg instead of The Boss. That means that it is likely that come September, my motorcycle-to-work commute will cease and I will return to driving my truck back at the preferred 0500 departure time… and drive in the dark.

Life is short: thus the adjustments and accommodations for a math and astronomy geek who happens to ride a motorcycle (sometimes) to work.

PS: I also switch to driving my truck instead of the Harley to work when: a) it is raining or the forecast is confident for rain during my commute home; or b) it is forecast to be warmer than 92F (33C) with dew points near 70F (21C). I can’t ride with a mesh jacket when it is that hot and humid, even for my relative short ride home. My commute is in heavy, slow traffic, and I can’t tolerate roasting on a heat engine.

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