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Cushions of Air

What comes to mind when you think of cushions of air? You might envision puffy white clouds floating in a sea of deep blue sky. They look so soft and peaceful as they drift overhead under the control of the light summer breeze. Another picture could be of colorful air mattresses and air pillows spread out on the floor of a tent ready to wrap you in their softness as they cushion you for a good night’s slumber.

Perhaps your imagination conjures up an image of air-filled padding or bubble wrap protecting the contents of a shipping carton. Safely wrapped in these pockets of air, the fragile contents are protected from the bumps and shakes of their travels.

"You need a cushion of air around you as you ride down the road. How large that cushion is depends on your riding behavior."

As a motorcyclist, you also need a cushion of air around you as you ride down the road. Your space cushion is the room you have around you that provides a better view of the road and the traffic sharing that road with you. The time and space between you and other vehicles helps ensure you always have an out in case you suddenly encounter an unforeseen situation.

How large and protective that cushion is depends on your riding behavior. Some riders change lanes by diving around cars with hardly any room between them and these other cars. They crawl within a bike length of the car ahead so they can move in front of the car in the next lane, barely missing its bumper when they cut in front of it.

Other riders often creep up on the truck ahead until there is precious little space between them. Sometimes they are not only riding incredibly close, but they are also trailer hitch centered on that vehicle. Maybe they believe that everyone is going in the same direction and at the same speed so nothing will happen to change that condition.  

These riding behaviors do not allow the rider to have any realistic space cushion in traffic. If something happens on the road ahead, these riders have no time to react to the situation. By the time they recognize the need to stop, it’s already too late to do so. Even their ability to swerve around the problem has been taken away by their position in traffic.  

In most cases they couldn’t even see the impending problem developing because their view of the changing traffic conditions was blocked by the vehicle ahead. Their world was reduced to the back end of the SUV they were following so closely. In addition to their view of traffic being obscured, they were also hidden from the view of other drivers on the road.  

The time and space you maintain around your motorcycle allows you to better see what’s happening in traffic. It also increases the likelihood that other drivers will see you. Additionally, if you miss seeing a problem developing, your space cushion can provide the room you need to make a quick maneuver to avoid a crash.  

Preserve a margin of safety around you by keeping an adequate distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Always try to have a hole in traffic to duck into on at least one side of you, even if it’s the shoulder of the road. Wrapping yourself in a cushion of air can protect you by increasing your visibility, making you more visible to others and providing you an out in a sticky situation. .

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!