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The Troublesome SUV

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past few decades, you are aware of the explosion of the market for larger vehicles in the U.S. Americans are driving more pickup trucks, mini vans, and sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) than ever before, even with the increasing price of fuel for them. Look at any grocery store parking lot and you’ll see the spaces crammed with these oversized four-wheeled vehicles.

"SUVs can make me or other vehicles disappear around them."

I lump all these vehicles into a single category of SUV which the industry calls Sport Utility Vehicles but I call Sight Unseen Vehicles. Now you might wonder why I would consider something that large as a Sight Unseen Vehicle. It’s not them, but because of them that I may not be able to see around them or be seen by others near them. They can make me or other vehicles disappear around them.

When I’m around these SUV’s, others have a more difficult time seeing me. Other drivers may think there’s a gap in the traffic after that soccer mom’s van or the oversize pickup truck. If they try to shoot through it, we both get surprised because I may be riding in that gap.  I’ve got to find ways to make myself more visible when following one of these SUV’s. I may also be hidden by the SUV if I’m traveling beside it on a multilane thoroughfare.

I might think about increasing the distance between my bike and the SUV. I probably want to be riding in the left third of the lane so oncoming traffic and left turners can see me sooner. In this position I will also want to be watchful for vehicles entering the roadway from the right as they may not be able to see me either. Certainly being tucked up right behind the SUV is not my most visible position.

Likewise these SUV’s block my vision when I’m around them. I can’t see through them to know what’s happening ahead or to the sides. I should be watching what’s going on four to five vehicles in front of me so I can begin dealing with developing situations early. That way they become non-events instead of tight spots with possible ugly consequences.

I also need to know what vehicles might be waiting to pull into or across my lane of traffic so I can keep an eye on them and be prepared to take appropriate action if they do cut into my path. I want to spot those kids on bicycles early so I can time my passing of them when there’s a gap in traffic and avoid a sudden necessary swerve by another passing vehicle.

In short, I need to see and be seen when I’m riding in traffic. Sight Unseen Vehicles block my view and hide me from others. Sharing the road with these visibility hogs require that I work extra hard to ensure others see me and that I know what’s going on around me. I can’t control the buying habits of Americans nor can I reduce the number of these rolling hiding places, so I’ve got to learn to deal with these troublesome Sight Unseen Vehicles.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!