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Close encounters of the wrong kind

February 13, 2008
Doc’s P200, post-crash

Robert Morgan photo

Doc’s message to the list about his trip home from the Vespa Club meeting tells the story:

Well (Boating) Bob, unfortunately it looks like we have yet another item to add to the “Winter of Our Discontent”. Immediately after the incident I was disappointed that good Karma had let us down (having just helped a friend in need) but after I reflected on it a bit I realize that it must rather have been a powerful Karma indeed that kept us from being killed outright. If we had been only 2 seconds earlier . . . well, I just hate to think.

On the way home last night we were heading north on 15th Avenue NE coming up on 65th Street. The light turned green for a car turning left about 50’ ahead so we entered the intersection on a solid green doing about 25mph. We were about a quarter way through when, like an apparition from a nightmare, a dark green sedan ran the red light going east at around 40-50mph. Sort of like having the engine quit in your airplane: I knew in an instant that it wasn’t a matter of if we would hit, but simply how and where. I had a couple microseconds to decide how best to minimize the mess about to occur so hit the binders (gently so as to not skid in under the car’s wheels) and at onset of impact swerved slightly to the left. There was a loud CRUNCH as I managed to bounce us off the car’s quarter panel and an instant later the car was gone and we were left staggering on an angle through the remainder of the intersection. But still upright and skin intact!

We pulled over and stopped but the car was out of sight and although the fender was nicely crumpled the Vespa was still rideable and of course we were unhurt. A sympathetic bystander said he would take pictures with his cell phone if we wanted but it seemed pointless. So we simply thanked him, caught our breath and continued on home. Photos are attached.

But there is a final chapter: I called the guy who was advertising the free scooter parts on Craigslist and he said he has a slightly dented P front fender that he’ll give me. So perhaps good Karma is still with us after all!


There have been a few incidents among our group, the most serious locally being Maryvu’s new Stella getting totaled (without injury to her, thankfully). Nationally there has been much attention given to a hit-and-run accident in Denver, leaving Paula Barlow hospitalized with serious injuries. More details about the incident are available from in Denver.

Doc is a very experienced rider, not to mention a very experienced pilot (that’s where the airplane reference comes in). But all the skill in the world isn’t going to matter if anybody in the U.S. can get a driver’s license with no formal training.

In Germany, getting a driver’s license requires the same sort of education and training you go through to get a pilot’s license here. It’s expensive and time-consuming.

Of course, Germany has excellent public transportation and intercity rail service, so those who aren’t interested in jumping through the hoops (or don’t measure up) have ways to get around. In most of the U.S., there are few, if any, alternatives to driving.

As I’ve said, I have found my racing experience quite valuable when I’m riding. The PX and I haven’t taken a serious header, at least not yet.

All you can do is remember the immortal words of Hill Street Blues’ Sgt. Esterhaus: “Let’s be careful out there…” Favicon

One Comment
  1. bob permalink
    February 13, 2008 9:27 pm

    I have to admit, I am getting really tired of this. The car is question was speeding and running a red light. I will bet you a dollar to a doughnut the driver was high, or drunk, or talking on a cell phone. But it is appalling that they didn’t stop. Municipalities like the City of Seattle need to step up here. If they want people to consider alternatives to cars, they need to make the streets safe. Trebling or Quadrupling the fines for moving violations would be a start. The current fines are frankly ‘chump change’. If you want to get someone’s attention, hit them in the wallet – HARD!

    With more people looking to alternatives to high gas prices, if the city doesn’t make things safer, I can see riders taking things into their own hands. Think about the biker vs. car scenes from “Mad Max”.

    OK, that’s a little extreme for PC Seattle, but if this nonsense continues, you can start calling me ‘ToeCutter’ (another Mad Max reference); I got a gang to look out for.

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