Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lessons in the Conservation of Momentum

So, here is the physics lesson of the week: objects in motion tend to stay in motion , unless acted upon by an outside force.

I was on my way to work early Thursday morning and the following story happened.
There is an intersection less than a mile from my front door that I take across a very busy main road which has a gas station on either side of the intersection. As I cross the main road, I observe a Honda Accord pulling up to the exit of the gas station on the far side of the road, far side but also on the right hand side from my direction of travel. So, as is proper when you see a vehicle coming up to a place where it could potentially jump out and bite you, I rolled off the throttle a little. Then I realized that the speed of the car was not slowing enough to allow it to come to a stop before exiting the parking lot.

I hit the brakes.

The car continued into the roadway, making a left turn directly across my lane.

I really hit the brakes.

Then I really hit the car.

The sequence of events directly following the impact is a little faster. I see the surprise on the face of the car's driver. Then feel the impact of my front tire on the car's rear door. This is followed by the sense of being flipped over the trunk of the car and falling to the road on my right shoulder and back.

Thankfully, I can report that my gear (full face helmet, mesh jacket, over-pants, gloves, and boots) all performed the job of keeping me intact admirably. I felt to be in remarkably good shape for having just hit a car. A feeling that an ambulance ride to the ER confirmed after several x-rays, just to be certain. That is the first lesson from this encounter: wear your gear. Even if you don't think you'll need it. Wear it.

The second lesson is one of visibility. Many of you may already know that, in addition to my other protective apparel, I wear Icon's military spec high-visibility orange, reflective vest. Even with that vest and the headlight on (not only a legal requirement, but also an automatic feature of most modern bikes) the second thing I heard the other driver say was, "Did you have your lights on? Because I didn't see you." This statement is precisely why I reduced speed when I saw the car. I didn't trust him to see me.

You may want to know what the first thing I heard him say was. To his credit, the first thing out of his mouth when he got out of the car was, "Are you ok?"

I hope this little lesson in physics is helpful to those who ride, and to those who share the road with us riders. Ride safe.