Did I see a suicide or just an accident?

Saw something really wild this a.m. - still shaking and trying to process it. I think I saw a motorcyclist die, and I’m turning over in my mind what happened.

I was driving N on the Dan Ryan in Chicago around 7 a.m., S of 79th. There was some construction, and the left lane was going to close ahead. I was in the 2d to the L lane. I was driving with the flow of traffic - probably 65-70. It had spit rain on-off, but pavement was pretty much dry, visibility perfectly clear. Traffic VERY light for the Dan Ryan - which means there were a several car lengths between vehicles. Plenty of room to maneuver if you wanted, but most people were just barreling along in their lanes at or slightly above the speed limit.

There was no one ahead of me in the L lane, so I could see a long way ahead where the L lane closed. There were a couple of orange barrels on either side of what I assume was a construction truck. The bottom 3 feet or so was yellow and black zebra-stripe, and the top few feet was a big sign with a blinking arrow to the R in yellow lights. The truck/barrier pretty much took up the entire lane. And from my lane I could see the solid line f orange barrels stretching on after the barrier. Can’t recall exactly what was ahead of the barrier in terms of signage and/or barrels, but the image I’m trying to covey is that it was as obvious as fucking day that that lane ceased to exist at that spot.

I looked in my rear mirror, and saw a black sedan coming up behind me in the L lane. Thought it was kinda a dick move for him to pass me as the barrier was getting closer, but he was going fast enough that I just stayed in my lane at my speed, and he cut in just a little closer than I would have though optimal. Not worth a second thought.

Then I noticed the motorcycle behind him. It was also coming up on my left, just slightly faster than me. Not crazy fast - I’d assume maybe 80. And the barrier was getting really close. I assumed he would either duck in behind me, or really jump on it and swerve in ahead of me. I took my foot off the gas, but by then we had reached the barrier.

The motorcycle drove straight into it. No swerve, no sign of braking, no head movement. Just drove head on into this freakin wall at full highway speed. He was just slightly ahead of me at impact - I’m pretty sure I was looking at him out my driver’s side window, rather than the windshield. It was a big light colored bike, with a fairing. The guy was wearing a white rain suit, a white helmet, and a safety yellow vest.

The truck/barrier/whatever it was didn’t give an inch. The bike completely folded up - collapsed into the wall. The image that came to my mind was wet cardboard splatting on the pavement. Not as tho it were made of metal at all. I sensed bits of the bike breaking off to the right and left, and a sense of the rider going up into the air and flying up and over the bike to his right.

And then I was past. Called 911, they patched me to the state police. They asked if the biker were hurt, I said I thought he was dead. They said they would send someone, and shortly thereafter I saw a car w/ lights speeding S.

So what I keep asking myself is WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? How the heck could this guy have not seen this barrier? It was literally as big as a wall across the entire lane, and was blinking black and yellow. There were no reasons the traffic or conditions would have prevented him from either going ahead or behind me. And if he were trying to kill himself, why would he put on his helmet and safety vest in order to do so?

Absolutely crazy shit, man!

I don’t think he tried to commit suicide. Your brain is positing this as a possibility because you can’t fathom how someone could not see something so obvious. But I’m guessing that’s exactly what happened.

It’s possible that the motorcyclist thought he had more room than he did. He may have been thinking, ‘Gotta get over. But everyone is so slow!. I’ll just zip around that black sedan… Finally, he moves over. Now…’ smash He may have just been so focused on getting around people who weren’t doing 80, that he didn’t notice the barrier or didn’t realise he was coming up on it so fast.

It was just so wild - the darned barrier was SO obvious! And the biker didn’t impress me as a daredevil on a crotchrocket. Every impression I got was “middle aged tourer.” I bet you are right - likely just a colossal, mindboggling fuck-up that caused some guy his life.

The barrier was obvious to you because you weren’t driving directly behind a vehicle while sitting relatively low to the ground. And I’m not at all trying to put anything on you, since you didn’t do anything wrong, but in those situations where I become aware of something that other people might not be aware of, I try to clear the way for them ahead of time. In this case, that would have been changing lanes to the right, which would have taken you out of the (new) fast lane, and (in the best case scenario) ceded it to the faster bike if he had merged in behind you, and (in the worst case scenario) given him room to swerve away from the barrier when he finally saw it.

Doing that, if possible, would have been preferable to taking your foot off the gas once he was along side you, which might have made things more difficult. Though again, it’s not on you at all. Anybody on a motorcycle has to drive carefully and defensively, and can’t depend on cars to move out of their way or to always react optimally to their own suboptimal driving.

Maybe he passed out or fell asleep at the last second? I wouldn’t put my money on suicide, but who knows.

I know what you are saying Voltaire. Believe me, I’m wondering what I could/should have done differently. If I knew then what ended up happening, I would have merged to the right. I fear I may have overstated how close the bike was behind the black car. Tho the whole thing happened over just a few seconds, after the car merged in front of me, there were a couple more seconds as the bike passed me. And the car’s merge wasn’t really out of line - just kinda on the unnecessarily aggressive side of the line for 7 on a weekend morning.

I’m curious what the signage was ahead of the lane closure because, as I suggested, it certainly didn’t surprise me.

Other possibly relevant factor - this is where they are rebuilding the red lin el, which runs down the center of the expressway. Maybe it distracted the biker. But it had communicated to me that I needed to keep my eyes open.

80 mph is nearly 120 fps. If the rider was concentrating on the black car in front of him, he probably was not aware of the barrier until the car moved over. If it took him a second to process the image a second to think “oh fuck” and a second to panic while trying to decide what to do, he has already covered more than a football field. He just froze in fear and that was all it took.

I have never ridden a bike on an expressway. How much does a car restrict your vision? I can’t get out of my mind that this barrier wasn’t a sawhorse or something. When I saw it - maybe a quarter mile ahead, I though “Man, that looks like a wall.”

Not that much, usually. The seat on a motorcycle is higher than one in a coupé or sedan.

Have you searched through your local paper to see if the accident was mentioned? If it was a fatality, chances are it will be.

It’s sad, but it happens all the time:

Human Error in Road Accidents

He’s on a bike doing around 80, not lane-splitting, wearing a white rain suit, a white helmet, and a safety yellow vest. It looks as though he’s pretty safety conscious so unlikely he’s impaired by either drink/drugs or major lack of sleep.

Also who would commit suicide wearing a safety jacket? My first thought is he lost concentration and wasn’t looking where he was going. Maybe his bike wasn’t riding properly and he was checking the wheels to see if there was a wobble, or looking at the rev counter and listening for a misfire.

Then again I’ve (once) driven really tired, after 36 hours awake, and you’re dangerous at that point but too tired to realise.

No suicide. The motorcyclist was focused on following the black sedan and was unaware of the blockage. Maybe he was daydreaming, or planning a rebuttal for a political thread on an Internet message board.

From your description it seems likely the sedan driver was aware of the motorcyclist; he should have slowed down earlier to send a cautionary signal. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he acted sadistically.

“Crazy fast” is a relative term. I’ve driven fast and incautiously and had some scary close calls. These days I seldom go faster than 65 or so. What’s the point?

Harley, right? :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s no helmet law in Iowa, and none of the riders I know wear one. They all say the helmets obscure their peripheral vision. Could that have been a factor for this rider?


At the risk of being rude, AuntiePam I must say that I think that the riders you know are idiots.

IMO, the biker being discussed was riding too fast for the conditions and didn’t pay proper attention. I’m sorry for his family, but when you are moving that fast on 2 wheels, it only takes 1 mistake to kill you.

Dinsdale I’m sorry you had to see that. If the memory bothers you too much, you might want to talk to someone. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know the rider, watching someone die violently like that can really do a number on your head.

People say that. I own two helmets and with either of them, when wearing them, I can’t see them (does that make sense, that is, I can’t see the edges of the helmet itself). IOW, no, they don’t restrict vision at all. There are plenty of arguments against wearing helmets, but IMHO, that’s always been a bad one. If your helmet restricts your visibility, get a different one. You should have tried it on at the store, there’s a metric ton of different styles, pick a different one.

Many years ago, I had a similar experience. A motorcyclist was merging in from the on-ramp and just went across three lanes and straight into the jersey wall. It seemed to me at the time that he was focused On getting around a particular car, and not really seeing anything else. We’ll never know.

I wondered the same thing you did. I do think these drivers probably didn’t have the same sense we do of our lives being precious. Or perhaps they were in that invulnerable phase of youth. It’s certain that they were not being careful with their lives; but perhaps still had no desire to actually die.

I second the advice to talk this through with a professional as soon as possible. I still have nightmares about it decades later, and that could have been avoided.