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I cut off a motorcycle and I’m sorry I did it

Wheels contributor Lorraine Sommerfeld is still upset after she pulled in front of a motorcycle on Highway 403 and the rider promptly flipped her the bird.

Published September 21, 2011


I got flipped off by a motorcyclist the other day. He really got into it; he actually turned twice after he’d gone past, middle finger fully extended in indignant anger, punctuating his digital flair with cartoon head shakes to make sure I got it.

I got it.

I cut him off and I endangered his life and I’m still upset about it. I was changing lanes to accommodate a trail of cars coming down an on ramp. Perfectly clear day, steady traffic.

I’m a good mirror user. I am. I’m very familiar with this stretch of highway, and while it’s a twisted, stupid design, the 403 coming out of Hamilton has been around longer than I have. The ridiculous left-hand exit for those heading to Highway 6 is dangerous; nearly as dangerous as the left-hand entrance for those joining the highway a few hundred metres further along.

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You come upon the on ramp from the right on a blind curve. It’s short, and coincides with people trying to make it to that left hand exit almost immediately. Put all this action on an inclining tight curve and you have a busy corridor designed for a different era.

As I spied a long line of merging traffic descending to the highway on my right, I flipped on my indicator. They’d be needing the lane. With nothing close in my rear view, I checked my left mirror, shoulder checked, and looked again to the line of traffic to my right. As I took to the left lane, the motorcyclist flashed by me. I’d cut him off. I should have shoulder checked again, and I hadn’t.

I hadn’t seen him in my rear view; I hadn’t seen him in my side mirror; I hadn’t seen him in the first shoulder check. Motorcycles are small. Whether this one had eluded me due to his speed or positioning, it didn’t matter. I was the one making the lane change, and it was up to me to know.

I don’t know a decent motorcyclist who doesn’t ride as if every car is a threat. They are, and it’s the only way to stay alive. I’m sure the cyclist saw my indicator; I’m sure he had mapped the placement of every vehicle in his path; I’m sure he’d seen the loaded on ramp. I still cut him off. He’d been tracking left to make the exit; he must have eluded my vision at each check.

People spend a great deal of time defending their decisions on the road. Who was in the right, who did something stupid, who made a mistake. The thing is, even if you’re in the right and you get hit, what’s the point of being dead right, literally? We have to be prepared to be cognizant of everyone’s actions on our roads, not just our own.

I made an error that could have cost someone their life. It happens just like that, and it happens to people every single day. I live in an area heavily populated by pedestrians. People tend to walk like pigeons or cats, and piloting a vehicle in their midst can never be done in haste. I’ve told my sons that just because someone is stupid, that doesn’t mean you get to kill them.

Tons of steel will always win over a bicycle, a person or a motorcycle. My motorcyclist had every right to be mad at me, and I apologize.

Lorraine Sommerfeld appears Monday in Living and Saturday in Wheels. Reach her at