Motorcycles are back!

MC AwarenessIt’s spring and motorcycles are back! However, with the mild winter we have had, in some locations, they haven’t left. Drivers now have to get used to seeing us on the road again. Recognizing that we are invisible to many drivers, we have to learn to accommodate this. We have to ride as though riding is a game of tag and everyone on four wheels is it.

I had a driver look straight at me – we actually made eye contact – and she pulled out right in front of me. Another time I was in the left most lane of a three lane road and I saw a driver in the right lane signalling to cross from where she was, across the centre lane and into my lane. I new she didn’t see me because her head never even twitched to the left, not even a hint of a shoulder check.

The craziest was when I was riding south bound in the right lane, just behind a vehicle who has in the left lane (not in his blind spot). There was a median between the north and south bound traffic. Two lanes going south and two going north. In the north bound lane was a fire truck travelling with lights and sirens. The traffic in the north bound lane would be compelled to move to the right to allow the fire truck to pass. However, in the south bound lane, since we were on a separate roadway, we were not compelled to move at all. The driver of the car panicked and, at the last moment, changed lanes to the right, cutting me off. I hit the brakes and changed into the left lane. Realizing that he cut me off, and I guess, not knowing for sure where I went, tried to go back where he came from, the left lane! By then I was beside him. I’m not a big believer that loud pipes save lives however, that day the sound of my bike gave the guy a start as he tried to cross back into my lane.

When it comes to riding there is no room for attitude on a motorcycle. We have to change our thinking. When we are going through an intersection in our truck and someone is about to make a left turn in front of us, we are in a position of power. We can think, “you’d better not do this our you’ll be a mess on the road.” On the other hand, if we are on our bikes and someone is about to turn left in front of us, the only threat we can make is, “you’d better not turn ’cause if you do, I’m going to smear myself all over your bumper.” Not much of a threat.

Motorcycles are back – Look twice for them!

Drivers tend to get lazy with some of the most important safety maneuvers. We look but we don’t see. Our shoulder checks are minimal or non-existent. If a car or truck can get lost in a blind spot, how much easier is it to lose sight of a motorcycle in one’s blind spot? Shoulder checks need to be done with purpose not just a passive head movement as one is already in the motion of changing lanes. On the other hand, bikers need to avoid riding in a driver’s blind spot. At intersections, as well, need to look with purpose. As the following video suggests, Look Twice for Motorcycles!

Bikers need to realize that sometimes people don’t see them and sometimes they are just plain hard to see. A small minority of bikers wear gear that really stands out from the rest of the environment. Because of this we can make it easier on drivers if we follow the speed limit. You can hardly blame the driver who checks his mirror, shoulder checks and then changes lanes running over the guy on the bike who was doing 90mph.

This is a video that I use during my driver training class. My hope is that it helps students realize that they are not the only ones on the road.

Try this motorcycle hazard awareness test. What hazards to you see?