Motorcyclists are often the most maligned road users – and quite often unfairly, as to be able to ride a motorcycle requires enormous skill, stamina, and concentration.
Cyclists have the PR advantage of being emissions friendly – but cyclists can travel at speeds which can cause serious injuries to both cyclist and any pedestrian unfortunate enough to be hit by a careless cyclist.
The likelihood of a biker sustaining serious injury if a car or HGV hit them is high – and motorcyclists often suffer traumatic and life-changing injuries in road traffic accidents, including fractures, burn injuries, amputations, catastrophic brain injuries and injuries which may prove fatal.
Most bikers are responsible road users, but the image of the leather-clad speed merchant continues to stick. Watching out for motorcycles is the duty of every road user, however, as they can be difficult to spot because of the size of the machines and the speeds they travel at. And unlike cyclists, there are no designated lanes for motorbikes, meaning they have to take their chances with other road users, with little protection from their machines.
Here is how to handle motorbikes on the road and help reduce accidents among bikers.
- Check your blind spots as side mirrors are often positioned so that drivers can see more of the side of their own car than what is going on at the rear. Position side mirrors so that you cannot see the front side panel, but around one-quarter of the rear panel of your car and this should open up your view.
- Be alert to motorcyclists at junctions and when changing lanes – some drivers assume motorcyclists will be able to get out of their way, but this is not so and many bikers are seriously injured or killed by car drivers pulling out of junctions without seeing them, or changing lanes and knocking a motorcycle flying.
- Give motorcycles plenty of time to spot that you are about to turn or change lanes – signal early if you have a biker behind you, especially in poor weather conditions when the road may be slippery or the biker may have wind, rain or snow blowing in their face.
- If you give hand signals to another driver, such as waving them on, be careful – there may be a motorcycle drawing up on the driver side of your car and you could either knock them flying or cause yourself a serious injury if you stick your arm out of the driver window without looking first.
- Many motorcyclists do not have to use brakes to slow down, as their bikes have a wet clutch system which makes them stop faster – this means that you may not see brake lights on the rear of a motorbike in front and will have to judge the speed to assess whether they are stopping or at a junction. For this reason, always leave plenty of space between you and a motorbike.
- In poor weather conditions, help the motorcyclist by keeping out of their way and signaling in good time. Bikers often have to contend with wind and wet in winter, or wind and dust or insects in summer, so keep a look out for them and don’t make any sudden moves to block their path.
- Check your vehicle is not leaking oil – many motorcyclists are killed or maimed after skidding on oil on the road’s surface.
The best way of understanding what it takes to handle a motorbike is either to try a few motorcycling lessons yourself and get the feel of a motorbike – or take an advanced driving course which can help you tackle road situations involving motorbikes.