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Rolling Along to Our

Destination . . . Friendship

Riding Tips

In accidents with motorcyclists, car drivers often say that they never saw the motorcycle. It's hard to see something you're not looking for, and most drivers are not looking for motorcycles. Also, from ahead or from behind, a motorcycle's outline is much smaller than a car's.

Even if a driver see you coming, you aren't necessarily safe. Because you and your bike are smaller than most vehicles, it's easier for others to mistake your distance and speed. However, you can do many things to make it easier for others to recognize you and your bike.

Clothing

Most accidents occur in broad daylight. If you don't wear bright clothing, you greatly increase your risk of not being seen during the day. Remember, your body is half of the visible surface area of the rider/cycle unit.

Clothing that helps you be seen includes bright orange, yellow, or green jackets or vests. And your helmet can do more than protect you in an accident. If it is brightly colored, it can help others see you.

Any bright color is better than drab or dark colors. Fluorescent clothing (helmet and jacket or vest) is best for daytime riding. At night, it is best to wear reflective gear. Reflective material on the sides of helmet and vest will help drivers coming from the side spot you. Reflective material can also be a big help for drivers coming toward you on the road ahead or from behind.

Headlight

The best way to help others on the road see your motorcycle is to keep the headlight on — at all times. Studies show that, during the day, a motorcycle with its light off is twice as likely to go unnoticed. Also, use of the high beam in daylight increases the likelihood that you will be seen by oncoming drivers.

Signals

The signals on a motorcycle are similar to those on a car. They tell others what you plan to do. However, signals are far more important to a rider.

Turn Signals

Turn signals do two things for you. First, they tell others what you plan to do. Use them anytime you plan to change lanes. Use them even when you think no one else is around. It's the car you don't see that's going to give you the most trouble. Second, your signal lights make you easier to spot. Drivers behind are more likely to see your turn signal than your taillight. That's why it's a good idea to use your turn signals even when what you plan to do is obvious. For example, when you are on a freeway entrance ramp, drivers on the freeway are more likely to see--and therefore make room for you--if you use your turn signal.

Not turning off a signal is just as bad as not turning it on. A driver may think you plan to turn again and pull directly into your path. Once you've made your turn, check you signal to make sure it is off.

Brake Light

Your motorcycle's brake light is usually not as noticeable as the brake lights on a car — particularly when your taillight is on. (It goes on with the headlight.) Still, you can help others notice you by tapping the foot brake lightly before you slow down. This will flash your brake light. It is especially important to signal others by flashing your brake light whenever:

  • You are going to slow down more quickly than might be expected (for example, when you are going to make a turn off a high-speed highway).
  • You are going to slow where others may not expect it (for example, when you will slow to turn in the middle of a block, at an alley).

If you are being followed closely, it's a good idea to flash your brake light before you slow--even if you won't be slowing more quickly than might be expected. The tailgater may be looking only at you and fail to see something farther ahead that will make you slow down.

Position for Being Seen

Though the size of a motorcycle can make it harder for other drivers to spot you, you can make size work to your advantage. A car driver has very little choice about where he positions his car in a lane.

Each "mini-lane" is approximately four feet wide. By selecting the appropriate "mini-lane," you can make yourself more easily seen by others on the road.

In general, there is not best position for riders when it comes to being seen, however, no portion of the lane need be avoided--including the center. Some people fee that riding in the center portion is dangerous. They argue that the grease strip which often appears in this position (formed by droppings from other vehicles) is slippery and will cause riders to fall. Such fears are overblown.

Grease strips are usually no more than two feet wide. Since the center portion of the lane is four feet wide, you can operate to the left or right of the grease strip and still be within the center portion. Unless the road is wet with rain, the average grease strip gives just as much traction as the rest of the pavement. Of course, big build-ups of grease--as may be found at busy intersections or toll booths--should be avoided.

The main idea of positioning yourself to be seen is this: Ride in the portion of the lane where it is most likely that you will be seen. In other words, ride where it will be most difficult for other drivers to miss seeing you. Here are some ways to do this.

Stay Out of Blind Spots

Either pass the other vehicle or drop back. When you pass a car, get through the blind spot as quickly as you can. Approach with care. But once you are alongside, speed up and get by quickly.

Let the Driver Ahead See You

When behind a car, try to ride where the driver can see you in the rearview mirror. Riding in the center portion of the lane should put your image in the middle of the rearview mirror--where it's most likely to be seen. Riding at the far side of a lane may let you be seen in a side view mirror. But most drivers don't look at their side view mirrors nearly as often as they check the rearview mirror.

Help Drivers at Intersections See You

The most dangerous place for any rider is an intersection. That's where most motorcycle accidents take place. The most common cause of these accidents is that the car driver infringed on the rider's right-of-way.

The best way to increase your chances of being seen as you approach an intersection usually is to ride in the portion of the lane that gives the best view of oncoming traffic and with your lights on. As you enter the intersection, position yourself to provide a space cushion all around you that allows you to take evasive action.

If you are approaching a blind intersection, it is best to move to the portion of the lane that will bring you into another driver's field of sight at the earliest possible moment. In the picture below, the rider has moved to the left portion of the lane--away from the parked car--so the driver on the cross street can see him as soon as possible.

Remember, the key is to see as much as possible. This will usually make you as visible as possible while protecting your space.

Horn

Get your thumb on the horn button and be ready to use it whenever you need to get someone's attention.

It is a good idea to give a quick beep before you pass anyone you think may move into your lane. Here are some situations.

Here are some situations:

  • A driver in the lane next to you is getting too close to the vehicle ahead and may want to pass.
  • A parked car has someone in the driver's seat.
  • Someone is in the street, riding a bicycle or walking.

In an emergency, a warning beep won't be enough. Blast the horn in a true emergency and be ready to stop or turn away from the danger.

The two biggest dangers facing you as a rider are (1) oncoming cars that turn left in front of you, and (2) cars on side streets that pull out into your lane. Never count on "eye contact" as a sign that a driver has seen you and will yield the right-of-way. All too often, a driver looks right at a motorcyclist and still fails to "see" him.

No matter what you do, you can't guarantee that others will see you. The only eyes you can really count on are your own. A good rider is always "looking for trouble"--not to get into it, but to stay out of it.

SIPDE

Experienced riders make a practice of being aware of what is going on around them. They can create their riding strategy by using a system known as SIPDE.

SIPDE is an acronym for the process used to make judgments and take action in traffic. It stands for:

  • Scan
  • Identify
  • Predict
  • Decide
  • Execute

Let's examine each of these steps.

Scan

Search aggressively for potential hazards. Scanning provides you with the information you need to make your decisions in enough time to take action.

Identify

Locate hazards and potential conflicts. The hazards you encounter can be divided into three groups based on how critical their effect on you may be.

Cars, trucks, and other vehicles-- They share the road with you, they move quickly, and your reactions to them must be quick and accurate.

Pedestrians and animals--They are characterized by unpredictability and short quick moves.

Stationary objects--Chuckholes, guard rails, bridges, roadway signs, hedges, or rows of trees won't move into your path, but may create or complicate your riding strategy.

The greatest potential for a conflict between you and other traffic is at intersections. An intersection can be in the middle of an urban area or at a driveway on a residential street--anywhere other traffic may cross your path of travel. Most motorcycle/automobile collisions occur at intersections. And most of these collisions are caused by an on-coming vehicle turning left into the path of the motorcycle. Your use of SIPDE at intersections is critical.

Before you enter an intersection, search for:

  • Oncoming traffic that may turn left in front of you.
  • Traffic from the left.
  • Traffic from the right.
  • Traffic approaching from behind. 

Be especially alert at intersections with limited visibility. Be aware of visually "busy" surroundings that could hide you and your motorcycle.

Predict

Anticipate how the hazard may affect you. The moving direction of a potential hazard is important. Clearly, a vehicle moving away from you is not as critical as a vehicle moving in your path.

Determine the effect of the hazard--where a collision might occur. How critical is the hazard? How probable is a collision? This is the "What if...?" phase of SIPDE that depends on your knowledge and experience. Now estimate the consequences of the hazard. How might the hazard--or your effort to avoid it--affect you and others.?

Decide

Determine how to reduce the hazard. There are only three things you can do:

  • Communicate your presence.
  • Adjust your speed.
  • Adjust your position.

Communication is the most passive action you can take since it depends on the response of someone else. Use your lights and horn, but don't rely on the actions of others.

Adjustments of speed can be acceleration, slowing or stopping.

Adjustments of position can be changing lane position or completely changing direction.

In both cases, the degree of adjustment depends on how critical the hazard is and how much time and space you have. The more time and space you have to carry out your decision, the less amount of risk you'll encounter.

In areas of high potential risk, such as intersections, give yourself more time and space by reducing the time you need to react. Cover both brakes and the clutch and be ready with possible escape routes.

Execute

Carry out your decision. This is when your riding skills come into play. And this is where they must be second nature. The best decision will be meaningless without the skills to carry it out. Know your limits and ride within them.

Using Your Mirrors

While it's most important to keep track of what's happening ahead, you can't afford to ignore what's happening behind. Traffic conditions can change quickly. By checking your mirrors every few seconds, you can keep track of the situation behind/

Knowing what's going on behind can help you make a safe decision about how to handle trouble ahead. For instance, if you know someone is following you too closely, you may decide to avoid a problem ahead by turning away from it, rather than by trying to stop quickly and risk being hit by the tailgater.

Frequent mirror checks should be part of your normal scanning routine. Make a special point of using your mirrors in these situations.

  • When you are stopped at an intersection. Watch cars coming up from behind. If the driver isn't paying attention, he could be right on top of you before he sees you.
  • Anytime you plan to change lanes. Make sure no one is about to pass you.
  • Anytime you will slow down. It is especially important to check if the driver behind may not expect you to slow, or if he may be unsure about exactly where you will slow. For example, he might see you signal a turn and think you plan to slow for a turn at a distant intersection, rather than at a nearer driveway.

Many motorcycles have rounded "convex" mirrors. These give you a wider view of the road behind than do flat mirrors. However, they also make cars seem farther away than they really are. If you are not used to convex mirrors, get familiar with them. Here's how: While you are stopped, pick out a parked car in your mirror. Try to form a mental image of how far away it is. Then, turn around and look at it. See how close you came. Practice with your mirrors until you become a good judge of distance. Even then, allow extra distance before you change lanes.

Head Checks

Mirrors do a pretty good job of letting you see behind. But motorcycles have "blind spots" just like cars. Before you change lanes, make sure to make a head check: turn your head, and look at traffic to the side. This is the only way you can be sure of spotting a car just about to pass you.

On a road with several lanes, make sure to check the far lane as well as the one next to you. A driver in the distant lane may be headed for the same space you plan to take.

Position to See

As a motorcycle rider, you can put yourself in a position to see things that a car driver cannot see.

  • On Curves--You can move from one portion of a lane to another to get a better view through a curve. Moving to the center portion of your lane before a curve--and staying there until you come out of the curve--lets you spot traffic coming toward you as soon as possible. This also allows you to adjust for traffic that is "crowding" the center line or for debris that is blocking part of your lane.
  • At blind intersections--Blind intersections can make it hard to see danger coming from the side. If you have a stop sign, stop there first. Then edge forward and stop again, just short of where the cross-traffic lane meets your lane. From that position, you can lean your body forward and look around buildings, parked cars, or bushes to see if anything is coming. Just make sure your front wheel stays out of the cross lane of travel while you're looking.
  • At the roadside--Angle your motorcycle so that you can see in both directions without straining and without having any part of the cycle in the lane of travel. Angling your motorcycle so that you can get a clear view in both directions is particularly important if you plan to turn across a lane of traffic.


   

Riding Tips

In accidents with motorcyclists, car drivers often say that they never saw the motorcycle. It's hard to see something you're not looking for, and most drivers are not looking for motorcycles. Also, from ahead or from behind, a motorcycle's outline is much smaller than a car's.

Even if a driver see you coming, you aren't necessarily safe. Because you and your bike are smaller than most vehicles, it's easier for others to mistake your distance and speed. However, you can do many things to make it easier for others to recognize you and your bike.

Clothing

Most accidents occur in broad daylight. If you don't wear bright clothing, you greatly increase your risk of not being seen during the day. Remember, your body is half of the visible surface area of the rider/cycle unit.

Clothing that helps you be seen includes bright orange, yellow, or green jackets or vests. And your helmet can do more than protect you in an accident. If it is brightly colored, it can help others see you.

Any bright color is better than drab or dark colors. Fluorescent clothing (helmet and jacket or vest) is best for daytime riding. At night, it is best to wear reflective gear. Reflective material on the sides of helmet and vest will help drivers coming from the side spot you. Reflective material can also be a big help for drivers coming toward you on the road ahead or from behind.

Headlight

The best way to help others on the road see your motorcycle is to keep the headlight on — at all times. Studies show that, during the day, a motorcycle with its light off is twice as likely to go unnoticed. Also, use of the high beam in daylight increases the likelihood that you will be seen by oncoming drivers.

Signals

The signals on a motorcycle are similar to those on a car. They tell others what you plan to do. However, signals are far more important to a rider.

Turn Signals

Turn signals do two things for you. First, they tell others what you plan to do. Use them anytime you plan to change lanes. Use them even when you think no one else is around. It's the car you don't see that's going to give you the most trouble. Second, your signal lights make you easier to spot. Drivers behind are more likely to see your turn signal than your taillight. That's why it's a good idea to use your turn signals even when what you plan to do is obvious. For example, when you are on a freeway entrance ramp, drivers on the freeway are more likely to see--and therefore make room for you--if you use your turn signal.

Not turning off a signal is just as bad as not turning it on. A driver may think you plan to turn again and pull directly into your path. Once you've made your turn, check you signal to make sure it is off.

Brake Light

Your motorcycle's brake light is usually not as noticeable as the brake lights on a car — particularly when your taillight is on. (It goes on with the headlight.) Still, you can help others notice you by tapping the foot brake lightly before you slow down. This will flash your brake light. It is especially important to signal others by flashing your brake light whenever:

  • You are going to slow down more quickly than might be expected (for example, when you are going to make a turn off a high-speed highway).

  • You are going to slow where others may not expect it (for example, when you will slow to turn in the middle of a block, at an alley).

If you are being followed closely, it's a good idea to flash your brake light before you slow--even if you won't be slowing more quickly than might be expected. The tailgater may be looking only at you and fail to see something farther ahead that will make you slow down.

Position for Being Seen

Though the size of a motorcycle can make it harder for other drivers to spot you, you can make size work to your advantage. A car driver has very little choice about where he positions his car in a lane.

Each "mini-lane" is approximately four feet wide. By selecting the appropriate "mini-lane," you can make yourself more easily seen by others on the road.

In general, there is not best position for riders when it comes to being seen, however, no portion of the lane need be avoided--including the center. Some people fee that riding in the center portion is dangerous. They argue that the grease strip which often appears in this position (formed by droppings from other vehicles) is slippery and will cause riders to fall. Such fears are overblown.

Grease strips are usually no more than two feet wide. Since the center portion of the lane is four feet wide, you can operate to the left or right of the grease strip and still be within the center portion. Unless the road is wet with rain, the average grease strip gives just as much traction as the rest of the pavement. Of course, big build-ups of grease--as may be found at busy intersections or toll booths--should be avoided.

The main idea of positioning yourself to be seen is this: Ride in the portion of the lane where it is most likely that you will be seen. In other words, ride where it will be most difficult for other drivers to miss seeing you. Here are some ways to do this.

Stay Out of Blind Spots

Either pass the other vehicle or drop back. When you pass a car, get through the blind spot as quickly as you can. Approach with care. But once you are alongside, speed up and get by quickly.

Let the Driver Ahead See You

When behind a car, try to ride where the driver can see you in the rearview mirror. Riding in the center portion of the lane should put your image in the middle of the rearview mirror--where it's most likely to be seen. Riding at the far side of a lane may let you be seen in a side view mirror. But most drivers don't look at their side view mirrors nearly as often as they check the rearview mirror.

Help Drivers at Intersections See You

The most dangerous place for any rider is an intersection. That's where most motorcycle accidents take place. The most common cause of these accidents is that the car driver infringed on the rider's right-of-way.

The best way to increase your chances of being seen as you approach an intersection usually is to ride in the portion of the lane that gives the best view of oncoming traffic and with your lights on. As you enter the intersection, position yourself to provide a space cushion all around you that allows you to take evasive action.

If you are approaching a blind intersection, it is best to move to the portion of the lane that will bring you into another driver's field of sight at the earliest possible moment. In the picture below, the rider has moved to the left portion of the lane--away from the parked car--so the driver on the cross street can see him as soon as possible.

Remember, the key is to see as much as possible. This will usually make you as visible as possible while protecting your space.

Horn

Get your thumb on the horn button and be ready to use it whenever you need to get someone's attention.

It is a good idea to give a quick beep before you pass anyone you think may move into your lane. Here are some situations.

Here are some situations:

  • A driver in the lane next to you is getting too close to the vehicle ahead and may want to pass.

  • A parked car has someone in the driver's seat.

  • Someone is in the street, riding a bicycle or walking.

In an emergency, a warning beep won't be enough. Blast the horn in a true emergency and be ready to stop or turn away from the danger.

The two biggest dangers facing you as a rider are (1) oncoming cars that turn left in front of you, and (2) cars on side streets that pull out into your lane. Never count on "eye contact" as a sign that a driver has seen you and will yield the right-of-way. All too often, a driver looks right at a motorcyclist and still fails to "see" him.

No matter what you do, you can't guarantee that others will see you. The only eyes you can really count on are your own. A good rider is always "looking for trouble"--not to get into it, but to stay out of it.

SIPDE

Experienced riders make a practice of being aware of what is going on around them. They can create their riding strategy by using a system known as SIPDE.

SIPDE is an acronym for the process used to make judgments and take action in traffic. It stands for:

  • Scan

  • Identify

  • Predict

  • Decide

  • Execute

Let's examine each of these steps.

Scan

Search aggressively for potential hazards. Scanning provides you with the information you need to make your decisions in enough time to take action.

Identify

Locate hazards and potential conflicts. The hazards you encounter can be divided into three groups based on how critical their effect on you may be.

Cars, trucks, and other vehicles-- They share the road with you, they move quickly, and your reactions to them must be quick and accurate.

Pedestrians and animals--They are characterized by unpredictability and short quick moves.

Stationary objects--Chuckholes, guard rails, bridges, roadway signs, hedges, or rows of trees won't move into your path, but may create or complicate your riding strategy.

The greatest potential for a conflict between you and other traffic is at intersections. An intersection can be in the middle of an urban area or at a driveway on a residential street--anywhere other traffic may cross your path of travel. Most motorcycle/automobile collisions occur at intersections. And most of these collisions are caused by an on-coming vehicle turning left into the path of the motorcycle. Your use of SIPDE at intersections is critical.

Before you enter an intersection, search for:

  • Oncoming traffic that may turn left in front of you.

  •  Traffic from the left.

  • Traffic from the right.

  • Traffic approaching from behind.

Be especially alert at intersections with limited visibility. Be aware of visually "busy" surroundings that could hide you and your motorcycle.

Predict

Anticipate how the hazard may affect you. The moving direction of a potential hazard is important. Clearly, a vehicle moving away from you is not as critical as a vehicle moving in your path.

Determine the effect of the hazard--where a collision might occur. How critical is the hazard? How probable is a collision? This is the "What if...?" phase of SIPDE that depends on your knowledge and experience. Now estimate the consequences of the hazard. How might the hazard--or your effort to avoid it--affect you and others.?

Decide

Determine how to reduce the hazard. There are only three things you can do:

  • Communicate your presence.

  • Adjust your speed.

  • Adjust your position.

Communication is the most passive action you can take since it depends on the response of someone else. Use your lights and horn, but don't rely on the actions of others.

Adjustments of speed can be acceleration, slowing or stopping.

Adjustments of position can be changing lane position or completely changing direction.

In both cases, the degree of adjustment depends on how critical the hazard is and how much time and space you have. The more time and space you have to carry out your decision, the less amount of risk you'll encounter.

In areas of high potential risk, such as intersections, give yourself more time and space by reducing the time you need to react. Cover both brakes and the clutch and be ready with possible escape routes.

Execute

Carry out your decision. This is when your riding skills come into play. And this is where they must be second nature. The best decision will be meaningless without the skills to carry it out. Know your limits and ride within them.

Using Your Mirrors

While it's most important to keep track of what's happening ahead, you can't afford to ignore what's happening behind. Traffic conditions can change quickly. By checking your mirrors every few seconds, you can keep track of the situation behind/

Knowing what's going on behind can help you make a safe decision about how to handle trouble ahead. For instance, if you know someone is following you too closely, you may decide to avoid a problem ahead by turning away from it, rather than by trying to stop quickly and risk being hit by the tailgater.

Frequent mirror checks should be part of your normal scanning routine. Make a special point of using your mirrors in these situations.

  • When you are stopped at an intersection. Watch cars coming up from behind. If the driver isn't paying attention, he could be right on top of you before he sees you.

  • Anytime you plan to change lanes. Make sure no one is about to pass you.

  • Anytime you will slow down. It is especially important to check if the driver behind may not expect you to slow, or if he may be unsure about exactly where you will slow. For example, he might see you signal a turn and think you plan to slow for a turn at a distant intersection, rather than at a nearer driveway.

Many motorcycles have rounded "convex" mirrors. These give you a wider view of the road behind than do flat mirrors. However, they also make cars seem farther away than they really are. If you are not used to convex mirrors, get familiar with them. Here's how: While you are stopped, pick out a parked car in your mirror. Try to form a mental image of how far away it is. Then, turn around and look at it. See how close you came. Practice with your mirrors until you become a good judge of distance. Even then, allow extra distance before you change lanes.

Head Checks

Mirrors do a pretty good job of letting you see behind. But motorcycles have "blind spots" just like cars. Before you change lanes, make sure to make a head check: turn your head, and look at traffic to the side. This is the only way you can be sure of spotting a car just about to pass you.

On a road with several lanes, make sure to check the far lane as well as the one next to you. A driver in the distant lane may be headed for the same space you plan to take.

Position to See

As a motorcycle rider, you can put yourself in a position to see things that a car driver cannot see.

  • On Curves--You can move from one portion of a lane to another to get a better view through a curve. Moving to the center portion of your lane before a curve--and staying there until you come out of the curve--lets you spot traffic coming toward you as soon as possible. This also allows you to adjust for traffic that is "crowding" the center line or for debris that is blocking part of your lane.

  • At blind intersections--Blind intersections can make it hard to see danger coming from the side. If you have a stop sign, stop there first. Then edge forward and stop again, just short of where the cross-traffic lane meets your lane. From that position, you can lean your body forward and look around buildings, parked cars, or bushes to see if anything is coming. Just make sure your front wheel stays out of the cross lane of travel while you're looking.

  • At the roadside--Angle your motorcycle so that you can see in both directions without straining and without having any part of the cycle in the lane of travel. Angling your motorcycle so that you can get a clear view in both directions is particularly important if you plan to turn across a lane of traffic.