Tips for Sharing the Road with Greater Numbers of Motorcycles and Bicycles in Summer

The safety tips from cars.com, shown in the article linked below and apparently based on NHTSA guidelines aren’t bad but aren’t complete, either, so here are some missing but important bits of advice:

Sadly, from the point of view of conspicuity, this rider’s clothing was not as conspicuous from the front as it was from the rear! (And stopping beyond a stop line wasn’t wise, either.) Copyright image.

While bicyclists and pedestrians are advised by cars.com to wear conspicuous clothing, motorcyclists are not…. But they should be!  Riding with the headlight permanently on low beam, even in brilliant sunshine, is extremely helpful, too.  (Auxiliary driving lights can be used instead but don’t buy any that are excessively bright.  Bicyclists are also able to get flashing strobe lights and even the most powerful of those are literally painful to approaching drivers.  Dazzling oncoming drivers in daylight is an effective way to get them to stare at you, but such staring is called “target fixation” for a reason.  “Moths to a flame” and that sort of stuff!)

Another vital piece of advice for all two-wheel riders is that when not at a red light and making a left turn from a main road into a side street or driveway, and irrespective of whether you can keep moving or you have had to stop and wait, the very last thing you should do before starting the actual turn is a proper shoulder check, over your left shoulder.  In Britain, where this technique has been taught for decades to very good effect, this crucial last look is known as the “lifesaver,” and it’s your own life that we are talking about.  You are, of course, looking for a driver who is so unthinking that s/he hasn’t even noticed you and is either overtaking you at a highly inappropriate location or is heading for the same turn as you.  It happens!!!

Now on to the subject of car, SUV and pick-up truck drivers, etc.  The fact is simple:  Far, far too many motorcyclists are killed when other vehicles pull out of a side street in front of them.  Afterwards, the car drivers typically give the reason for the dead body nearby as either (a) “I just didn’t see him coming,” or (b) “He must have been coming really fast because when I first looked to that side [usually the left] he wasn’t even in sight!”  Both of these excuses are empty and untrue, no matter what the driver thinks.  The reality is that a narrow-profile vehicle such as a motorcycle does not trigger a driver’s senses the same as does a larger vehicle, and drivers often “Look but Do Not See!” (which is known to knowledgeable police officers, crash investigators, and paramedics as “LBDNS”).  The moral for drivers is simple:  You really MUST be particularly careful to look for approaching motorcycles at all intersections.  The riders’ lives are in your hands and if you get it wrong you may become a killer, no matter what excuse is given to the police.

The following video clip is from 1970s Britain when this lethal aspect of driving was first being addressed with nationwide television adverts (so yes, it looks incredibly dated, but the message is still perfectly true).

In addition, for drivers it is far easier to ‘lose’ a passing motorcycle in your rear left and rear right blind spots as you are starting to make a turn or a lane-change.  This is why it is crucial to make regular mirror checks every 4-8 seconds during all forward driving, AND to make a shoulder-check at the last moment before actually starting the turn or lane change.  (Remember that in slow-moving urban traffic, such as during rush hours, bicycles and mopeds may pass you in the right, too.)  This is one of the key reasons why NOT setting your door mirrors in the fashionable ‘wide’ position is best — ‘wide’ mirrors can easily cost a passing biker his/her life.

View the article Motorcycle, Bicycle Deaths Spike in Summer: Tips for Sharing the Road, from cars.com