A key defensive weapon in the rider’s arsenal is the ability of foresight…knowing what will happen next or what will happen over the course of the journey.
You might justifiably argue that it is impossible to see into the future, but I am referring to fine tuning your awareness and building up your knowledge of accident scenarios so that you recognise very early indicators or you are aware of similar situations developing that will enable you to take very early action to avoid a hazard.
This is easier said than done, but it is possible. More experienced riders who are conscious of their environment and the potential hazards use a combination of known past personal experiences and knowledge of other riders tales to help them recognise developing or potential hazards in the road ahead, sometimes this is something a rider actively thinks about and sometimes it’s something that suddenly comes to mind.
In other articles I have written about the transfer of knowledge from more experienced riders to new or young riders and also how riders of all experience levels should constantly seek out new information that may assist them.
HELI BIKES acts as a point of reference for all riders to access information about accident situations and scenarios and one type of incident that occurs periodically is one where a motorcyclist did not expect a driver to perform a particular manoeuvre and this led to a collision…mostly the driver’s fault but the rider in many cases has also contributed to the collision factors.
This could be that a driver suddenly emerges from a junction or changes lanes without indication or performs a U Turn in the middle of the road without adequately observing oncoming traffic or an oncoming vehicle encroaches onto your side of the road and more commonly when on a bend in the road or unexpectedly applies the brakes, etc.
Anytime a rider approaches a vehicle ahead, there should be an expectation that the driver has not seen the rider or did not look in the first place. Riders should position themselves in the road that will give each road user the best possible chance to notice each other. Riders should make every effort to avoid riding in a driver’s blind spot or riding too close to other vehicles. Give yourself that extra space and extra time and modify speed according what can be seen and, also as important, what you might potentially see.
As spring develops into summer, many motorcycle accidents are associated with these kinds of factors and notably being side swiped by a vehicle that suddenly changes lanes is a common occurrence. The driver did not see the rider or did not adequately look, but the rider was also riding in the blind spot.
Anytime a rider approaches a vehicle from behind, as much effort as possible should be spent to minimise the time in the blind spot; either ride past and make space ahead or hold back and well behind and make space behind.
This situation is particularly relevant in high density or holiday traffic and be especially mindful of this on warm sunny days at the weekend or during holiday season when tiredness of drivers and riders may lead to lapses in concentration.
Another situation with queuing traffic or holiday traffic but not only isolated to this, is when a driver of a vehicle suddenly decides to perform a U Turn in the middle of the road so that they can seek an alternate route.
Riders filtering/lane splitting past are often collided with as the vehicle turns because the driver has not taken adequate steps to fully observe any traffic or motorcycles that may be approaching from the rear. All riders who are riding past queuing or slow moving traffic should always keep this in mind and attempt to look above and beyond the vehicles in front and proceed at a speed that is slow enough to perform an emergency stop if required to avoid the turning vehicle. Covering the brakes; front and rear, is very good practice and be ever vigilant. It is not so much that all drivers will be prone to this, but it is the recognition of a scenario that will help the rider be prepared just in case this does occur.
During filtering also be mindful of those drivers that do manoeuvre their vehicles to create space for you to pass by. It is a situation that should be met with a rider’s gratitude but also with some reservation until you are sure they are creating space for you and they are not merely manoeuvring their vehicle in a random manner and then suddenly close the gap originally made for you.
Also keep in mind that because one vehicle has made space, it does not follow that the next vehicle will make any space. It is about having a ‘big picture’ view of all the surrounding vehicles and verify whether any space that is created can be successfully negotiated through.
Similar to U Turns in queuing traffic, always be mindful when approaching any vehicle that is stationary on the side of the road or that is seemingly parked in a lay by. These vehicles may have momentarily pulled over to adjust something or talk on their phones etc and may not have adequately looked before moving off again and or performing a U Turn. Always approach with caution, give a wide berth and modify speed whilst covering brakes, even consider changing down a gear to provide greater controllability in the event that you have to take avoiding action.
Always be prepared to steer to avoid and a good technique for this is counter steering instead of just leaning. Counter steering is particularly effective when avoiding as the rider pushes forward the right handlebar grip if wishing to move to the right and similarly push forward on the left handlebar grip to move left. This may seem counter intuitive and does require some practice, so the best advice here is to get some instruction on this and regularly practice this. In essence the more aggressive the handlebar movement when the bike is at speed, the more aggressive the bike movement will be, so some practice will be required to gauge how the bike is likely to react.
On a similar note when approaching a large lorry(semi truck) from the rear, always be mindful that the driver will legitimately manoeuvre the vehicle to negotiate a junction or bend etc but will require extra space and may even move to the ‘wrong side of the road’ to achieve this. Riders need to be aware that drivers of lorries/trucks may have a limited view of the immediate side or rear, hence riders need to allow extra space for lorry/truck drivers to manoeuvre and always keep in mind that if you cannot see the driver in the vehicle mirrors then the lorry/truck driver will not be able to see you. Always follow a lorry at a distance, never too close and always give yourself a lot of space.
On a final note, many incidents occur when a rider collides into the rear of a vehicle because the rider assumed that a driver of a vehicle in front would be driving in a perceived manner, but did not expect the driver to suddenly apply the brakes. E.g. a driver may be driving in between stationary vehicles and suddenly applies brakes because they feel there is not enough space, however a following rider assumes that the driver will proceed without hesitation.
Something that I was guilty of many years ago and something that all riders should be conscious of when following vehicles.
None of this will make you immune or accident proof, however it will significantly reduced the probability of being involved in an accident or being involved in a near miss.
By being aware of those hazardous scenarios and having contingencies in place will make for a much safer ride, but this does not mean there should be a dulling down of the ride. The ride, the journey should still hold that enjoyment and the thrill but it should have the element of control. Control of the motorcycle, management of the environmental factors and a higher appreciation of hazard awareness and avoidance techniques.
Practice your skills, improve your knowledge and enjoy the ride!