Commuting to work every day on two wheels may greatly cut costs and time at an expense that we are more vulnerable to the weather and more exposed to injury, so here’s a few tips to ensure that you stay safe:
With more traffic on the road than out in the country side, not forgetting pedestrians and cyclists all over the place, it is imperative that we get better seen by other road users. Therefore make sure you have reflective clothing on, such as a hi-vis vest or reflective stripes on your jacket/trousers and rucksack (if you carry one) to ensure you are seen. Also clothing with elbow, shoulders, back and knee pads are well recommended just to offer that extra protection in a fall event. Make sure you wear gloves to protect you from abrasion and weather elements. Boots should be comfortable and able to protect your ankles and feet in general ( avoid steel toe cap boots as they may collapse. If a vehicle goes over your foot it can chop off your toes like butter). Adjust your clothing to the weather conditions as it is very important to feel comfortable and to be warm while riding, especially during winter time where temperatures are very low (you can always put some layers on to keep you warm). Remember that the wrong gear during a heat spell may affect your concentration levels on the road as well, getting you more exposed to unnecessary risks.
Often when riding in a city centre you won’t have the choice to go fast because heavy traffic will prevent it. Overtaking a car in heavy traffic won’t save you more than 10/15 seconds along your journey. When a small gap appears, there is the temptation to go through it quickly; chances are that if you have seen it, maybe other bikers or cyclists spotted it too… Slow down, take your time, watch your surroundings and make sure it is a safe move. By doing everything slower you will have more time to think about your (and other people’s) decisions, which also increases your hazard perception and the amount of time you have to react to them. ( As an example, think of that pedestrian or cyclist who is completely unaware of your presence or approach and jumps into your path coming from in between parked up cars)
When you ride in heavy traffic ( especially during the rush hours) you will find impatient drivers who will behave in an unsafely manner in an attempt to beat traffic. Consequentely they are more subject to be angry and distracted with gadgets such as mobile phones (unfortunately), talking to other occupants and might not see you as you approach, pass by or respect you as a road user; at the end you already have the advantage towards them as we rarely get stuck in traffic, meaning that their impatience and imprudence has to be your patience and prudence in order for you to do a safe journey. Again, when in heavy traffic in the city, RIDE DEFENSIVELY AND SLOW DOWN!!!
One of the major advantages of being on a motorcycle in the city is that you can filter in-between traffic queues and it is legal to do so, however this should be done cautiously:
people tend to cross roads in between queueing cars and don’t expect bikes or bycicles to appear in between. You may want to consider doing a slow speed not exceding more than 10 mph to the traffic around, constantly looking ahead and trying to have a visual for pedestrians or bycicles that can potentially emerge in front of you coming from the front of queueing cars. If ahead there´s a van or a lorry and you can´t have a good visual of what´s ahead of it, take extra care and slow down just to be prepared that you may have to come to a sudden stop as you approach its front.
Watch out for cars changing lanes suddenly without indicating;
Car doors opening and car mirrors;
Be aware that a driver may do an unexpected U-turn without signaling as he might not be considering a motorbike filtering;
Be careful of hidden cars turning right or cars coming from a left road when you are flitering;
Avoid filtering in between two long large vehicles;
Careful when filtering on the opposite lane and there is a road coming from a left road;
You should ride normally in the middle of your lane in the front line of vision of the driver behind you, not in their peripheral vision such as too close to the kerb or too close to the opposite lane as it may be not very safe. ( Of course, sometimes we have to sacrifice that mid lane positioning, for example if there are parked up cars on the side of the road, if there´s an obstruction or if it is a secondary narrow road, bend etc).
Also you want to consider your lane positioning when you are turning to the left or to the right at junctions. It is always a good idea to be the closest you can to the pavement if you are turning left at a junction or close to the right end of your lane if turning right. By doing so, you are claiming your position and preventing any other road users to put you in a compromising situation. Also by doing that you are not blocking traffic from going to other directions. Here are a few examples:
Often people fail to use their turn signals, or even fail to check their blind spots, so keep alert and out of the blind spots of other vehicles. Place yourself so that if the driver unexpectedly moves into your lane, he will do so without hitting you. Be ready to use the horn or rev the engine to alert others of your presence. Plan ahead; look for obstructions like traffic islands, bollards, side roads where vehicles might emerge or turn across your path and be always prepared to take an action if necessary.
In the U.K. parking can be a bit tricky, specially in the big cities where traffic wardens are always looking to fine that badly parked motorbike. Avoid parking on single yellow lines or double yellow lines for too long during daytime, never on single and double red lines. Different councils have different rules as well, so the best would be to find a motorbike parking bay or a motorbike designated area. If you actually commute to London or other major city, motorbike theft may be quite on high levels, so consider chaining your motorbike into a rail or to use at least a good disc lock to discourage thieves from stealing your mule. Some motorcycle bays are constantly packed with bikes, so a bike cover would help to prevent scratches on your bike done by someone not being careful enough and to protect from weather elements.
A bike will always lose in a collision with a car. You may have had the right of way, but do you really want to be dead? Making yourself more visible to other drivers, and most of all remaining aware of what is around you and in your line of travel will make you safer on the road. you must always consider these three questions;
What can I see?
What can´t I see?
What may happen?
Ride defensively; Expect the unexpected; Be prepared; Plan ahead and anticipate at all times by constantly scanning for hazards.
In the U.K we teach riders to always do the “Lifesaver” or “shoulder check”.
Its something as simple as to turn the chin to the shoulder to the left, right or both sides and look in order to cover the spot that the mirrors can´t. (also known as BLIND SPOTS)
When do we do it?
Before you change lanes;
positioning in lane to turn left or right;
before avoiding an obstruction;
before moving off from traffic lights or stationary traffic;
Basically before any maneuvre (such as a U-turn or an overtaking maneuvre in between others)