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Motorcyclists: Sharing the road with other motorists

Carlton Boyce / 17 November 2015 ( 18 June 2018 )

Tips for staying safe without losing any of the thrills of motorcycling.

Motorcyclist on a motorbike overtaking a car that it is sharing the road with
Always assume that the other driver, rider, or cyclist hasn’t seen you and act accordingly

Motorcyclists, eh? A bunch of leather-clad yobs, weaving about in and out of traffic jams or slow moving cars before speeding past on a blind-bend in a blur of speed and a haze of partially burnt hydrocarbons.

You, as a keen motorcyclist and pillar of the community, know how unfair this stereotype is. 

From your perspective, it’s the drivers that are the problem; being cut up and forced to take evasive action is an everyday occurrence – and if you get an apology it’s of the “sorry mate, I didn’t see you” variety.

So it’s in everyone’s interests to drive and ride in a more harmonious way.

Motorists: how to overtake safely

Lane splitting

Lane-splitting, or creating a third lane in-between two queues of slow moving traffic, is a highly effective way of getting through a jam, but spare a thought for the poor old car driver who is late for work and getting more frustrated by the second.

So don’t fly past at silly speeds and be alert for the driver who is about to change his position on the road to try and get a view down the gap you’re aiming for. 

When you are moving through traffic, ride defensively and dominate your section of the road. Let your bike’s position and your body language command your space.

Obviously you’ll want to switch your lights on for maximum visibility too.

In terms of clothing, solid blocks of colour are better than a mixture, so go for fluorescent garb that is all the same colour if you can.

Tips for overtaking cyclists

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The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) offer a variety of options for the motorcyclist looking to improve their riding, but one of the threads that runs throughout all of its work is better observation. By looking further ahead you’ll spot potential problems, including the pot holes, much earlier.

It sounds obvious, but you’ll find you move through traffic much faster if you raise your visor a bit, helping you pick a better line through traffic. 

The trick is to scan back; look a hundred metres or so ahead (further on the open road) and then scan back to the point directly in front of your bike. It soon becomes second nature and you’ll be amazed at how it improves your riding.

Tips for riding with a pillion passenger

Put yourself in the other driver’s position

Insulated from just about everything that makes motorcycling so much fun, it’s hardly surprising that other road users can drift into driving on autopilot. Driving this way, motorists tend to see what they expect to see, and not what is actually there.

To overcome this, you have to ride in a position that puts you where they expect to see you. That means commanding the part of the road where the driver sits in a car, not skulking in the gutter. 

It means sitting well back when you are looking for a safe time and place to overtake, not hiding in their blind spot because that will save you a fraction of a second when you do commit. After all, the one thing most motorcyclists don’t lack is acceleration…

It also means coming up to other road users at a speed that allows them to make sense of what’s happening. 

If you roar up behind them at high speed looking for an opportunity to overtake them they won’t have time to register you. But if you ease off the throttle in plenty of time and come up squarely behind them they will have time to see you in their mirror and realise that you are there. 

Once they know you’re there, many will instinctively pull over to the left just a little. Now, you might not necessarily want them to do so – after all, you’re perfectly capable of deciding when and where to overtake all by yourself – but at least it shows that they’ve seen you, and that’s half the battle.

Sharing the road with horses and other animals

Always assume

I know: you’ve spent half your life being told that assuming anything makes an ass out of you and me, but in this case it’s solid advice: always assume that the other driver, rider, or cyclist hasn’t seen you and act accordingly.

Think you know the law? Eight new rules that affect motorists. 

Have you got any tips you’d like to share with other Saga readers? If so, we’d love to hear them on!

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.