Yeah, everyone knows that “safe” is a relative term. In life, not just motorbiking. But below are some active things that you can and should do to vastly improve your safety quotient. Call it smart risk management.
1. Know your shit.
Know your bike; know your controls. Make sure everything is automatic so that your bandwidth can be where you need it: on the riding environment. Practice threshold braking, quick acceleration, seamless shifting up & down and slow balancing.
2. Make your presence known to other motorists.
It isn’t always necessary for cars to know you’re coming up on them. Sometimes it’s best to slip by like a ghost. But often enough signaling your presence can make cars a lot more predictable and can thus prevent things like cars changing into your lane and cutting you off. So here are some tools at your disposal:
- Use your throttle. Blip it to be heard! Especially when a car right in front of you starts to cut into your lane. You might not have any time to get your thumb to the horn but you are already on the throttle so give it a bunch of quick and loud whacks to get the driver to react quickly and stop their dangerous action.
- Horn toots. Horns aren’t just for “thank you” and “fuck you!.” They should also be used for “hey, I’m comin’ up on ya.”
- Flash your high/low beams. If you have a “passing” button on your bike start using it.
- Movements. Wiggle, weave, create space for yourself and move side to side in your lane so that drivers can see your headlights in their rear- and side-view mirrors.
3. Signal your intentions and expectations.
Be animated and use body movements -as well as your turn signals- to inform other motorists what you intend to do or what you expect of them. This will make you predictable, allow you to maintain your flow and to not disrupt the flow of others.
Everything you do on a motorcycle or scooter can be seen -even on a moonless night- unlike the driver of a car where you’re just trying to see which direction their head is turning for an indicator of what they might do. Use all four limbs, nod your head, even stick your right elbow out if you can’t take your hand off the throttle. The earlier you can advise others of your intentions and expectations the safer you will be.
Yes, I said it. We really don’t still need to perpetuate the notion that motorcyclists are scary irreverent rebels, do we? The point is to get drivers to wake up and get their head in the game.
Simply put: Reward good behavior; (constructively) call out bad behavior.
If a car moves over for you show some appreciation with a wave, peace sign, thumbs-up or a nod. It takes little effort at all to do these things and encourages other vehicles to follow suit when they see/hear a bike coming.
Conversely, if someone does something stupid and or dangerous try your best to stave off the rage and snatch the opportunity for a teaching moment. Do not default to punishing people in cars, as compelling as that may be. If a driver doubles down on being a prick you can always smack their mirror and speed away -because, frankly, there really should be penalties for being an asshole- but make that your last option, not the first.
Here are some options:
- Disapproving head shake
- Point a finger at them.
- The old “McFly” head knock.
- The international “wank” symbol. Nothing says “I’m very disappointed in you” more than this!
- Thumbs down
- Stink-eye. Sometimes one simple disapproving look is all it takes.
- Speak directly to the driver given the opportunity. “Make sure!” might be all you need to say after they’ve pulled a stupid move. They’ll get the message.
Remember folks, a little communication goes a long way towards creating future awareness. Do it for the next motorcyclist or bicycle rider that this driver may encounter if not for yourself. And… Golden Rule moment: treat others how you would want to be treated.