Empty road, perfect weather, intriguing corners and untouched nature – is there anything more one could wish for on a motorcycle? Unfortunately, every ride is not as ideal as the one described. As motorcyclists we, more often than not, need to adapt our rides according to the road conditions, weather and most importantly other participants in traffic. As more and more vehicles are involved in traffic on daily basis each motorcyclist needs to improve his ability to adapt to others. So what are some simple measures every rider can take to improve his own safety as well that of every other traffic participant?
First and foremost, every single ride needs to be undertaken in a manner appropriate to current conditions on the road and one’s own riding abilities. In comparison to most other traffic participants, motorcyclists are generally much more endangered due to lack of any “protective shell”. Additionally, due to their small size among other vehicles on the road, motorcyclists often go unnoticed by others. Safety instructors advise that riders wear bright-colored gear in order to become more visible in traffic. Another advice that motorcyclists should keep in mind is the following: always assume that you have not been noticed by other traffic participants rather than the opposite – once you take that into account you will be able to make safer decisions in traffic. Relying on the fact that the car driver you are about to overtake is aware of your presence might not be the smartest approach – you should make sure that he can see you prior to making any maneuvers.
Another aspect of making sure you are visible to other participants in traffic is use of signals. A motorcyclist can make use of turn signals, brake lights, his arms or even legs. Surely you are familiar with signaling your intents to other drivers by the use of your arms:
- Extended left arm signals a left turn (this, however, can be dangerous as the signaling arm is not positioned on the handlebar as it should be)
- Left arm bent at the elbow with fingers extended upwards signals a right turn (this must be used with extreme caution as not many traffic participants are aware that this is a signal for a right turn)
- Either left arm or left leg extended at a 45 degree angle signals a danger on the left side of the road (such as oil stains, gravel, potholes etc.)
- Either right arm or right leg extended at a 45 degree angle signals a danger on the right side of the road
- Upwards bent left arm (90 degrees) with palm of hand opening and closing signals a turn-signal left running after completion of a maneuver
Improper use of turn-signals is considered a very common weakness among motorcyclists. Unlike in cars, where drivers have been relying on self-cancelling turn signals for the last couple of decades, motorcycles and their users are still left to rely on manual cancellation. Some motorcycle manufacturers have been offering self-cancelling turn-signal systems on their products for a while – these systems are most commonly based on timers (cancellation after a predetermined time period), travelled distance (cancellation after predetermined distance traveled), acceleration and even front/rear-wheel distance travelled comparison. Unfortunately none of these systems can guarantee perfect reliability – they are unable to cover the full spectrum of maneuvers a motorcyclist undertakes on a common ride (especially roundabout exits and changes of lanes).
A great number of riders often forget to turn off their turn-signals after a maneuver – some of them are even reluctant to use them in the first place, fearing that they might forget to cancel them afterwards. Given the generally bad visibility of a motorcyclist in traffic, inappropriate use of turn-signals can even further increase the danger they are in.
Recently a new start-up company from Slovenia has unveiled an advanced self-cancelling turn-signal system for motorcycles that could represent a big step forward in terms of safety improvement and general perception of importance of proper turn-signal usage among motorcyclists. The new Smart Turn System uses an advanced algorithm that analyses collected data on direction, inclination, acceleration and vibration of the vehicle in order to reliably switch the turn-signals off after the completion of a maneuver. While the system is expected to be available for pre-orders in the beginning of April 2016, the company is at this time already starting to offer early testing of the system for motorcyclists. If you are interested in trying out the system for yourself, you can apply at www.safer-turn.com
If you are in a hurry you can still get one of the self-cancelling turn-signal systems already available on the market in a few weeks time. They might not be an ideal solution, especially for city commuters as they turn off the signal after a few seconds, but they still provide a certain safety improvement for any rider.
There are some other available solutions – for example, a protective motorcycling jacket with embedded turn-signal lights. Wearing a jacket with embedded light system might not sound very appealing to many riders as you are still required to turn the signals off manually. You might consider using a buzzer – a device that puts out a loud sound reminding you that the turn-signal is still switched on.
Another important element of riding a motorcycle is, obviously, braking – oftentimes the car driver behind a motorcycle does not notice that the vehicle in front of him is braking. That is why many riders use a series of short brakings in order to make sure that a blinking brake-light will catch car driver’s attention.
Some riders like to use the horn to signify their presence to others – while this approach might be efficient in terms of grabbing attention of other participants it is usually met with disapproval as others see it as a sign of aggression rather than a sign of notice – moreover, the sound of a horn does not say much to others about what your intended maneuver actually is.
As motorcyclist are, surely, one of the more endangered participants in traffic it is essential that they take every reasonable measure available in order to increase their safety. Their visibility, or better, lack thereof, is the biggest contributor to the dangers they face on the road – accordingly it is important to make yourself visible on the road.
Enjoy your ride to the greatest extent by selecting as safe and as empty roads to ride as possible – however, if this is not possible, make sure that you take the best measures to make yourself visible to others!