Observe, Anticipate, Ride and Survive

Hazard Awareness for Motorcyclists

I was fortunate to attend a ‘Hazard Awareness for Motorcyclists’ lecture recently and it did make me realize how vulnerable we are as motorcyclists if we are involved in some form of accident. Despite the fact I am well aware of the dangers of being a biker it does not stop me from using the bike every day and enjoying every minute of it, but it is easy to become complacent and not think about the implications of an accident which could happen at any time, especially if you have been accident-free for many years, or indeed not had an accident at all (the lucky ones!).

I think it is a good idea to look into the dangers of biking even if it is just for a reality check. Although we ride the best-looking machines on the road, as well as having the most performance, coupled with dressing up like a Terminator/power Ranger/Mad Max (delete as appropriate), it’s important to remember we are far from invincible!

A safer rider is a better rider

‘What is this?!’ I hear you cry, am I trying to put people off biking? Far from it, probably the most interesting fact I brought up from the lecture was quite simple: ‘A safer rider is a better rider’ (and of course, we are all the best riders!). If that were the case, there would be far fewer accidents involving bikes.

Some approximate statistics (just as an indication):

  • 20% of all bike accidents are single vehicle only (the biker)
  • 82% of these are where the rider lost control of the bike
  • 25 times more likely to be seriously injured than a car driver following an accident

These stats would be heavily reduced if we all rode more safely. I wanted to share some common scenarios that result in bike accidents. Some are from experience but not all. At a roundabout, ensure the car in front pulls away first before you try to get in the same gap that you spotted.

Ensure you travel around a roundabout at a suitable speed, you can guarantee that if you carry a bit of speed and are cranked over, someone will join the roundabout in front of you, forcing you to apply brakes and throw your line. When you see a car approaching from a side road, expect them to pull out in front of you instead of waiting for you to pass.

Side Roads

 On the topic of side roads, when a lorry has pulled out in front of you and you have adjusted your speed, anticipate that it has a double trailer and you will have to brake much harder at the last minute. Ensure you always travel at a speed where you can see where you would stop, there is nothing worse than riding over a humpback bridge to find that temporary traffic lights have been set up on the other side and there is a queue of traffic that would never normally be there. Always ride for yourself when in a group, and do not try to keep up with others, there is nothing more disheartening than hitting a bend 20mph faster than you would do if you were riding alone.

Escape Plan

When traveling in a clear lane next to a congested one, expect someone to pull out before you when they decide to swap lanes into the ‘empty’ one. Make sure you always have an ‘escape plan’ if the car in front were to suddenly stop, is there an alternative route you could take if braking will not be enough?

After realizing you have hit a bend too quickly, rather than panicking and applying the brakes (which forces the bike to sit up and travel in a straight line), look through the bend and commit to getting around it, bikes will often lean much more than you think they can – look at the exit of the bend, that’s where you will go, look at the bush in front of you, that’s where you will go.

There is an infinite amount of other possibilities which I’m sure people have experienced, but they are all avoidable by simply riding more carefully.