A Motorcyclist’s Guide To Urban Traffic
If you are a motorcyclist you need to master avoidance maneuver skills in order to survive on a busy two lane or four lane highway. For your ride to continue smoothly and safely, you should be able to properly execute three to six tasks in the next five seconds or so to avoid accidents. But to be able to respond to emergency situations you have to learn to anticipate whatever threats that are likely to arise.
It is not only necessary that you can predict what is going to happen as much as anticipate what could happen. You need to have your bag of avoidance maneuver skills handy when the situation calls for it. To have the ability to anticipate takes training,imagination and experience.
Anticipating and preparing for threats that are likely to happen on the road are just as important as to have a plan on how to exit or escape in dicey situations. A skilled motorcyclist must also have a well-prepared strategies like swerving to move away from potential conflicts,panic stops, slow down,accelerate or line up on an escape route.
A big percentage of the threats a motorcycle rider encounters come from ahead of him not behind. So a lot of your riding time is well spent on scanning what is ahead of you not only the immediate vicinity like the car in front of you but you must scan well ahead like a block away. That is how to anticipate potential hazards on the road, to teach yourself to always scan what is way ahead of you and always have the frame of mind to stay alert.
There are two kinds of potential threats, the predictable ans the not so predictable ones. Predictable ones are when you are about to run out of gas so you will switch to reserve to avoid slowing or you will pull over and change the tinted to clear face shields when the sun sets or slowing down to adjust your line to avoid a slippery patch. These are examples of predictable threats.
Road threats that are not easy to predict like a deer jumps put of the roadside bush, a car suddenly changes lanes into your area without using his turn signals. a driver juggling a cellphone, coffee and applying make-up freaks out and makes an abrupt left turn.
It is very important to sharpen your threat awareness so that when appropriate responses are called for, it will be more ingrained and automatic like learning not to quickly rush into an intersection when the light turns green because the drivers are late for work at eight on a Monday morning.
To hone your threat and potential conflict awareness it is a good idea to play the what-if game and be ready to come up with an exit or escape plan. What if there is something coming up behind this large vehicle in front of me? What if the SUV in front of me panic stops or swerves? What if the van ahead throws a retread? What if some of the junk on the back of this truck falls off?
A curve, building or trees may block your view and impedes your vision both for you and cross traffic. It requires a fertile imagination to anticipate any potential threats.
Urban traffic is a consistent danger zones particularly major intersections. You can not control other drivers from getting distracted answering their cell phones or getting drunk. You just have to defensively be conspicuous,stay alert and use your headlight and high beam or honk your horn if you have to.
If you are overtaking a car, minimize your time next to it. Do not stay long on their blind spot and give the car a wide berth on the far side of your lane, accelerate hard (signal first) and as you pass, open up a gap by continuing to accelerate after you are ahead of the car you are passing and continue to do so if you have vehicles behind tailing you to open up even more gap before pulling into the left side of the left lane. This is applicable on two-lane roads or with more than one lane going your way.
Passing mistakes could be mild fender-benders but it could be fatal if the other one vehicle involved is a motorcycle. So general rules apply, avoid blind spots, be visible,accelerate hard and ride wide to give a buffer as you pass.
Swerving, hard braking or panic stops are some major evasive skills you have to master that you can appropriately execute when a threat arises.
Hard braking/panic stops ideally are performed in your normal riding position. Engagement spans,lever angles even the number of fingers on the rotating bar should be properly positioned to effectively improve control and reaction time by split seconds.
Swerving actually are just two-linked turns. Although because of its dynamic nature, a swerve is more complicated than just two-linked turns.