How To Share The Road With Motorcycles

How To -


How To Drive Around Motorcycles

Oh my, motorcycles just come whizzing by so fast!” We’ve all heard this from our aunts/friends/in-laws, who feel duty bound to tell you how scared they feel driving around motorcycles. But how do you respond? This is advice you can give to your friends on how to share the road with motorcycles – safely.

1. Just Be Predictable
It’s honestly not hard for the average car driver. Four-wheeled vehicles are slow to turn, slow to accelerate and most drivers never get anywhere near their car’s maximum braking abilities. But it’s also worth emphasizing. If they’re driving around motorcycles the most important thing they need to do is give riders the ability to anticipate their actions: use turn signals (they’re that funny stalk that juts out behind the steering wheel’s left side, you may need to demonstrate how this works); don’t come to a sudden stop in the middle of the road; don’t race up to an intersection as if you might blow through it; don’t slowly creep out of a side road into traffic as if you might suddenly pull out; don’t weave around a lane on the highway as if you might wander into the next one. If a car driver really feels the need to do something when they see a scary bike, make this it. Just be predictable. We will return the favor.

2. Don’t Tailgate
Not only do motorcycles come equipped with much more powerful brakes than cars, but motorcyclists tend to be more skilled operators of their vehicles and so may brake faster than car drivers are anticipating. As a result, it’s worth emphasizing that it’s a very good idea for cars to leave a little extra space when following a bike on the road.

3. Lane splitting? Don’t Panic.
Alert car drivers often panic when they see a bike coming through traffic, jerking the wheel to give the rider extra room. Not only is that extra room not necessary, but any unpredictable movements can cause problems for other road users. Just because the motorcycle the driver saw is to their left side, doesn’t mean there’s not another one coming up on the right. The best thing a driver can do while bikes split past is just to stay calm and hold their position in the lane.

4. Look Twice, Save A Life
Cheesy awareness campaigns aside, it’s driver inattention that kills most motorcyclists. Put down the cell phone, turn off the Sponge Bob, save the child discipline for the safety of your own home and concentrate on the task at hand: getting where you’re going safely and without running over any motorcyclists. There’s psychology at play too: if a driver looks for cars, all they perceive is a lack of cars, not a presence of motorcycles. Hammering home the need to look for bikes too may just fire a driver’s synapses at the right time and keep them from turning left in front of one of us at an intersection.

5. Bikers Are The Same As You
Recent events in New York may have car drivers even more scared of large groups of riders than before. It’s worth reminding them that most Harleys cost $20,000 and up and are more often ridden by accountants and dentists than roving packs of criminals. They may seem scary with their loud exhausts and tough facial expressions, but really it’s just a bunch of guys playing dress up. People in a pack of sportbikes may be younger, but they’re just the same type of kids that put big rims on Civics and probably still live at home with their parents. You can’t get credit to buy one of these expensive toys if you’ve got a criminal record. Overall most guys on bikes are commuting to their jobs, and running errands just like you. They are just able to get through our increasingly congested roads more quickly then their four-wheeled friends.

What advice do you have for motorists when it comes to looking out for motorcycles on the road?

Related Links:
Why Bikes Ride Between Cars: How And Why Motorcycle Lane Splitting Is Safe And Benefits Everyone
Help Further: How To Be A Polite Motorcyclist
Ride Every Day: How To Commute On A Motorcycle

  • bammerburn

    My advice: buy a motorcycle for yourself. Then you will start to develop better awareness, empathy, and respect for other moving objects on the road.

    • Matt Mason

      I think every motorcycle rider would agree, but most non-riders would have no idea what you’re talking about sadly.

    • Tomás King

      well said bammerburn.

    • susannaschick

      yeah. when I become Ruler of the Known Universe everyone will be required to ride a moped with a top speed of 20mph for 6 months before they can get a car license… Kids who want to go faster will just have to get bicycles and stronger legs.

  • Ty Brookhart

    Number 3!

  • Shar Pei

    The last full paragraph is the most idiotic thing I have ever read.

    • Dave Day

      You can’t get credit to buy one of these expensive toys if **you’re** got a criminal record

      • Shar Pei

        First of all, I worked in auto finance for years, and that is just false. Credit rating has NOTHING to do with a criminal record. Stability has everything to do with credit worthiness. Second, I’m 44, and ride a Yamaha FZ1000. One of my very good friends just turned 40, and SHE rides a Ducati Diavel. We aren’t kids. I’ve been riding pretty much every day since 1988… other than the time I was deployed in the military.

        These kinds of assumptions are EXACTLY why we cannot judge by appearances. That is a stupid habit to get into, and a stupid way to write an article that had promise. How am I supposed to share this important topic with friends on social media?

        • Wes Siler

          So, what’s your problem? You’ve been unfairly profiled as younger than the average Harley rider?

          IIRC, the average age of their customers is 55. At 44, you’re considerably younger.

          I think you’re looking for offense where there is none. Put the computer away, take a deep breath, maybe go outside and listen to the birds sing for a little bit and I think you’ll find that this article, didn’t in fact cause the end of the world.

          • Guest

            So now we’re saying 55 is old?

            Just keep age out of it and it’s all good. Keeps the stereotyping/ageism to rest….

          • Shar Pei

            Wes, it is not my fault you are an inadequate writer that depends on stereotypes instead of doing actual research. If you think profiling is a substitute for doing a good job, I can’t really help you. Your last paragraph sucks. What pisses me off is that the first four are really strong, and full of good information that every responsible rider would want to disseminate to motorists.

            You can choose to get defensive, or you can accept the critique and be a better writer in the future. If the only people who comment blow sunshine up your pipes, you have zero chance of growing as a writer.

            And you are correct; I have other things to do… like go ride. Have a nice day.

            • Wes Siler

              Oh man, you’ve totally uncovered our secret plot. All along, it’s been RideApart’s secret agenda to rebrand people in their 40s as people in their 50s. Grey hair, frail bones, exorbitant purchases due to empty-nest homes. If only you hadn’t caught us, Jimmy Carter may have again been president and our moon laser could have finally carved California free of the 49 states full of crazies.

              • Shar Pei

                You are not only bad writer… you are a sarcastic jerk.

                • Wes Siler

                  And I’ve had gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

                • Aaron

                  I’ve re-read that last paragraph like 5 times, don’t understand where it insults anyone? It is just trying to clear up the misconceptions most car drivers have, when it comes to their two wheeled friends.

                • Wes Siler

                  There’s a lot of people on the Internet. There’s a lot of crazy people. Occasionally, those two groups meet.

                • Armin Pelkmann

                  Shar Pei, maybe you should watch your attitude and language if you want a normal and constructive reply from Wes ? Please don’t flame.

            • Guest

              There are constructive ways to give criticism instead of just making fairly personal attacks… :/

            • Richard Gozinya

              I’m curious about something. How is, “The last full paragraph is the most idiotic thing I have ever read.” a critique?

          • Shar Pei

            Did you really delete my answer to your response? What a baby.

        • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

          This article was meant to be more of an easy read to forward to cagers. The casual language and loose stereotypes reinforcethose pperceived by non cyclists while adjusting them to make them seem less threatening. You’re not really the intendedaudience for this piece. Chill out.

    • John Krause

      How so?

  • Adam

    Do motorcycles (in general) have a significantly shorter stopping distance than cars (in general)? Probably less than a car length shorter at 60mph.

    Does your average non-sports motorcycle stop faster than your average non-sports car? I’d say the car probably stops shorter.

    • Wes Siler

      Motorcycles not only have far more powerful brake than cars, the effort required to stop them is exponentially less due to the extreme weight differences.

      I mean yeah, some giant cruiser thing isn’t going to haul up that fast, but any bike with functional geometry is going to out brake all but the most expensive cars.

      • forking

        Bikes stop pretty quick, but there’s lots of cars which stop faster. I’d say a good average for (new) passenger cars is 125-150ft (60-0mph).

      • Piglet2010

        The braking distances your buddies over at MotoUSA report on their super-sport and super-bike comparisons are not that impressive compared to a modern performance car – on pretty much any non-cruiser ridden solo rear wheel lift is going to limit braking force.

        • Wes Siler

          How many Porsche 911s are on the road vs sportsbikes?

          • Piglet2010

            These moderately priced coupes match up pretty will with super-bike race replicas for braking performance (all 2012 models), eh?

            From Edmunds -
            Ford Mustang V6: 60-0 in 103 feet,
            Honda Civic Si: 60-0 in 120 feet,
            Hyundai Genesis Coupe 60-0 in 111 feet,
            Mazdaspeed 3: 60-0 in 113 feet.
            Volkswagen GTI: 60-0 in 129 feet.

            From MotoUSA –
            Aprilia RSV4: 60-0 in 112.5 feet,
            BMW S1000RR: 60-0 in 131 feet,
            Ducati 1199 S: 60-0 in 131.8 feet,
            Honda CBR1000RR: 60-0 in 132.7 feet,
            Kawasaki ZX-10R: 60-0 in 133.9 feet,
            KTM RC8R: 60-0 in 134.7 feet,
            Suzuki GSX-R1000: 60-0 in 132.6 feet,
            Yamaha YZF-R1: 60-0 in 134.1 feet.

            • Adam

              Thanks for doing that research Piglet. Edmunds lists my smallish SUV (2012 Hyundai Santa Fe) with a stopping distance of 126 feet which is better than all but one of the sport bikes you listed. On the article you linked to the bikes had shorter stopping distances than sport bikes so my car ranked 13 of 18 (I excluded the bottom two). But still, being that my car is 15 feet long it was within one car length of the shortest stopping bike.

              In my opinion it is a widespread fantasy that motorcyclists have that they can stop *substantially* faster than cars and use this to feel comfortable tailgating cars. It probably causes a lot of casualties. I believe even the Hurt Report (hertz? hert? whatever) on lane splitting said one of the primary reasons it appeared to be safer is that motorcycles stopped rear ending people as much…

              • Michael Howard

                What many motorcyclists refuse to accept is that four tires – even little skinny crappy ones – provide more contact patch (and traction) than two motorcycle tires.

                • Grimbo

                  When I took my license in ’99 we were taught that motorcycles had a shorter brakelength than cars, and this was true at the time (It was even demonstrated on the track) In 2010 I finally got the last tier on my license and now this was changed. Back on the track after all these years the motorcycles had no chance against the car and it was certainly not a sportscar! (diesel Vauxhall) Better technology make old truths outdated.

                • Piglet2010

                  Both car and motorcycle tires have improved immensely, but since most motorcycles are ultimately limited by rear wheel lift rather than traction while braking on dry pavement, car braking distances have decreased more.

      • Davidabl2

        ..On dry pavement, anyway. When it’s wet or icy it’s a different ballgame.

  • Jack Meoph

    Oh let’s see… on today’s ride I had; a truck loaded down with produce pull left into my lane right in front of me (I guess he couldn’t be bothered to wait the 2 seconds it would have taken for me to go by), a small pickup pull from the shoulder directly into my lane ( he couldn’t wait the 1 second it would have taken for me go past), a pack of bicycles in both lanes! ( hey, ya know you’re on a county road with a painted divided line, the speed limit is 55 mph, but you just gotta chat with your buds, so by all means, spread out and have fun!!) a couple of bro-dozers cheating the corners (it’s ok really, I only need 10 inches, thanks for waving). Yeah, I don’t think, I KNOW, that people on the roads are idiots. They only care about themselves, that’s why I ride the way I do, because I quit caring also. It’s every man for themselves on the roads!!!! ARRRRRRR!!!!
    BTW: I was just out on a maintenance ride with the wife’s Kawi Ninjette 2fiddy arrrr. (she hasn’t been riding of late, and I try to make sure that each bike gets out at least once a month) No crazy speeds, can’t happen with that bike. But the truth is…. that’s the kind of stuff I run into all the time, and it’s been going on since I’ve been riding. People in cars just don’t care.

    • Piglet2010

      Watch out for those pre-gen Ninjettes – something about them makes you want to flog them to the limit.

  • Davidabl2

    6. Be aware that motorcycles especially sport bikes have a blind spot directly behind the vehicle-a blind spot which their car doesn’t- if the driver bothers to look into that mirror on the top of their windshield. Yep, that mirror that bikes don’t have

  • Davidabl2

    7. As a driver you can’t accurately judge the speed and distance of an oncoming motorcyclist.
    it is a safe bet that he’s closer AND going faster than you think he is. Unless he’s on a Harley that DOESN’T look like one of those bikes on “Sons of Anarchy.”

    8. If you are on a two-lane road with 2-wheel maniac behind you please remember that the law says “slower traffic keep right.” He can-and often does- make a pass that no automobilist would even consider. Moving 2ft to your right will make it a less scary experience for you.

  • Piglet2010

    Well yes, except I will not let someone with loud pipes in ahead of me if I can help it.

    Nb. I do not dislike loud pipes. I HATE loud pipes – that harsh crack as unburned fuel burns in the pipe is painful enough that I want to see the bike run through a crusher.

    P.S. Did I mention that I HATE loud pipes?

  • ThruTheDunes

    It is not really advice, but I do extend an invitation, “go get a learner’s permit and I will be glad to go with you to a parking lot and teach you the basics so you can at least ride across the lot and back. Then you can decide if you like it. If you do, there is a motorcycle safety class you can take, and if you pass the skills test at the end, it counts as your road test and you get your license.” That is my schpiel (sp?). I am sincere, and I find it effective in making people think about, even for just a few minutes, what it must be like to travel on two wheels. But hey, that’s just me.

  • El Isbani

    Be a humble driver! Since I started riding, haven’t had one fit of anger despite some nutty things car drivers have done. Like looking at me in the eye while turning a left in front of me, when you have a red, causing me to serve. If I can focus on the task at hand, and you do the same, leaving emotions for non dangerous places, we won’t have regrets about it at the end of the day.

    • HoldenL

      “leaving emotions for non dangerous places”

      That’s what separates the motorcyclists who will live a long time from those who won’t.

      Reminds me of what bammerburn said about drivers being isolated as if they were in submarines, being quick to anger while diminishing their humanistic qualities. I was like that until I got a motorcycle. Now I rarely get angry. Traffic is a chess game. Anger lures you into making bad moves.

      Anyway, I love that phrase, El Isbani. It’s a good mantra for whenever you start to feel hot under the collar of the motorcycle jacket: “I will leave this emotion for a non-dangerous place.”

      • El Isbani

        I guess not all all emotion. Lots of :-D is bound to occur.

  • Mark Kennedy

    Put the damn phone away!!

  • jpan08

    My advice: post this to a car enthusiast website, not just here man!

  • helibikes

    Education & access to information is the key to break down barriers and preconceived notions. We can all blame drivers as much as we want, but that tends to alienate drivers from riders. How often do we, as riders, look at ourselves and our own riding practices? How prepared are we for the hazards of the road and the errors that we make and those of other road users?
    Let’s give drivers good and accurate information about what riders need and what they can do and what they are likely to do. Let’s give the same information about drivers to riders…we need to learn off each other.
    Having open discussions like these in the mainstream breaks down myths about each other and we both need to look at how we both affect road safety.
    e.g. Saying motorcycles can outbreak cars is not strictly true all the time and not by every rider. Saying cars should not tail gate is good, but not only because bikes may break sooner. Riders should not attempt to break hard with a vehicle close behind as the margin of error on both parties is dramatically reduced. If we quote reasons or scenarios then we need to see both sides of the argument.
    It’s about perspective, engagement and education that will reduce the overall probability of having an accident.

    • Da Po

      You are so much more correct than this propaganda article. :)

      Note to cars: Drive safe, and don’t make sudden movements. Give motorcycles their space.

      Note to cyclists: Drive safe, and don’t make sudden movements. Respect the Law of Snackage around larger vehicles. :P

    • Piglet2010

      Chronic tailgaters should have their heads mounted on pikes along the side of the road.

  • HoldenL

    Item No. 1, repeated ad nauseum.

    A corollary to driving predictably: Drive decisively. When you turn from one road onto a multilane road, pick a lane and don’t make us guess. In fact, you should know which lane you’re going to occupy before you make the turn. When you’re decisive and you pick your freaking lane and you stick to your decision, instead of straddling lanes in a wussy-like manner, you’re doing a favor to everyone behind you, especially motorcyclists because you’re letting us know which lane to pass you in.

    • Da Po

      Wussy? The ones who change lanes frequently are the aggressive asshats who try to cleave through three inches of space in between cars. That includes motorcyclists, since they have smaller vehicles.
      But yes, fully agree. Get in one lane and stick with it!

  • Tony M

    My advice: just drive. Take it seriously. Think of the consequences for somebody other than yourself.

  • Piglet2010

    You deserve to be cut off if your bike is so loud that people hear coming up from behind. Or I suppose you would not mind if I set fireworks off just outside your bedroom window while you are trying to sleep?

    Please cite one peer reviewed study that loud pipes are safer.

    • griesgram999

      Are you using your car on the road to sleep or why are you comparing it to a bedroom?
      I’m pretty sure Dylan’s experience is shared by a lot of riders and most of us know how to avoid stupid reactions by boxed idiots that can’t control their emotions.

      • Piglet2010

        Most of the loud pipe idiots* would be better served by taking a couple of riding classes and wearing proper gear – that doo-rag and wife-beater shirt will not even soak up much spilled blood.

        *Yeah, I know that is redundant.

  • Da Po

    “Just be predictable. We will return the favor.” Bullchips. I’ve seen some of the worst driving come from entitled people on two wheels. -_-#