Make Yourself Conspicuous
Loud pipes may or may not save lives, but there are myriad ways to get yourself noticed without setting off car alarms.
First, if you can wear light-colored helmet and/or jacket, it will only help your visibility.
Next, even if you make eye contact with a driver or pedestrian, never suppose you’ve been seen. In fact, assume you haven’t. Gesture, flash your brights – do something (or everything) to indicate your presence to others on the road.
A personal rule: After a particularly nasty crash in the Bronx a few years back, I habitually ride with my brights on during daylight hours. Now that I live in California where lane-splitting is legal, the practice has saved my stones at least twice.
Finally, keep in mind that many drivers are generally distracted. So just because the guy in front of or adjacent to you gave you a wave or a nod a moment ago doesn’t mean he realizes you’re still there. Let him know by showing up in his sightlines as often as possible. Get up next to (or beyond) the driver-side window. Adjust your lane position constantly, altering the appearance of your headlight in his mirrors. You can also gently blip the throttle once in a while. Just don’t wake up the neighborhood.
There is nothing more dangerous to a motorcyclist than indecisiveness; waffling will get you plowed faster than a pot farm at harvest time. Know your route, set your pace, and follow through on your actions.
Choose to abort a lane change at the last minute? The semi in the adjacent lane might already be moving into your space. Already signaled and begun your lean? Just make the turn; you can always spin back around. Decide to stop at a yellow light you’ve already gunned it trying to make? Mind your back; you’re on the verge of being a hood ornament.
If you screw up and miss a turn, no one has to know; that hot chick on the corner will only notice when you get t-boned right in front of her. Don’t clench the brakes or make any sudden swerves. Just curse yourself under your helmet, and flip around at the next corner.
Get Out of the Way
In traffic, there is little more frustrating than a driver who holds up the group, whether intentionally or not.
Accidents and lane closures notwithstanding, traffic is the result of too many vehicles in too small a space. The great thing about motorcycles is that they’re small and agile. So use that size and agility not only to your advantage, but to the benefit of everyone around you.
When merging, get up to speed and into the flow of traffic as quickly as possible, and settle into a speed-appropriate lane. Sure, sometimes it’s advisable to ride in the fast lane so as not to get surrounded by cars, but please – don’t hold up the line. If you’re being passed on the right, you’re not moving fast enough. End of story. Obstinately holding your ground and forcing drivers to go around you on the right pushes faster vehicles into slower lanes, and creates knots.
On one-lane roads where you want to soak in the vista, utilize turnouts. Even when riding a scenic byway, remember that we’ve all got different reasons for being on the same road. If someone’s tailgating you, wave them on by.
That’s five things you can do right out of the gate to keep things safe on the road. What other techniques do you swear by?