As someone who drives for work rest and play it would be easy for me to become one of those super-critical motorists to whom every other road user is a menace, lifelong cretin and a person of general moral turpitude. I of course am above such things, reserving my opprobrium and verbal wrath for people using devices at the wheel and other such dangerous and illegal behaviour.
By every other road user I mean cyclists who want everything their own way (beware my Lycra-clad cycling-nazi, I too now have a camera), pedestrians who wander gormlessly into the road and, it goes without saying, motorcyclists. I’ve seen Sons of Anarchy. The trouble with our two-wheeled brethren is that seasoned four-wheel users see them as a problem on our roads yet they are of course absolutely the same as car users, only wetter and colder.
When car enthusiasts find a good bit of road they like to drive it. That’s a given. Take a spin around the Evo Triangle to see what I mean. There is absolutely no way, assuming the road is clear, that any driver worth his salt can resist pushing the throttle and going for it with gusto. This begs the question, ‘why should bikers be any different’?
On roads such as these we often see signs that say, ‘Think Bike’ and the point is, you should. Did you know that motorcyclists account for just one per cent of road users (Government figure – I don’t know how accurate it is), but they are apparently grossly over-represented in casualty statistics, making up 19% of all road user deaths. A rider is seventy-five times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in collisions than a car driver, they say.
Yet they, like every other road user, all set off with the intention of arriving safely at their destination. Just as with car drivers and totally mad cyclists there are always a few who push their luck way beyond what’s sensible but for the vast majority there is plenty that car drivers – safely tucked away in our metal boxes – can do to help keep the roads safer for bikers. Remember, the motor cycle isn’t just a method of getting your kicks, it is also a valid and less expensive way of travelling about. Sure, it’s not much fun in bad weather but for most of the time it makes a lot of sense financially.
Nevertheless, motorcyclists are increasingly vulnerable on our ever more congested roads. A skilled rider can manoeuvre and change lanes quickly and easily; however, they remain at greater risk for a number of reasons, including other road users not being aware of them, or not appreciating their ability to accelerate rapidly and close gaps quickly.
So the exhortation to ‘Think Bike’ is valid and not just on high-powered roads but all the time on every journey. To finish, here’s a list of bullet points supplied courtesy of GEM Motoring Assist:
Remember above all that everyone on the road is trying to get somewhere safely, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. So maintain a defensive attitude, avoid conflict and competition.
Good observation is key, especially at junctions. Take more time to look for motorcyclists when you’re approaching a junction or pulling out onto a busy main road. After all, motorcyclists can be much harder to see.
Check your blind spot before moving lane. Motorcyclists move faster than you might expect, so it’s always good to double-check.
If there’s a motorcyclist behind you, anticipate that he or she will probably want to overtake. Make the manoeuvre as easy and safe as possible by moving slightly to the nearside. This tells riders you’ve seen them and you want to help them stay safe.
Think bike even after your journey has ended. Just check it’s safe to open your door and that you won’t be putting an approaching rider at risk.
The last word is from me. It is absolutely crucial that motorists on two wheels or four police themselves by driving/riding better. Do it the voluntary way or get ourselves subject to even more regulation by the killjoys of state. Protect your last remaining freedoms of the road.
Geoff Maxted / Photos courtesy of Colin Hubbard.