Gary Baldwin is an ex-policeman in Britain and a riding instructor. He writes a regular column in “Bike” magazine, and I thought that this one was well worth sharing.
Blowing a Turn
“You enter a turn too fast, and either run wide or lowside as you try to slow down and get the bike turned. If you’re very lucky, you’ll ride off the road and come to a stop. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll slide on your leathers to a stop, get up, and walk away. If you’re unlucky, you’ll hit a post, guardrail, or oncoming vehicle and suffer injuries that could be life-threatening”
To prevent this kind of crash, you need to be able to judge turn entry speed effectively. The technique of The Vanishing Point suggests easy-to-follow rules that will help you set a comfortable entry speed. Advanced training will give you confidence in yourself and in the motorcycle, preventing a panic reaction and enabling you to get through the turn even if you initially think speed is too high.
“Approach a blind turn or the crest of a hill too fast, and you won’t be prepared to deal with hazards revealed when the view opens up. Gravel in your line, a slow-moving truck, a car turning onto the road, or other unexpected obstacle can result in a crash. Says Baldwin, “The key is the word ‘unexpected’. The rider has made a judgment or assumption that the road will be clear. There were no junction signs, nothing to forewarn the rider, so he zooms to his doom.”
Maintain speed that allows you to see the roadway 4 seconds ahead. If you have that much clear pavement, you’ll be able to stop if a hazard comes into view. On some turns, that will seem slow. But in many others you’ll easily have that much sight distance. This rule helps distinguish between turns where your skill and the motorcycle’s capability set the limit and those where the possibility of unseen random hazards establishes safe speed.
Straight-Line Loss of Control
“Many crashes in the UK occur when a rider approaches a roundabout (traffic circle), fails to slow in time, and runs straight on into the island”.
With the proliferation of roundabouts here this is common. As well, we do have the same sort of inexplicable crashes. On a straight roadway, a rider runs into the center divider or hits a parked vehicle. Or he fails to see slowing traffic and either crashes under braking or rear-ends a stopped vehicle. Or he wheelies into a parked car or fixed object.
One good way to prevent a crash like this is to ride sober, since alcohol is often a factor when a motorcyclist simply rides off a perfectly good piece of pavement. Beyond that obvious advice, is one more obvious piece of advice: Pay attention. Keep your head up and your eyes and brain ahead of the motorcycle at all times.
This is the crash between a motorcycle and the notorious oncoming left-turner, or a vehicle crossing an intersection or entering the road from a driveway. Most–though far from all–are caused by careless drivers. But even those caused by the other guy can often be prevented by the rider. Baldwin says, “It’s unreasonable to expect a motorist to anticipate a bike arriving at high speed. So it’s the rider’s responsibility to make sure he’s been seen. Almost all junctions are signed, but if you can’t see the junction then someone at that junction can’t possibly see you.”
While some of these crashes happen so suddenly and unexpectedly that a rider simply can’t avoid them, many others are preventable. Use position and speed to: 1) make sure you can see all vehicles that could interfere with you; 2) give other drivers the best possible chance to see and avoid you; and 3) set a trajectory that gives you the best chance of effectively executing evasive maneuvers. The threads Traffic Tactics: Left-Turning Vehicles and Crashproof explain how.
Passer vs. Passee
“This sometimes overlooked situation can occur when a vehicle you’re passing turns left just as you come alongside it. You may be passing several vehicles, and the one in front–the one slowing everyone down–is turning. But you don’t see it at first because of the intervening line of cars, and when it does come into view, it’s too late to avoid the inevitable collision”.
Before making a pass, make sure you can see all of the vehicles you want to get around and assess their intentions, then wait for a spot where there will be no opportunity for a vehicle you’re passing to turn left.
Much of what we learn about riding well is the accumulation of experience from problem situations. After a close call or unpleasant surprise, we figure out what went wrong and formulate tactics for dealing with similar situations in the future. But even better than experiencing these problems first hand is reading about someone else’s experience and cataloging it for future use. If you can take good lesson away from these examples, you may be able to prevent your own crash.