Chapter 2. The riding environment.
In the last installment we dealt with having your head on straight before and when you’re riding. In this installment we’ll look at where and how you ride.
As noted last time, a vast percentage of the riding you do will be in familiar surroundings and there’s really no excuse for coming unglued in your own backyard. But there is one element of every riding environment that is constantly changing, whether it be a familiar one or otherwise.
People. Of all ages, sizes, types, ethnic backgrounds, frames of mind and a million other variables. And it is the people in your riding environment that are the subject of this installment. Now, at it’s most simplistic level, you can, as my dad used to say, consider that everyone else that you encounter on the road is an idiot and deserves to be watched closely. It’s a life-saving strategy which, if followed, really opens your eyes to the amazing variety of dumb things that other people can do. But it is a little more complex than that.
In these days of shock-horror journalism it is tempting to think that motorcyclists are crashing and dying every day, but, in fact this is not so. Considering the increasing mobility of our society and the number of vehicles on the road at any given time, the number of accidents is remarkably low (and getting lower if the stats are to be believed)
Fact is that the majority of people with whom you have contact in your riding environment are just as concerned with going about their business safely and efficiently as what you are. And it definitely helps to be one of the “good guys” How do you do this? It’s easy.
Be courteous. If someone lets you in at an intersection, wave and thank them. Don’t glare at them as if they were legally obligated to do so and just as well they did. I often find that motorists stuck in a line-up will move over a tad and wave you by; likewise on your favourite set of twisties. Give them a wave and a smile. It makes you feel great, it makes them feel great and it raises the positive profile of motorcyclists into the bargain.
There are a minute minority of people who resent you and would want to harm you. And, more often than not, those who DO have that attitude have it because you, or some other motorcylist, has done something to them that annoys them. I inhabit a number of motorcycle online forums as you know and I get very weary of reading articles about “stupid cagers”. Yes, some motorists DO do stupid and inconsiderate things, but, then again, many motorcyclists do so too.
Now sometimes you can get the “heads up” on potential troublemakers for you on the road. Learn to read the “types” Truckers are nearly always considerate and, as their perception is that they represent a persecuted class of motorists, they seem to have an empathy with motorcyclists. A truckie will often give you the “heads up” that there are ploice in the area whereas it is almost unheard of for a motorist to do that, and, if they do, you can almost bet that the car driver is also a motorcyclist.
Young “P” plate drivers in “rice boy” cars (you know what I mean) are to be avoided at all costs. He thinks that his car is the fastest in the district and that he’s the best driver in town. It doesn’t matter that you could smoke him to the speed limit in first gear or that you could beat him through any set of corners that he’d like to nominate. HE thinks he has a chance and he’ll do anything (usually stupid) to impress his mate/girlfriend who is sitting in the passenger seat.
Older drivers are getting a bad rap these days and, as our population ages, they are going to make up an increasing proportion of road users. In fact, older drivers are usually safe and predictable, albeit slow. So just make allowances and give them some space to do what they need to do.
Vans are very fast these days and more than able to keep up with the traffic flow. Unfortunately many are being driven by couriers who are rushing to meet a deadline or tradesmen who are late for a job. Avoid them if you can and don’t get mixed up with them. The company owns the van most of the time so the driver doesn’t have to take that good a care of it. Know what I mean?
I could multiply examples but you get the idea. Know who the people are who are sharing your environment at any given time and ride accordingly. It’s simplistic to say it, but, you’re not the only vehicle out there.
But there are other aspects of your environment that come in to play as well. The condition of the road, for example, visibility (can the motorists around you SEE you?), road markings, many of which can be diabolical, especially when they get wet, fuel spills on your favourite corner (usually in areas that are frequented by trucks, so there’s something else to tip you off to potential danger)
And all of these cautions are greatly magnified the moment you move out of your comfort zone and start riding in unfamiliar territory. You don’t KNOW, nor can you PREDICT with any degree of accuracy, what is going to be around the next corner, so, be aware of your environment and be prepared to react accordingly.