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Lessons for a Motorist from a Bike Safe event

15 July 2017

Recently we had the pleasure of hosting a Bike Safe* event in our Newry office and on Saturday, we will be hosting another one in our Ballymena office. Unfortunately this event is fully subscribed, but here are some useful tips, we picked up from the Newry talk. 

As we sat in on the presentation we realised we as motorists don’t have a good understanding of the challenges bikers face on the road. These were the most import lessons we took away. 

1. Bikes are smaller than cars
That’s a pretty obvious statement, but the implications aren’t just as apparent. 

Because bikes are smaller, it means it can be more difficult for the motorist to accurately gauge what speed they are travelling. Motorists should predict that the motor cyclist is closer than it looks and if in doubt, wait and let them pass. 
Motorcyclists are much less visible on the road. When stopped at a junction, the motorists view can be obstructed by all sorts of things such as overgrown grass, road signs, bollards etc. that can obscure an oncoming motorcycle. Shockingly 20 motorcyclists are killed or injured every day at junctions. The best way to protect yourself and the biker is to make sure at all junctions you are applying the principle of look, look and look again. 

2. Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than other road users.
We were staggered to learn that motorcyclists are 38 times more likely to be killed in an accident than car passengers for every mile travelled.

Despite being kitted out in all the correct gear & leathers, a biker is nowhere near as protected as the person in the car. The motorcyclist will almost always come off worse so it’s important to not only see the motor bike on the road, but see the person riding it and remember the potentially fatal consequences of a collision.  

3. Check before opening your car doors 
We were surprised to learn how often bikers have car doors flying open in front of them! Because bikes are smaller and can accelerate faster, often people open their car doors onto the road without taking a good enough look to spot them. So before opening that door, look in your mirrors and then over your shoulder to make sure there is nothing coming. 

4. Filtering isn’t against the rules 
There can be an almost adversarial relationship between some driver s and motorcyclists. This is most evident when traffic has stopped and a motorcyclist is filtering between cars. It might be frustrating to see a motorcyclist is making progress when you are stuck in traffic, but they are perfectly within their rights to do so. Filtering is legal so long as it’s done with due care and attention.  Making progress in traffic is one of the key advantages of biking and the reason many people commute this way. If you are in slow moving traffic and see a bike filtering, move aside if you can to give it a little more room and let them in near the top of a junction. Chances are they will accelerate away faster than you will anyway. Make sure to look out for them before switching lanes to fill a gap in the traffic and under no circumstances try to impede their progress! That is both extremely dangerous and quite rude.

5. Personal Space
We should always use the appropriate stopping distance when following any vehicle but it’s especially important when following a motorcyclist. 

Often, they will slow down by using the incline of the road and working down through their gears so you can’t rely on a break light to tip you off that they’re slowing down. 

As we mentioned above, it’s also a lot more difficult to tell what speed they are travelling at so at least if you have left a lot of space you will have time to react. 

6. Positioning is crucial
Having never ridden a motorbike this was our biggest lesson of the day! Motorists can sometimes be guilty of seeing Motorcyclists as show-offs or reckless for moving all over the road and swerving within their lane on a straight section of road.

Far from being reckless, this is an important driving technique called positioning and it’s key to rider safety. Changing position on the road is essential for riders as they must avoid obstacles a car can drive right over such as road dirt, oil spills and pot holes. They will often also drive close to the centre of the road to improve their view of obstacles ahead and so they can see further into oncoming corners. You might also spot a rider moving from side to side on a straight bit of road. This isn’t show boating. It’s a technique to increase their visibility to other motorists especially if there is a large vehicle such as a lorry behind them.  

Bike Safe was a fantastic event and really improved our understanding of the kind of hazards bikers face out on the road. It has changed our attitudes and hopefully make us more considerate drivers in future. 

*Bike Safe are a police led motorcycle project that aims to reduce the number of bikers being hurt on the road by helping to develop the bikers skilled through theory presentations and observing them out on the road.
If you are a biker and would like to sign up to future events, you can find out more here: and