Defensive Riding and Hazard Awareness On a Motorcycle
The thrill of riding a motorcycle is often associated with inherent risk because riders share the roads with other traffic. There are very few road users who are more vulnerable than motorcycle riders. In truth even though larger vehicles may not have right of way, or more priority than you do. It is wise to yield to those bigger than you because defensive riding and hazard awareness on a motorcycle is extremely important.
In terms of being on the road, size matters and every larger vehicle must be viewed as a hazard and dealt with appropriately. Larger vehicles are less vulnerable and in some cases use their size to make progress. Some larger vehicles actually bully their way around the road network, this is down to the drivers actions.
This reality underscores the necessity for defensive riding and advanced hazard awareness. These two integral skills can and will dramatically enhance your safety and overall riding experience. You may have the right of way but you may need to give way for your own safety.
Defensive riding and hazard awareness on a motorcycle is all about exercising foresight, you must look further forward and look at what is going on further ahead. Most riders do not extend their vision far enough ahead and as a result do not see hazards until it’s too late to deal with them properly.
You must be proactive in your forward observations and look towards the end of the road at the furthest point. You can then work your way back with your vision, this allows you to see everything on the road ahead to anticipate what you may need to do.
Riders often lose control of the situation because they start their vision close to the bike and work their way ahead in the planning. The fault with this is, riders normally become focused on what is in their immediate path and do not see the bigger picture.
Manage your environment
Observation is key to managing your environment. Riders who are not aware of their surroundings make poor choices and get into difficulty.
You must learn how to manage your environment rather than just responding to it. An example of this is a car pulling out from a junction on the left hand side, instead of moving out early and turning off the throttle when you see the build up, riders who are unaware will stay in position and brake.
A defensive rider avoids being squeezed into situations where they’re overwhelmed or required to make sudden decisions. Planning takes time to perfect, it takes practice and patience. Defensive riding and hazard awareness on a motorcycle does not come overnight just because you understand it.
How to Achieve this
To achieve this, you should adopt strategies like enhancing your awareness and planning skills, and becoming more in tune with other road users. Learn how their behaviour can affect your riding and plan accordingly.
The correct and effective use of IPSGA (Information, Position, Speed, Gear, Acceleration) can significantly aid in achieving this. By having a structure you can run through this in your mind and make it second nature. But you must seek help and advice to be able to implement it into your own riding.
This system not only informs you about maintaining correct positioning and controlling speed but also enhances your scanning abilities, helping you to prioritise potential hazards and risks. The further ahead you look the more prepared you’ll become.
Developing an Awareness of Other Road Users
Roads are shared spaces, packed with other road users at times, each with their unique behaviour and risks. The good thing is, other vehicles can be predictable in similar situations, as you gain knowledge and experience you’ll develop a sixth sense to deal with similar hazards..
As a rider, you should cultivate a keen awareness of other road users, including cyclists, drivers, animals, and pedestrians. They all pose their own dangers and risks, a good rule of thumb is – the larger the vehicle the more distance you should give it.
Be particularly mindful of high-risk times and places – rush hour, school zones and congested city centres are all periods and places of elevated danger. Anticipating others’ actions, or asking “what if,” can make a significant difference in your safety.
Defensive riding and hazard awareness on a motorcycle is a skill and because you need to be aware of other road users, a good action plan is required. This will develop your ability to be a more competent rider.
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Understanding Weather Conditions and Their Effects
Various weather conditions have a substantial impact on riding conditions and your safety. Rain, snow, wind and fog – each of these weather conditions presents unique challenges that require specific responses.
By developing an understanding of how different weather conditions affect you as a rider. You can make better decisions, like adjusting your speed, increasing following distance, or even choosing not to ride in severe conditions.
Be aware that on some longer journeys you may encounter several different weather conditions on one journey.
Recognising and Responding to Emergency Vehicles
Emergency vehicles can appear suddenly and can disrupt the normal flow of traffic. Road users do strange things to try and help emergency vehicles, but sometimes their actions cause added chaos to the situation.
Stay alert to the erratic behaviour of some drivers and be prepared to take action. Developing an early awareness of these vehicles and knowing how to respond is critical.
For riders it is generally easier to move out of the way, simply move over towards the kerb to allow enough room for the emergency vehicle to pass.
Dealing with Aggressive Road Users
Similarly, dealing with aggressive road users is another important skill. This can happen for a number of reasons, they may not want you to pass if you are filtering and may block your path.
Or some drivers may be in a rush and not pay any attention to road laws and regulations. This will cause problems to you and other road users if they do not give way or follow the rules in the Highway Code.
Road rage is another factor, if you make a mistake others may take it personally and become aggressive. The best thing to do is apologise and pull over to let them go ahead of you. It is better if they are in front so you can see them, rather than you looking in your mirror regularly to see what they’re doing.
You do not know what is going on in someone else’s head, or know what they may be going through personally. But all road users take to the road at some time in their life when they are not fit to be there, either mentally or physically.
Stay calm, maintain your space, and don’t engage in road rage. Your primary goal is to ensure your safety and not to respond to provocations.
Not Merely Techniques
Defensive riding and hazard awareness on a motorcycle is not merely techniques, they’re a mindset that prioritises safety, control and mutual respect on the road.
By enhancing these skills, you’re not just ensuring your own well-being, you are also contributing to a safer, more harmonious road environment for all. Everyone has a duty of care and a responsibility to use the road properly…
Remember, the best riders are not those who get from point A to point B the quickest. But those who do so with the highest degree of control and the lowest risk to themselves. Stay safe, stay aware of your surroundings and enjoy every ride.