Safe motorbike riding in city traffic


This section deals with riding your motorbike safely in traffic . . .

Surviving traffic on a motorbike is very different to a car e.g. a car takes up the whole lane but a motorbike has a choice i.e. left, middle or right of the lane. This page illustrates how to make that choice and when to make it.

The diagrams below work on the philosophy of making the biker more visible or moving him/her out of harms way should something go wrong. It is also assumed that your headlight is on at all times.

NB. If you experience trouble with the diagrams below it is probably because we ride on the left hand side in South Africa!!

Riding a motorcycle in traffic

Oncoming Car Wanting to Pass

Red car C wants to pass car D in front of it. The yellow bike should be able to see this! (Car C is riding on the tail of D and is inching towards the middle of the road.)

If the bike where to remain in the middle of the lane the bike will be difficult to see from the driver's seat of car C. Therefore the rider should move from B to A . (If in doubt flash your hi beam!)

Riding a motorbike in the city

Oncoming Car Wanting to Turn in Front of you

The red car wants to turn in front of the yellow motorcycle. The bike has to be certain that the driver has seen him. 

I do not like the purple line from A to B. The driver is looking towards point A. By moving towards B the rider is moving out of the drivers line of sight.

I prefer the black line from A to C - an aggressive ride straight towards the whites of the driver's eyes. If I do not see his eyes then I know that he has not seen me and I must brake and/or hoot!

City motorbike riding

Car Joining from a Side Road

The red car needs to look down the road and see the oncoming yellow motorcycle. The rider should take the black line towards A. The purple line towards B is a bad choice because any obstruction at point C will cause the motorcycle to be invisible to the driver.

Safe riding in traffic

Using a Car as a Shield

Here the car and the motorcycle are travelling through an intersection with an oncoming car wanting to turn in front of them. 

I do not like sitting behind the car at point A because I will be invisible to the oncoming car who may turn in front of me. Instead I prefer to move alongside the car and allow him to shield me from the threatening oncoming driver. (I try not to sit in his blind spot however as this brings its own problems)

Riding a motorbike on a freeway or highway

Cars Leaving a High Speed Freeway

Motorcycle A is under threat from car C. Should the driver suddenly change his mind and take the off ramp he would turn sharply in front of the rider who intends going straight.. This is especially true as bike A is sitting in the car's blind spot.

Bike B has the right idea by riding in the lane away from the freeway exits.

Exploit the Holes in the Traffic

Good riding in traffic is somewhat aggressive. Bikers should constantly be on the lookout for safe 'holes' in the traffic and using their power and manoeuvrability to exploit them.

Assuming all the cars are travelling at the same speed, the yellow bike should power out of position A and into B.


Blind rise

Blind Rise

The motorcycle should move to the side of the road when approaching a blind rise. If an on-coming car is using the bike's lane to pass, the rider will stand a better chance of avoiding a head on collision. 

Stopping Distance

Many bikers loose their fear of riding close to a vehicle, especially if lane splitting is legal where they live. Many modern cars today can out-brake most motorcycles. ABS braking systems fitted on many cars being one reason. Lack of proficiency  in using the independent braking systems front and back being another.

With all this in mind a biker should never ride directly behind a car but should move to one side (see yellow motorcycle B). Should the car stop suddenly the biker has more room to work with and can stop along-side the car rather that go into the back of it


Passing with a Side Road Threat

The road is clear for overtaking and so motorcycle A is ready to gas it around the car and move into position B. Perfectly safe, if it were not for another car C wanting to join from a side road. This driver, when looking left sees a perfectly open lane! He accelerates and joins the road only to be confronted by a quickly moving motorcycle moving directly towards him.

Passing with side roads can be dangerous and bikers should exercise great caution. The faster motorcycle A travels, the bigger this type of threat becomes.

Lane Splitting in Rush Hour Traffic

The yellow motorcycle is lane splitting i.e. riding between the two lanes of rush hour traffic and passing the cars at a furious rate.

The motorists are half asleep crawling along. Suddenly car A sees gap B materialize in front of him. In a split second he jabs the accelerator and turns in front of the quickly approaching bike.

Bikers should be aware of gaps in the traffic and never move into a position that blocks a motorists from exploiting a gap. Be sure that the gap is not going to be used before accelerating past.


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