10 Tips to Increase Your Visibility on a Motorcycle

by Liz Jansen

Most collisions between a motorcycle and another vehicle occur because the driver does not recognize that the motorcyclist is an oncoming vehicle. They either pull out from a side street or turn in front of them, into their path of travel.

increase-your-visibilityRegardless of who’s at fault in an accident with another vehicle, the motorcyclist is the one who’s most likely to be injured. There are a few simple guidelines to reduce your chances of being hit and increase the odds of a fabulous ride!

  1. Wear high visibility gear. You’re a lot smaller and narrower than other traffic, thus harder to see. The more you can increase your visibility and reflective strips on gear, the more likely you’ll be seen and reduce your odds of a collision. Read: High Visibility Helmet Buying Guide by Revzilla and Schuberth C3 High Viz Helmet Review
  1. Choose a motorcycle color other than black. Bright colors are easier to see. Even better, add reflective tape or stickers in places where headlights are going to find them.
  1. Use hand signals in addition to the bike’s turn signals. Any additional movement can be the one that alerts a driver that you’re about to change direction.
  1. Ride on the inside tire track on 2-lane roads. This maximizes your chance of being seen by oncoming traffic. I like to “wiggle” the bike a bit approaching intersections, especially if I can see someone ready to turn left. It’s another movement to catch their attention.
  1. Tap your brake to activate the light when slowing down, even if you don’t need to use your brake. It helps the vehicle behind you to realize you’re decelerating.
  1. Guard your position when making a turn. While the exact positioning varies with lane configuration and dedicated turn lanes, generally position yourself in the left tire track if you’re making a right turn and the right tire track in a left turn lane.
  1. Keep group sizes manageable. Wise leaders keep group sizes no larger than 8 motorcycles. If your group is larger, break it into smaller numbers, each with a leader and sweep rider. It’s way safer and easier to manage the group but beyond that, it’s difficult and dangerous for a car to pass a large group. Fatalities have occurred when a vehicle tries to pass a large group on a 2-lane road and because of another oncoming vehicle, can’t pass the whole group and cuts in midway through. You have nowhere to go.
  1. Leave a buffer between you and the vehicle ahead to allow time to react to traffic or obstacles. If a car driver doesn’t see the ladder or exhaust pipe across the lane until the last minute, he can still get over it. Not so likely for you.
  1. Leave more than enough space for braking. You can stop faster than most other vehicles, including the one behind you. Just because your bike is capable of doing it doesn’t mean it’s safe to leave stopping to the last minute.
  1. Make sure you’ve got the skills before you put yourself in a position that you don’t belong in. Others can detect nervous riders and it can make them do irrational things. If you don’t have the skills to be riding with a group or keeping up with traffic on the freeway, practice. Build your confidence and skills first, then go out.

We share the roads with other vehicles and all have a right to be there. Do your part to help reduce the chance of a collision. Next week we’ll talk about how car drivers can do theirs.
photo credit: JohnnyEnglish via photopin cc

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with:
8 comments on “10 Tips to Increase Your Visibility on a Motorcycle
  1. Tom Moreau says:

    Liz,

    I’d add that lighting is extremely important. I have swapped out my headlight and spot lights for their LED equivalents. Huge difference. Also went for the taillight from BrightAssLights.com. It’s LED, too, and flashes when you hit the brakes. I also have a large Canadian flag on my Tour Pak, which flaps in the breeze. Your eye is drawn to the motion.

    Finally, I have MotoLights (http://www.motolight.com/) on my to do list. I swapped emails with a WRPS motor officer and he had two words to say about the product – “love them”

    Tom

    • lizjansen says:

      Excellent addition Tom. Bonus tip. I’ve thought of adding lights to the front of my bike.

      One related caution for readers. Don’t make a practice of riding with your high beams on all the time. You’ll end up with a ticket.

      Thanks Tom.

      Liz

  2. Mary McGee says:

    Such great advice Liz. We should know all of this already, but it is always good to have a reminder, and you are such a good teacher.

  3. Yr Athro says:

    Vary your road position according to road conditions and circumstances. Don’t stay in the same place regardless. Changing your position across the width of the lane increases your view and visibility to other road users.

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks for the tip. I agree in principle – It does need to be done with discretion, caution and good judgment.

      Liz

  4. Geoff Clayton--Qualicum Beach, BC says:

    The wiggle on your bike to increase your visibility to someone waiting or contemplating making a left hand turn in front of you was always my approach too. Now after a near death experience I am not so sure. I was travelling SE on 19a approaching the Village Way intersection at 70kms (the posted speed).There was a SUV waiting to turn left. I had a bad feeling and did my little wiggle and just after that they turned right in to my lane. ABS brakes and good fortune somehow saved me as I though I was dead for sure. I have been riding and in my youth racing motorcycles for 62 years and have never come that close. My wife riding her bike behind me barely made it too, as she was in the curb side-you will understand this. To this day I wonder if they thought my wiggle meant “I am preparing to turn left too”. Anyway this is what I have done to continue riding and be more visible. My BMW is a red/orange, and I wear a high-vis Arai helmet. Now we both wear high vis jackets and we both have our lights on high beam. Further I have 2 small bicycle strobes (high tech $160 each 45hour run time between recharge) mounted on either side of my headlight. Will I be fined-maybe. Will I die from a cager- maybe — I chose to live with more visibility. _

    • lizjansen says:

      Hi Geoff. Other drivers should be able to see you for miles! It doesn’t mean they won’t turn left in front of you or fixate on you. One can never understand the mind of drivers in other vehicles. They don’t see emergency vehicles or hear their sirens so we need to do everything we can to make our presence known. Skills and vigilance, without being timid, are key. Sounds like you’ve got that covered! Thanks for sharing! Liz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Subscribe to Blog!

Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new posts by email.