Ride safe: investing in rider training
By Andy Hertel
Motorcycles once carried a certain prestige on the roadway, where other vehicular traffic would take notice, make space and give you a wave. Changing lanes, making a turn or merging onto a highway were done with a systematic fusion resembling the coming together of a jacket being zippered up. Today – not so much. It has become a state of rider beware … be really aware.
By Andy Hertel
Road safety is a responsibility shared by all road users including pedestrians. The volume of traffic has increased proportionately to the level of distractions drivers now have inside of their rolling metal cages. Combine this with the certainty that 75 per cent of the drivers are running 5 minutes late, and you have the perfect trifecta of concern for the vulnerable motorcycle rider.
Rider safety comes down to a few basic things that require thought and practice:
Attitude is number one on the hierarchy of the safety tree. Being in the right frame of mind, planning to have a safe and enjoyable ride and not allowing yourself to get caught up in any form of road rage or involved in the rat-race, will put you in a better position from the get-go.
Preparation is the next branch. A rider should always be both mentally and physically ready to ride, including being well rested and sober.
Be conspicuous by what you wear and where you ride. The choice to wear protective and high-visibility clothing and to ride in the best lane and tire track, are essential tools in communicating actively and passively with other road users.
Making good ongoing choices of where you ride, when you ride, who you ride with and how long you ride will also play a role in the overall rider-safety puzzle.
There are a lot of pieces to consider, but given some thought and investing a bit of time, the picture becomes very clear in the end.
There are only two things that motorcyclists have to watch out for on the roads. Everything and everyone. Once we have figured this out, the rest is easy. Truth is, people do not make conscious decisions to go out and purposefully interfere with motorcycle riders. It is not reasonable to suggest that drivers have any dislike for motorcycles or motorcycle riders. There is just a lack of understanding in their world about what riders face on the road every day. A fender-bender to a car driver can really put a damper on their day.
A fender bender to a rider can be life changing. Safe riding is not something that is simply planned – it has to be constantly evaluated, updated and executed. There are so many obstacles that come between a safe ride and a life-altering or ending experience.
The greatest investment in a long and enjoyable riding experience is professional, qualified training. Note, this does not include having your well-intentioned neighbour or spouse show you the basics and provide you with the classic reassurance; “Don’t worry about it, it’s easy. Trust me…”
Also, riding skills are not static, in fact, they are quite perishable. Once learned, they have to be nurtured, practiced and upgraded. As we age, our eyesight typically deteriorates, reflexes slow down just a bit and our bodies just don’t sit as comfortably for the long periods of time that they once did.
Automobile cabins have also become pretty engaging environments with an array of multi-media options, climate control and luxurious seating combined with some pretty modern manufacturing that results in isolation from the outside world. Recently, driver assistance options like backup cameras, numerous sensors, speed control and lane assist have caused drivers to pay just a little less attention to the road and their surroundings.
Despite some great technological advancements made to cars and trucks, these options have not yet made it to their two wheeled cousins.
Every day, there are more and more reasons for riders to be aware … to be really aware.
So the really big question is: “Why do we ride?”
The simple answer is: “Because we love it.”
Andy Hertel is the Program Manager, Motorcycle Rider Training at the Humber College Motorcycle School. Andy has been a rider for 35 years and an instructor for 23 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/humbermotorcycle