The month of May is earmarked as National Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month, the brainchild of congress launched in 2004. Coinciding with the springtime kickoff to the riding season, the goal is “To promote motorcycle awareness and safety and to encourage all citizens to safely share the roads and highways of this great Nation by paying extra attention to those citizens who ride motorcycles.”
As riders, we naturally believe the focus of a motorcycle awareness month should be on car drivers. After all, more than half of all fatal motorcycle collisions involve another vehicle, according to the Motor Safety Foundation. Motorists are encouraged to safely share the road with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists are reminded to make themselves visible to other motorists.
- Give motorcyclists extra room. A minor rear-end collision could have major consequences for a motorcyclist.
- Look twice for motorcycles. Always double check blind spots and mirrors before merging or changing lanes.
- Passenger vehicles should remain extra vigilant when entering or crossing intersections. Nearly one quarter of all fatal collisions in California occur within an intersection.
While these suggestions and recommendations are undoubtedly great advice, there is another aspect to motorcycle awareness that should also be encouraged: being an exemplary motorcyclist.
As riders, we’re already sold on the joys and benefits of motorcycles. But many non-riders aren’t so fond of two-wheeled transport. Riders may think you meet the nicest people on a Honda (or Triumph or Ducati, etc.), but many car drivers openly show antipathy to our hobby/sport.
So, while we’re asking cage drivers to show us the respect of awareness while sharing the road, I’d like to encourage you all to put your best boot forward while you’re riding this month. Be a model citizen, a citizen who happens to choose riding a motorcycle for their transportation. Here are a few suggestions for shining a positive light on riding and riders.
- Wear proper riding gear. If we look like we take our riding seriously, there’s a better chance others will.
- Avoid fast riding around the general public. Non-riders aren’t impressed, and it only serves the unfortunate stereotype that we’re daredevils.
- Give special attention to avoiding a driver’s blind spots. The surprise of spotting a rider when one isn’t expected can frighten a motorist, leading to negative thought about riders.
- Don’t let frustration cause you to tailgate a driver. We’re trying to make motorists think kindly of us.
- Whether stopping at a cafe, a hotel or a gas station, be kind to those you interact with. Thank a waitress for the extra space offered to set riding gear. Put on a friendly face for a front desk clerk.
- Wear light-colored gear and/or reflective material when riding at night.
Keep in mind that, as riders, we’re a distinct minority out there on the roads. Motorcycles made up just 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2011, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), and we accounted for only 0.6% of all vehicle miles traveled.
It behooves us all to ensure we’re a pleasant minority rather than a nuisance. Let’s show the rest of the motoring world that we deserve their respect.