I don’t enjoy riding in traffic, especially during rush hour. However, sometimes it’s necessary, even if I am on a longer ride up the mountain. For this reason, I try to ride safely and pay attention while in traffic. Here are five rules to follow while riding in traffic.
Assume the worst in every driver: When I am on the road, I always assume people are out to get me, and I watch their every move. When on the freeway, I assume the car next to me is oblivious to my existence (let alone that I'm right next to him). While this may sound like paranoia, it has saved me a lot of trouble as people often don’t see me, and they come into my lane without thinking. Fortunately when they have done this I have stayed on my bike and avoided a crash, which is something I like to avoid!
Try to ride in open lanes: If I am on the freeway, I try to ride in open lanes. Meaning, if there is a long line of cars, I either drop back or pass them. Think about it, when you are on the freeway, you will often see people who are tailgating and riding in a pack. As a motorcycle rider, I want to avoid this at all costs, and I am able to do so, unless I am in heavy traffic.
Watch out for left turns: When on a two- lane highway, I try to watch out for people doing a left turn in front of me. In fact, while in traffic, this is even worse as people are impatient and want to dart out and make the turn. Remember, if you are on a two-lane highway, you must keep an eye out for people who turn left in front of you as this is both incredibly common, and incredibly dangerous!
Ready the brakes! In traffic, a rider must react extremely quickly when things go wrong. If I am flying down the 78 or 5 freeway, I often have to slam on my brakes, which I don’t like doing. However, this is preferable to the alternative (landing on the hood of the car in front of me). To be ready, I keep two fingers on the brake lever. I also keep my right toe right next to the rear brake pedal. By doing this, I feel better when traffic comes to a halt.
Scan, scan, and scan: Without scanning while riding, you are going to watch as events unfold too quickly. This is true for motorcycle riders or people driving cars. It’s a bigger deal for motorcycle riders, and you must watch ahead. When I was younger, I would get in trouble when I would fumble with my radio and not scan in front of me. Now, I scan the traffic in front of me, that way I have no surprises.
I am not a daily rider like I used to be. However, some days I still end up in traffic, and I try to take it easy. With these five tips, any rider can improve his or her safety when riding in traffic, which is often hard to avoid.