Speaking to car drivers, most don’t understand motorcycles.
It’s mostly due to their limited knowledge about the motorcycle’s limitations, rather than having bad intentions.
It’s our responsibility as bikers to share this knowledge with other road users.
We wrote about how us as motorcyclists could annoy car drivers earlier. Those examples we cited were due to extreme instances on the rider’s part. Truth is, whether we accept the fact or otherwise, while there are many bad car drivers, there are equally bad motorcyclists. That’s why we’ve decided to put together this article of 8 Things Drivers Don’t Understand About Motorcycles.
Being humans, we always relish upon our own perspectives while being apathetic to those of others. We can’t please everyone, of course, since we’re sharing a public facility but we have to always remember about others. It’s when we don’t that we become an annoyance to others. (Compare ourselves to Japanese road users. No, don’t refer to Tokyo Drift.)
From this apathy stems misgivings about others, including some car drivers who don’t or worse, refuse to understand what motorcyclists have to go through. This is especially applicable to drivers who have never as much as ridden pillion on a motorcycle, hence they do not understand a motorcycle’s limitations.
And it’s usually this bunch who spell trouble for us motorcyclists. A note to car drivers: We are not attempting to put you down through this article. On the other hand, we hope that you understand the plight of motorcyclists.
1. Motorcycles can stop instantly
This is by far, the worse misconception about motorcycles.
Cars drivers see us and still pull out with mere 2 metres to spare, without factoring in our closing speed. They base their impression on how they could brake in their cars and apply it to motorcycles.
While it’s true that motorcycles are smaller and lighter, hence could stop in distances that’ll shame 99% of cars out there, the key here is stopping safely in a short distance. Sure, we could just clamp down on the brakes, but we’re likely to skid out or tip over due to stopping dead too abruptly.
2. Motorcycles can avoid anything
Besides thinking that we could stop in time, drivers often pull out in front of us with the impression that we could avoid them.
Yes, a seasoned or trained rider may be able to avoid the car, but where do we avoid to if there’s no space? Into oncoming traffic?
What about riders like pakciks and makciks on old bikes? Do car drivers actually think they have the capability to do so?
3. Motorcycles can brake in the middle of corners
We’re coming up to a corner, occupying the overtaking lane (that’s the right-most lane, ahem) to pass traffic.
But just as we approach 10 metres behind the car on the right side, the driver decides to pull out into the right lane to overtake the vehicle in front of him, effectively cutting us off. That leaves us with no choice but to apply hard braking while being leaned over for the corner.
Cars can brake hard in a corner and still track through as they’re not that prone to weight transfer. On a motorcycle, hard braking in the middle of the corner will result in either 1) The bike standing straight up and overshooting the corner; or 2) The front tyre skidding and dumping us on the ground (low side).
To car and other vehicle drivers, please set up your pass BEFORE the corner. It’s called looking and planning ahead.
4. Crossing the line between lanes
Speaking about corners, we are mystified as to why certain drivers have to put the inside portion of their vehicles into the lane beside him while negotiating corners. Some even have the mindless attitude to sweep past all three, even four lanes from the right-most to the left-most and drift back out to the right-most to make a simple CURVE, much less a corner.
This is especially prevalent on twisty highways like Karak or mountain roads like those near Genting Highlands or Cameron Highlands. What? You’re driving Formula One? Does a Formula One or any racecar driver round corners by leaving his lane? His car becomes an expensive lawnmower if he did!
If a vehicle operator couldn’t keep his vehicle in the same lane while cornering, it means he couldn’t control his vehicle effectively. Think it looks cool? No, it looks dumb.
To be fair, this applies to some bikers too.
5. Motorcycles are slow
Speed is relative. It means while a car turtles along in a traffic jam at 10 km/h, a scooter travelling at 40 km/h is 30 km/h faster.
Out on the highways, motorcycles normally travel from 80 km/h and all the way up. The closing rates are much faster and it only takes a split second for a motorcycle to reach the car ahead.
It’s not that we’re the kings of the road, but we’d like to implore drivers to please look closely to determine our speed and closing rate before deciding to pull out.
6. Motorcycles are invisible
That leads us to vision.
In fairness, it’s how the human psyche works. Our minds can get stuck in the mode to scan for what we chose to focus on.
A driver first thinks, “Ada keter tak? (Got other cars or not?)” When his mind replies, “Takde keter, boleh jalan (No car, can move),” he will turn out in front of you, only to be surprised to find a bike honking at him or worse, having the motorcyclist fly into his car. His response will invariably be, “There wasn’t a bike. I don’t know where he came from,” although we had been there at all time.
This could still happen despite us wearing a bright jacket or being covered with bright LEDs from head to toe.
If you’re reading this, we need to condition our minds to scan for everything on the road, including all different sorts of vehicles, pedestrians, cats and dogs.
7. Not checking the mirror and surroundings
Mirrors aren’t there just for the vehicle to pass road homologation, they’re there to spot other vehicles and road users. So use them.
Also, we should inculcate the habit to glance past our shoulders before switching lanes. Another vehicle could occupy the vehicle’s blindspots. A quick glance over the shoulder allows one to determine if the sides are clear.
8. Not signaling
For the information of car drivers, while the turnsignal switch on a motorcycle is placed next to the left thumb, reaching for it is relatively harder than flicking the signal stalk in a car. Yes, I drive too!
This is because riders with small hands and short fingers need to stretch the thumb to get at the switch, while having a finger or two on the clutch lever, while the last two holding the handlebar to control the direction of the bike, at the same time!
In a car, a driver could just flick the signal stalk at will with any of or all his fingers. So, there’s really no excuse why car drivers don’t signal!
Other bad habits
9. On the phone!
How many times have we seen drivers swerving all over the road because they were busy updating their Facebook or talking so intently on their mobile phones?! Where’s the enforcement?!
These are just a few among many things that are dangerous to motorcyclists. Sure, we could always blame “That stupid driver” but the obligation is on ourselves to ride intelligently in order to avoid becoming the victim of others’ impertinence. Remember that we motorcyclists always come out worse in the event of an accident, regardless of whose fault it is.
Through this article and others to come, we hope that each of us would take a little time to advice our car driving acquaintances and family members on the limitations of motorcycles. That’s more constructive than jabbering away at social media portals that post about road accidents and end up fighting with complete strangers and trolls.
With enough determination, let’s improve road safety for everyone, Insy’Allah.