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Sharing the Road with Two-Wheelers

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author photo by Denise McCluggage October 2007

"While in the Orient, Lamont Cranston learned the secret to cloud men's minds and make himself invisible." Old listeners of radio will recognize that as part of the opening to "The Shadow." How did he manage that trick? Who, other than The Shadow, knows. But a simple way would have been to get on a motorcycle. Or a bicycle, or any other two-wheeled means of conveyance.

Somehow in the mix of cars, trucks and two-wheelers, the two-wheelers all but vanish. Those who have ever ridden a motorcycle can tell tales of a driver looking right at them and nonetheless pulling out smack in front of them. To make themselves likelier to register on the retinas of car and truck drivers, motorcyclists ride with their headlights on. Indeed, they have little choice since the lights come on with the ignition.

With two-wheelers increasing in number, it behooves both riders and drivers to consider ways to make their happy coexistence a less chancy matter. Here are some ways to do that:

Obey the rules. All conveyances using the public roads are supposed to follow the same code of the road. Keep to the right is a basic rule. Bicyclists seem the most common breakers of this rule. Many bicycle riders choose to switch how they think of themselves - vehicle or pedestrian - depending on which mode best serves their immediate purpose. You've seen them pedaling the wrong way on one-way streets, taking whichever side of the street they wish and riding on the sidewalks.

Drivers should be aware that some bicycle riders do this and be alert to their arbitrary behavior. Bike riders should decide if they are vehicles or pedestrians and act accordingly. Those who want to use the sidewalk or head upstream on a one-way street should walk their bikes.

Make your presence known. For riders of two-wheelers this means keep your lights on and wear bright clothes or colorful helmets. Bicyclists, particularly on undulating country roads, should attach one of those tall, whippy wands with a bright flag on it to their bikes. It alerts drivers early to their existence.

Motorcyclists know that they need to be treated like a full-sized vehicle to lessen the risk of being forced off the road. To claim their space, they should ride toward the outside of their lane, nearer the centerline than the edge of the road. This encourages drivers to give them a wider berth when passing instead of trying to share half their lane.

Drivers also need to let two-wheelers know of their presence. This is particularly true when the bike riders are kids or the bikers are traveling in groups. A light tap on the horn - not a blast - will serve the purpose.

But be leery of the shaky, inexperienced rider. A bicycle tends to go where attention directs it, and if riders turn to look over their shoulder at a tooting car, the bike may wander into the car's path.

And all users of the road serve themselves and other road users best by signaling their intentions. Use your flashing lights or hand signals, whatever is available, but signal.

Allow enough room. Drivers tend to follow motorcycles more closely than they would another car or truck, maybe because they are seeing past them so easily. Check yourself and allow more space between. A motorcycle's stopping characteristics differ from a car's. And it is also more maneuverable. Drivers should allow for these differences, giving themselves more room to react.

And to add a warning specific in stop-and-go traffic with emphasis on stops: Drivers in tight traffic are wise to stick to the middle of their lane. Any moves to the edge to check what's ahead by peering down the narrow corridor between cars might collect some daring motorcyclist who has chosen to shoot down that corridor. It's a high-risk maneuver that the rider's involved in, but your best bet as a driver is to avoid getting involved in it. (When parked, don't open any doors suddenly, without checking, either.)

Drivers should also give as wide a berth as possible to bicycles, allowing for the riders' possible maneuvering to avoid stones in the road or sewer grates on city streets.

Bicyclists need to give cars the space due them as well. When traveling in groups, bikers should ride single file and break up the numbers in each pack so drivers don't think they've been caught in the Tour de France.

A little consideration can help everyone on the road.

© The Car Connection

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Sharing the Road with Two-Wheelers - Autotrader