What do other road users think of us?
I was riding into London on the M4 on a weekday recently. I had joined the Motorway at J11 and by J9 the traffic was slowing as a result of a lane closure. Anticipating that this was going all the way to the M25 I settled into some filtering practice between lanes 2 and 3. Not being a regular commuter I tend to keep the speed well down when filtering on the basis that it hurts a lot less if it goes wrong. After a mile or so I spotted the single headlight of another bike behind me and started looking for a gap to slot into and let them pass.
As the rider, a courier on a well-used 1200 Bandit, passed me he stuck a leg out in a ‘thank you’ salute and went on his way. From my perspective this was a courteous, skilful example of a professional rider earning his living on a motorcycle, I wonder what the drivers around us thought?
The reason I pose the question is that from my experience of delivering Driver Awareness Workshops, the majority of drivers we share the road with have little idea of why we choose to ride motorcycles and many also believe that filtering on a motorway is illegal. This lack of knowledge is not helped by the fact that there is no compulsory motorway training in the UK. Annual statistics from the DfT show that motorcycles are around 1% of the total UK traffic, but we are grossly over represented at 19% of the fatalities. Because we are such a minority, most drivers do not expect us and therefore are not looking for us. Hence the high number of SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You) incidents.
What can we do about this? Advanced riding standards help to mitigate the risks, but only if they are applied consistently, which is why it is so important that we strive to ride to the best of our ability at all times.
Sadly, this is not always the case even on TVAM social rides, where a very small minority sometimes allow enthusiasm to overcome judgement causing concerns for their own and others’ safety. In the driver training world there is an acronym that could be applied here called SLAP:
Is it Safe?
Is it Legal?
Will it Achieve anything worthwhile?
How is it Perceived by those watching?
If the overtake, or any other manoeuvre that we are planning, does not pass the SLAP test, then perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it. Please ensure that TVAM social rides are a safe, welcoming environment for all levels of ability.
On a much more cheery note, if you have not read the Spring edition of the IAM Advanced Driving magazine take a look at the piece by Tony Paz on commuting – well done Tony.