It is no secret that motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users. Singapore Traffic Police’s 2015 data shows that there are 145,000 motorcycles on the road, at the same time they make up only one for every six vehicles on the road. What this means is that it makes it hard for other motorists to notice you on the road.
On top of that, road accident statistics show that 45% bikers overtake or switch lanes without signaling and 41% speeds through an amber traffic light. Another disconcerting fact is that one motorcyclist dies every five days, making up half of all road fatalities.
All these points to the fact that as a rider, you need to develop a sharp road sense and never let experience be an excuse to let your guard down while riding.
In this article, we want to give you seven tips on how to sharpen your road sense so that you don’t become an unfortunate statistic.
1. New riders beware and be aware.
When you are a new rider, you don’t realise that there are two fundamental realities working against your safety. First, you are new to road conditions and habits of other vehicles (unless you have already been driving for some time). Second, your class 2B motorbike (200 cc or lower) typically comes with basic brakes and narrow wheels. This means that your chances of skidding and braking poorly are high. Taking these two factors into consideration, it is no wonder that a lot of accidents involve smaller motorcycles.
So when you get your first bike, be extra cautious and do not be tempted speed. Take some time to get used to the limits of your bike in dry and wet conditions of Singapore roads.
2. Always maintain a space cushion when riding.
It is not uncommon to see motorcyclist tailgating or riding close to the sides of other vehicles. This makes the rider extremely vulnerable to sudden manoeuvres of the other vehicle. So it makes sense to maintain a ‘personal space’ around yourself so that you have time to react to sudden changes in vehicle movements near you.
You may have forgotten the two-second rule of safety distance taught in riding school. As a reminder, this is how you use it. Observe the vehicle in front of you. Once it passes a marker, like a lamp post or a road marking, start counting “one thousand, two thousand” at a moderate speech rate. You should not pass the same marker before you finish counting. If you do, then you are riding too close to the vehicle. Should it jam brake, you will not have enough reaction time to prevent a collision. As a motorcyclist, you know that that will only send you flying off your bike.
The same should apply to vehicles in your rear. Too often we forget that drivers in Singapore have a bad habit of tailgating. Rear ending is one of the most common accidents here. For a motorcyclist, rear ending is not a small matter. It could mean the end of your life.
When you are overtaking a car, maintain your space cushion. Ride on the centre or right side of the arrow markings of the lane. When a car is overtaking you, move yourself to the left side of the arrow markings to give yourself that space.
3. Always make yourself visible to other motorists
If you are behind a car, stay in the centre of your lane. It will make you visible to the driver through his rear view mirror. At night, your headlight will give a clear indication to the driver of your presence.
If you are in front of a car, do the same, though it is good to know that your tail light is not as powerful as your headlight. But this would only be a problem in very dimly lit roads, which is not very common in Singapore.
Even though our roads are well lit, it doesn’t stop you from being invisible if you put yourself in the blind spot of other vehicles, especially trucks. Even though you are riding a motorbike, it is in your interest to know the blind spots of a car.
Many riders who have never driven a car themselves don’t realise how important this is to their safety. Keep in mind that drivers are usually very careless in checking their blind spots. For the driver, it is not easy to spot a motorcyclist. They are in a capsule of air conditioned comfort listening to loud music or chatting with their passengers. You may be riding very close to the side of a vehicle, but you can be totally invisible to the driver. You are at very high risk of getting into an accident.
Car blind spot:
Truck blind spot:
General info on blind spots:
Also, never ride between two large vehicles, even if it is very tempting for you just to speed through to get ahead of the slow-moving giants. This tip may sound obvious to you, but such occurrences are too common on the road. So it is worth repeating.
4. Do not lane split at high speed.
Lane splitting is the act of riding between lanes. Many riders see this as an obvious way to save time and move along faster in heavy traffic.
Lane splitting at high speeds is just reckless. You may just be in the path of a careless driver who suddenly change lanes.
If you have to do it, it is recommended that you ride at less than 50 km/h. Studies show that you are less likely to incur serious injuries should you experience an accident. Thus, it makes more sense to lane split in a traffic jam or slow moving traffic.
Lane splitting at the stoplights is another smart move because it helps shorten the overall traffic queue. Motorbikes generally can ride off on a green light faster than cars, hence providing better traffic flow on the roads.
5. Do not ride in the first lane of expressways
If you have noticed, the most common type of accidents on Singapore expressways is rear ending. And this almost always happen on lane one because drivers habitually tailgates. As a motorcyclist, you don’t want to be part of a car pile up. For the drivers, it means dented bumpers. For you, it could mean the end of your life.
6. Do not ride on road shoulders.
It is very tempting for a rider to take to the shoulders of the expressways in a massive traffic jam. It is common to see riders speeding on it to get an easy way out of the jam. But you will never know when you might go around a bend only to crash into a broken down vehicle parked in the shoulder lane. So make it a habit to never ride on the road shoulders.
7. Do not ride off before the green light comes on.
It has become increasingly common to see motorcyclists riding off at the traffic junction before the red light changes to green. They do this by observing the opposing lights. The moment those lights turns red they shoot off.
They don’t realise that the traffic lights are programmed to have a few second gaps between them to cater to the possibility of cars that couldn’t stop on time or pedestrian that runs across the crossings.
To all hasty riders, you are putting your life and the life of others at risk because you want to save a mere one second of your journey time. It’s not worth it.
There’s a group of riders who think that speeding and weaving in and out of traffic is a sign of machismo and skill. To us, it is only a sign of stupidity. Your life is worth more than your ego. Singapore is after all a very small country. No matter how fast you ride, you are going to meet with a red light in a minute or two. Your tricks are not really saving you much time. It is only putting your life at risk.
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