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DRIVING TIPS: Sharing the road with motorcycles

Above all else, keep in mind that there's a vulnerable person beneath that helmet

Published: September 13, 2013, 12:00 PM
Updated: December 9, 2020, 7:37 PM

Motorcycle in city traffic

Canadian roads and highways accommodate a lot of vehicles on a daily basis and a lot of those vehicles are motorcycles.

Motorcyclists have a lot less protection than a driver in a car or truck. Therefore, it's important we all do our best to share the road with motorcyclists.

Read More: BMW R 1200 GS Autonomous Motorcycle

12 Tips for Sharing the Roads With Motorcycles

  • Keep in mind that, under the law, motorcycles are motor vehicles with all the same rights and responsibilities as cars and trucks and they should be treated with the same care and courtesy.
  • As such, motorcycles are entitled to a full driving lane that should not be infringed upon. That's why motorcyclists are taught to ride in a car's left wheel-track, in the left third of the lane, close to the centre-line on two-lane roads.
  • Never try to squeeze past a motorcycle in the same lane just because it's smaller. Doing so is not only illegal, it's extremely dangerous.
  • Allow just as much driving space around motorcycles as around other vehicles – or more. Some motorcycles can stop much shorter than cars and trucks so you may need additional space behind them to get stopped in the case of an emergency.
  • Don't rely totally on brake lights to warn you when a motorcycle is slowing down. It's a common practice for riders to slow down just by rolling off the throttle or by downshifting through the gears, in which case the brake light won't come on.
  • Be aware that turn signals on a motorcycle are not all self-cancelling, so it's possible that a signal may be on without the rider realizing it. So don't rely totally on a turn signal to communicate a rider's intentions
  • When changing lanes, shoulder check and pay particular attention to potential blind spots. Because they are smaller, motorcycles are more difficult to see than a full-sized vehicle.
  • Be aware that wearing a helmet can somewhat limit a rider's vision, particularly to the sides, so make sure you have been seen before passing or otherwise driving closely around a motorcycle.
  • Be particularly careful about dropping a wheel off the edge of the road or pulling onto a shoulder when there is a motorcycle behind. Gravel and debris thrown up can be particularly dangerous to an exposed rider.
  • When pulling onto a road or turning at an intersection, be aware that, because of its small size, an approaching motorcycle may be both closer and going faster than it appears.
  • Consider that inclement weather is even more difficult and hazardous for riders than for drivers so allow extra space around motorcycles when the weather is bad.
  • Above all else, keep in mind that there's a person beneath that helmet and that he or she is far more vulnerable on a bike than you are in your car or truck. Don't do anything that will make you responsible for endangering that person.

Follow these twelve driving tips and the roads will be a safer place for everyone riding a motorcycle.

For a more comprehensive guide on sharing the road with all road users, please refer to the MTO Drivers Handbook.