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Motorcyclist safety

Safety and maintenance tips to help you prepare for the challenges of riding on NSW city streets.

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Know the challenges

There are challenges when riding a motorbike or scooter in the city. The streets are busy with motorists, buses, pedestrians and road works. Surfaces can change quickly.

You can't rely on other people on the road to look out for you. When car drivers hit motorcyclists, they often say they didn't see the rider.

Here are some quick tips for riding the streets safely.

Be prepared

The condition of your motorbike is one factor you can control, so take some time to do this.

Tyres

Make sure they're inflated to the right pressure and aren't bald or damaged.

Brakes and controls

Check they're working before you start riding. Check clutch, throttle and brake cables for kinks or broken strands.

Some motorcycles now come with an Anti-locking Braking System (ABS). Having an ABS on your motorcycle may reduce the risk of crashing if you are ever put in a position where you need to brake suddenly.

Other equipment and fittings

Lights

Keep lights clean and make sure they're working.

Horn

Make sure it's working.

Chain

Your chain needs to be oiled and adjusted properly. Your owner's manual will tell you how to do this.

Mirrors

Adjust and clean your mirrors if necessary before you begin your ride.

Petrol and oil

Check the oil and top up when necessary. Running low on oil can cause serious damage to the engine.

Ensure you have enough petrol for each trip. Running out can cause a loss of engine power at a critical moment, like when you need it for balance or to stay clear of other vehicles.

Be focused

Once your bike is ready, make sure you’re mentally prepared for the road. When you're riding, all your thoughts have to be focused on riding.

Be seen

The brighter your clothes, the easier it will be for other people to see you.

Use reflective stripes or tape, particularly at night or in poor weather.

Be protected – wear a helmet

In Australia, every year more than 200 motorcycle riders and passengers are killed and many more are injured in road crashes. Some of these injuries could be prevented if motorcyclists chose the safest helmet and wore the right helmet for their head size.

Wearing a well-fitting Australian standards helmet is a legal requirement that could save your life.

The Consumer Rating and Assessment of Safety Helmets (CRASH) provides independent information about the level of protection a helmet offers.

It's also important to wear protective clothing for every journey. You’ll need riding gloves, riding boots and purpose-made motorcycle jacket and pants.

Be alert

The best riders see trouble and react before it can hurt them.

In the city, try to look a block or more ahead. This gives you plenty of time to plan your reaction to situations that may arise. Think, scan and plan.

When scanning, look as far ahead as possible then move your vision back towards you. Check continually - don't let your eyes rest for too long on any one thing.

Check your mirrors and look over your shoulders to be sure there is nothing in your blind spots before changing position on the road.

Things to look out for include slippery surfaces, bad bumps, pot holes, loose gravel, wet leaves and other obstacles on the road.

Remember to keep an eye out for animals, pedestrians (particularly elderly people and children) and other motorists.

Safe distance and positioning

Always assume that other motorists haven't seen you. Think about your position on the road and ask yourself questions like:

  • Is this the safest position I can be in?
  • Can I see far enough around me for the speed I'm going?
  • Can other motorists see me?

Turning on your headlight can increase your visibility and, as a motorcyclist, you can adjust your position in the lane to maximise your visibility.

When riding behind another vehicle, try to make eye contact with the driver in the rear vision mirror.

If you think a driver is about to turn in front of you, slow down and, if safe, move across your lane away from the turning car. This will increase your chances of being seen.

If you're approaching an intersection with a restricted view of a side street, move away from the potential danger area. For example, if the side street is on the left, move to the right side of your lane.

The best way to avoid a crash is to keep a safe distance between you and others. The safe following distance in normal conditions is three seconds. You should increase this to 6 seconds in wet weather or other poor conditions.

Difficult surfaces

City streets throw up all sorts of challenges for riders. Any surface that affects your grip will also affect your control.

Watch out for:

  • wet bitumen, particularly just after it starts to rain
  • gravel roads or places where gravel, sand or mud have gathered on a sealed road
  • painted lane markings and steel surfaces such as manhole covers, which can be slippery when wet.

In these conditions slow down, reduce the amount of lean you use on curves and use progressive braking.

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