THE INVISIBLE MOTORCYCLIST
"I never saw him. He came out of nowhere!" That's probably the most common statements heard at a collision between an automobile and a motorcyclist. They're usually made by the operator of the auto because the motorcyclist is unconscious (or worse).
As riders we wonder, "How can they NOT see us? Are they just not looking?"
A lack of attention on the part of the driver does explain some of the car/bike collisions; the distracted driver, cell 'phones, unruly children, etc. All these can contribute BUT some responsibility belongs to the motorcyclist as well.
I know. I know. That's heresy. Let me explain.
•Motorcycles make up about 3% of the "normal" traffic flow.
•People "see" what they expect to see; things like cars and trucks
Unless the rider does something to visually stand out, he can be easily overlooked.
•Motorcycles ARE much harder to see than cars/trucks because of their smaller size. A motorcycle can easily be "lost" in the background even with the headlight on.
•Many motorcycles are colors that lend themselves to blending into the environment. Particularly dark colored machines (black is the color of pavement after all).
Many motorcyclist wear dark colored helmets (or no helmet at all, but we won't discuss those here) AND dark colored clothing. A number of studies in the US and abroad have shown that a light colored (white, silver, yellow) helmet is more noticeable (during daylight hours) than a dark colored (black, dark red, dark blue) helmet. Why? The driver sees this bright colored "orb" floating above the traffic (most riders heads are higher than the hoods/windshields of cars). It's DIFFERENT.
Lastly (and sadly), most motorcyclists are not skilled in emergency maneuvers. Over 13% of the motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes made NO effort to avoid the collision. They didn't brake, they didn't swerve, they just rode right into the collision. That's because, after they've gotten their license, they don't practice those kinds of maneuvers regularly (or ever). Motorcycling is a SKILL. It takes practice.
So how can you NOT be the Invisible Motorcyclist?
•Position your bike so it can be seen and identified in the traffic stream.
•Wear bright colors
•Consider getting a brightly colored bike
•PRACTICE your emergency maneuvers
Or you could take the advice I got once from a very experienced rider. He told me not to "ride like I was invisible." He told me to ride like they can see me and are actively planning to do something to take me out."