Enjoy your biking – but be aware of how dangerous it can be out there
Our RSA expert is deeply concerned at the increase in number of motorcycling deaths
THE extra stretch in the evenings has brought walkers, joggers, cyclists and motorcyclists out in their droves.
Many motorcyclists are 'fair- weather' bikers, and we tend to see a big increase in their numbers on the roads around this time of year.
I'm not a biker myself. I did try it a number of years back, but it wasn't for me. I do envy bikers though. Anytime I speak to them, they mention the feeling of "being free". They are a close-knit group, forged no doubt by two things: their shared experience, and the understandable persecution complex they must suffer from.
For a biker, the roads must sometimes feel like the plains of Africa. They are often the victims of animals higher up the food chain – drivers who take them out because they simply failed to see them. I'll bet many bikers have nightmares of drivers getting out of their cars and saying the words: "Sorry, mate, I didn't see you."
As drivers we need to pay more attention and be constantly on the lookout for motorcyclists, particularly in our blind spots and at junctions. Especially when turning right.
The RSA sometimes gets criticised for focusing too much on the dangers of motorcycle riding. Some people think we are putting people off biking, but I disagree. We say riding a motorbike can be an incredible experience because of the sense of freedom it gives, but as a motorcyclist, you are more vulnerable. That's just a fact. And if you're a biker or thinking of taking it up, you need to recognise this and understand that with freedom comes responsibility.
A biker's attitude towards riding a motorcycle is absolutely critical in determining the likelihood of them having a crash. Attempting to use the full potential of a powerful machine on today's busy roads is stupid, selfish and dangerous. Sadly, last year was a particularly horrendous year for motorcycle safety. Motorcyclist deaths jumped from 16 in 2012 to 27 in 2013. It's a real worry.
It's difficult to say why there was an increase; maybe it had something to do with the great summer weather. Our research into last year's fatalities tells us there were four main factors behind these deaths: a motorcyclist overtaking a vehicle turning right, resulting in the biker colliding with the side of the turning vehicle; a motorbiker, while overtaking, colliding head-on with an oncoming vehicle; losing control of the bike while cornering and crossing into the path of an oncoming vehicle or colliding with a pole or wall on the other side of the road – and a driver failing to see a motorcyclist when turning, driving through a junction or joining a main road from a minor road, and colliding with the motorcyclist. A collision with a car ahead turning right was a particular problem, resulting in nine fatalities last year.
What's clear is that motorcyclists should be extremely careful when overtaking and when taking bends. While lessons are now required for anyone learning to ride a bike, there are many who have never received any training. Regardless of how long you have been biking, I would urge anyone who has never received formal training to do so with one of the many Approved Motorcycle Riding Instructors around the country. A list can be found on rsa.ie.
Finally, a message for drivers: please be on the lookout for bikers, especially when turning right. As the classic '70s TV ad used to say: "A biker is harder to see, but dead easy to hurt. At junctions, think once for cars, then think twice for bikes."