Motorcycle Operator Manual – Part III

Chiang Mai, motorcycle commute

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Motorcycle Operator Manual – Part III

In order to safely operate a motorcycle in traffic, the rider must gain certain knowledge and skills. The information on these pages will, hopefully, help to keep novice motorcycle riders safe and reduce the risk of them being involved in accidents.

Being Passed Safely on Your Motorcycle

In Part II, we covered about how important it is to keep a safe distance from the vehicles around you, a “cushion of space”, but what about when you are being passed, or intend to pass another vehicle. There are some simple guidelines to help you to do that more safely too:

  • If someone is tailgating you (following far too close for comfort), it can be tempting to speed up (out of your comfort zone) to try to get rid of them, but realistically, the best option is to get them in front of you. If possible, simply change lanes and let them pass, if this isn’t possible then slow down and move over to give them plenty of room for passing, this will let them know your intentions and encourage them to go past you.
  • Being passed by another vehicle is not really that different for a motorcycle than it is for any other vehicle, except remember the golden rule, it is much more critical that they can see you clearly.
  • When you are passing another, slower moving vehicle there are a few things you need to be sure of:

Safe Passing on Your Motorcycle

  • Position your motorcycle in the left part of the lane, so that you have a clear view in front of you.
  • Check for oncoming traffic, if the road ahead is clear
  • Signal your intentions – to the driver in front of you as well as other road users
  • Check in your mirrors and glance around for anything coming up behind you
  • When it is safe, move out and gently accelerate making sure to give plenty of space to the vehicle you are passing
  • Drive through the cars blind spot as quickly as is safely possible
  • Signal again, check in your mirror and glance behind before pulling back into the appropriate lane

Remember, even when you are passing another vehicle you still have to adhere to the appropriate speed limits, so make sure that you are familiar with them. You also need to know your road markings and only pass other vehicles where it is permissible to do so.

Lane Sharing with Your Motorcycle

I know it might be tempting on occasions, after all, motorcycles are only about one third the width of cars, but cars and motorcycles still do need the entire lane so that they can operate safely and lane sharing is generally forbidden. If you try nipping between rows of cars (even in slow moving or stationery traffic) it leaves you in a very vulnerable situation. One opening door or arm coming out of an open window is all that it takes . . .  If you find yourself in heavy traffic and vulnerable to other road users being tempted to squeeze you over, maintain a position in the center of the lane to discourage them.  They are more likely to try this in:

  • heavy traffic – everyone wants to get there as quickly as possible
  • whilst trying to pass you – they should stay behind until they can pass you safely
  • while you are signalling and preparing to turn – they need to be patient
  • while you are leaving a highway or taking an exit lane

If you are driving along a highway and other vehicles are trying to merge into the traffic, move over into the next lane if it is safe to do so, if there isn’t another lane available then it’s best to adjust your speed so that a space opens up for the other vehicle.

Be Aware, Be Safe

As you become more experienced on your motorcycle your awareness should increase.  You need to be able to see what is happening around you, make the appropriate judgement about it and act accordingly in a safe manner.


Search out any potential hazards all of the time you are riding your motorcycle. You need to know what is going on ahead, what is happening to the side of you and if any potential danger is coming up behind you. You really do need to keep your wits about you at all times. The more you search, the more time you have to evaluate and deal with any potential hazardous situations, even finding an escape route if possible. Look out for:

  • Oncoming traffic which is liable to turn in front of you
  • Traffic coming in from intersections to the left and right
  • Hazardous conditions in the road
  • Pedestrians and/or animals who may step out onto the road

Remember – the busier the environment around you, the more aware you need to be.


Now you’ve got to think about how any of these potential hazards could relate to you. Anticipate any problems and devise a cunning plan to reduce any risks (the longer you have for this cunning plan, the better).

  • Road surfaces – potholes or road debris, can I ride around it or take it slowly enough to negotiate it safely?
  • Vision obstructions – trees, lamp-posts, high walls – is something likely to appear from behind them?
  • Traffic control devices – light signals, warning signs, pedestrian crossings and such like are all designed to help you to evaluate the situation safely
  • Vehicles or other cars which could possibly move into your path and cause a collision


Now that you’ve spotted and evaluated potential risks, it’s time to put your cunning plan into action.

  • Flash your lights or beep your horn to make your presence felt
  • Slow down, speed up or stop as appropriate
  • Alter your road position or the direction of your travel

It all sounds like a lot to think about in a split second doesn’t it, but it’s amazing how quickly you will be able to notice, evaluate and avoid potential hazards with just a little experience.

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