Bikers often find themselves on the wrong side of the four-wheeled community. After all, it’s commonly – and incorrectly – assumed that riders are more reckless on the road. Here at Devitt, we’d like to change these perceptions. We want to cut through the stereotypes and find out what car drivers and bikers really think of each other, as well as looking at how we can all travel harmoniously and safely together on Britain’s roads.
As part of our Bikers Behind the Visor campaign, which aims to get to know the country’s motorcyclists and dispel misrepresentations, we surveyed more than 2,400 road users to find out how they really feel about their fellow drivers.
Changing biker culture misconceptions
Stereotypes were a recurring theme throughout the survey results. One in five (22%) car drivers don’t believe bikes to be safe, and just under a third (29%) said they think the people who ride them are ‘aggressive’. However, interestingly, more than two in five (41%) motorcyclists find car drivers to be the aggressors on the road. Only 10 in 1,000 (1%) car drivers think motorcyclists are ‘family friendly’, but our research revealed that more than half (58%) of bikers are so family orientated that they ride with their loved ones. What’s more, over a fifth (22%) have ridden with their children.
This negative attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed by Britain’s bikers – a large number of you feel that car drivers are inherently prejudice towards motorcyclists. So we’ve put paid to car drivers’ assumptions – but the real question is: why do these worries exist and how can we challenge the misconceptions?
Safety first – for all road users
So entrenched is the belief that motorbikes are unsafe and their riders even more so that the future of British motorcycling could even be under threat. Our survey revealed that more than half (58%) of car drivers wouldn’t be happy if their children wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle when they are legally old enough. And more than a quarter (26%) would even go as far as banning their children from biking.
Road safety is clearly a big concern – for bikers and car drivers alike, so we all have one thing in common at least. When it comes to behavior on the road, more than two thirds (71%) of car drivers told us they were concerned about their safety when driving in close proximity to a motorbike. In fact, over three quarters (76%) said they expect motorcyclists to perform some sort of dangerous manoeuvre. But here’s the truth: British bikers are actually more concerned with ensuring a safe journey than their car-driving counterparts. When asked what their top priorities on the road were, more than one in three (41%) bikers cited ‘being safe on the road’, while the majority (61%) of car drivers said getting to their destination was their number one objective.
Driving us to distraction
Given that ‘distraction’ kept cropping up throughout our research, we’ve turned our attention to motorbike safety and how we can all play our part to keep the roads safe. Only 4% of cars drivers described motorcyclists as distracted, while almost three quarters (71%) of bikers feel they share the road with distracted car drivers and the majority are especially vigilant to keep an eye out for them.
And it’s not just other road users providing the distractions. For a third (33%) of car drivers, passengers often prove a distraction while out on the road, while almost a quarter of bikers (23%) said scenery and landscape provided a distraction.
Think like other road users
It’s the responsibility of all drivers to keep our roads safe and ensure distractions are kept to a minimum. Being mindful of each driver’s experience while out and about can significantly improve your own experience and make the road a better place to be. It’s worthwhile considering the road from your fellow drivers’ point of view. We’ve compiled some tips as to how you can see the road through the windscreen – or from behind the visor – of another user.
Take the car driver’s perspective
- In-car distractions. From crying children to chattering passengers, drivers often find themselves surrounded by unavoidable distractions – a factor to be mindful of, particularly when navigating through closely packed traffic.
- Angles and visibility. Behind a wheel, motorcyclists can be hard to see, regardless of whatever lighting and equipment you have on. Be aware of a driver’s perspective and use advanced warnings and signals to clearly communicate your intentions. This is vital and helps to maximise visibility and safety for everyone.
- Spatial awareness. Take into consideration that distance is relative to the size, shape and height of your vehicle and don’t simply assume ignorance on the driver’s part. Sometimes it’s worth giving that extra bit of room so it gives you more space to ride – and more time to think.
How car drivers can think more like motorcyclists
- Awareness, anticipation and coordination. It’s said that motorcyclists are among the most alert on the roads. That’s simply because they have to be, as they don’t have the protection of steel walls, a seat belt and airbags should an accident occur.
- Pros and cons of nimbleness. Being out in the open on a bike gives great flexibility, but it comes at the cost of less physical security. Be mindful of this – especially in slow-moving traffic – and don’t hold it against riders.
- Blind spots. Bikers check their blind spots frequently. It’s an essential part of safe riding and comes as naturally as breathing because the consequences of not doing don’t bear thinking about. This should be second nature to drivers too.
- Great British weather. Road conditions are hugely important for bikers. Being exposed to the elements when riding requires planning and an extra level of safety checks. Conditions that are more moderate for cars can greatly impact how a rider judges and moves on the road.
According to our Bikers Behind the Visor survey, many people are still questioning ‘are motorbikes safe?’ The answer is yes – as long as proper care is taken to ride them safely and the drivers they’re sharing the road with are acting responsibly. Many of you are also car drivers so have the benefit of seeing the road from two perspectives – potentially making biker-drivers among the safest on the road.
If you’re a biker and you want to gain further experience and develop riding techniques, you can always complete an advanced course with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, RoSPA or one of the many excellent advanced rider training schools in Britain. Alternatively, if you’d like more motorbike safety tips, including bike security and maintenance advice, head over to our detailed guide now.