ROAD FURNITURE AND WHY IT'S THERE
Rapid Technical Series information sheet
Road furniture holds many secrets, which most of us don’t use to ride faster and safer. Rapid Training’s boss Gary Baldwin tells John Westlake what to look out for.
John Westlake is one of the UK’s most experienced motorcycle journalists. The former editor of Bike and Ride has road tested almost every bike made since 1991 and is a contributing editor for Bike and Classic Bike.
Gary Baldwin is a crash investigator, ex-motorcycle cop, former racer and director of Rapid Training. He’s a blisteringly fast road rider and the man behind Rapid’s no-nonsense approach to fast, safe road riding.
JW: I think I already look at signs. What might I be missing?
GB: What some riders don’t seem to appreciate is that the road is a storyboard of what’s gone wrong before and everything has been placed there as a result of someone else’s cock-up. The bend sign you see before B-road corner wasn’t put there just because there’s a bend, it’s there because someone got it wrong on that bend.
Right, so signs are a warning of unusual severity?
Sometimes, yes. Two bend signs either side of the road means several people have crashed there, because we – the crash investigators and highway engineers – would have ignored quite a few of them before putting another sign up. Most crashes on corners are down to an inability to assess the bend, so when that happens a lot we try and help riders and drivers get it right but putting up warnings.
And presumably it’s the same deal with chevron signs?
Exactly. The more of them there are, the more money we’ve spent and the more people have crashed. And if you can’t interpret all that, you’re causing yourself hassle. That’s how roads are engineered – generally on the basis of mistakes, not proactively. We don’t go round chucking loads of signs up unless we need to because they’re expensive.
So signs are all about learning from other people’s mistakes?
Yes. If you’re on the road between Arsend Nowhere and Arsend Nowhere-under-Wychwood, population 8, and there are a load of signs before a corner, think why. It’s because the corner is sharper than it looks and a lot of people have messed it up. Other people’s mistakes are represented by traffic engineering.