Rapid Technical Series information sheet
Statistically speaking, the riskiest part of any ride is around junctions, and towns are full of them. Rapid Training’s boss Gary Baldwin tells John Westlake the key survival techniques.
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’m guessing urban junction crashes are slower than ones out of town, which is good, right?
Yes. The slower you go, the more chances you’ve got that the driver is going to get it right and if we do see a car starting to move then we have much more chance of doing something about it. But despite this, as a crash investigator, it’s still a very common crash. And even though a low speed crash might not kill you, it's still going to hurt.
So what should I be thinking about?
A lot of it comes down to putting yourself in the driver’s mind, and a lot of that is about visibility. What's behind you is very important. We’ve had several crashes lately where there was a car directly behind the rider with its lights on and the motorcycle was lost – the driver at the junction just could not see it.
What can we do about that?
An important technique is lateral movement, where you move across from one side of your lane to the other – I’d suggest you move steadily away from the danger. From the driver's point of view you're then not just a dot coming towards them, but you're something travelling across their line of vision. That makes you much easier to spot. Doing this is more important in town because there's a much greater chance that there will be a vehicle right behind you, its lights blazing. And if there’s a bloody great truck behind you, if you don’t move you're just a mascot and almost invisible. Moving laterally also has the advantage of shifting you across the middle of the lane where that HGV doesn't have lights.
What other factors are there?
Most motorcycle accidents happen in the dry at weekends. But not the urban ones because a lot of these riders are out in all weathers and the crashes are more common when the visibility is reduced. That's the situation when I'd advocate wearing high visibility gear. I’m no big fan of it in general, but when it’s foggy or raining hard, I’d suggest doing anything you can to increase your visibility. Also the highway code advice is to wear bright reflective gear, so if it does go wrong and you're not doing that, you’re slightly on the back foot. Of course, it’s not just to do with drivers being able to see us – with a steamed-up visor with rain streaming down it, our vision is reduced far more than the drivers’. It all needs taking into account.
You have to think about how busy the junction is, because if it's busy and drivers are waiting, they will take more chances. All the safety margins get compressed, and then they are compressed further if the visibility is reduced. There is no magic cure to this – you just have to be more aware that when the visibility drops at a busy junction, you are more at risk. Then you have to work hard to give drivers the best chance of making the right decision. Sailing past a busy junction assuming it’s all going to be ok because you’ve got right of way really is not a wise option.