l thought that I might take a page from Rod Taylor’s “Ask Our Lawyer” column and respond to a request for information.
We recently received an email from a rider advising that he recently moved to Indianapolis and admitted that he really has not ridden much in “the city” and is far more comfortable riding in the country. He asked if there were any tips that we could offer and the following is our response.
We are glad that you recognize there are differences in riding environments and that you are working to be as safe as possible. Although riding situations can vary, the basic skill sets can be applied in most scenarios.
We always recommend a formal rider education course to help develop the skills and strategies necessary to deal with challenges and make the ride safer and more enjoyable.
The primary difference between rural and urban riding is traffic. While open road riding requires us to be on the lookout for potential hazards (animals, roadway conditions, debris on the road and limited traffic), we usually have a broad field of view and a bit of time to see, predict, and respond to these hazards.
In town, and especially in “the city”, there is a lot of “hustle and bustle” with so many things going on, and stuff changing quickly. This is not exclusive to motorcyclists, but we must be even more aware (we are smaller, less visible, and in the event of a crash less protected).
There are some people that avoid driving (a car) in the city, and a few that absolutely refuse to. Whether in a car or on a bike, these are personal decisions that must be made by the individual. People need to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and not take risks outside their limits. Everybody has different comfort levels.
At a minimum, I would certainly suggest taking things a step at a time. Perhaps try to ride in the city at a time when there is less traffic, just to get used to the environment. Maybe practice some low speed, confined space maneuvers (riding slowly, pausing, tight turns from a stop, etc…) in a parking lot so the skills and confidence are there when you need them.
Definitely avoid compounding issues until you are competent and confident with your ability to ride in congested areas. Don’t have your first “big city” experience at rush hour, in the rain, at night, with a passenger.
People do drive differently in and around metropolitan areas. Not to make light of it, but I mention that almost every time I ride I-465, someone tries to kill me. I don’t honestly believe that motorists are deliberately attempting to run over me. However, it is only because I am on extra high alert, pretending that no one can see me and riding super defensively that these are “near misses” that I can complain about, rather that crashes.
I hope this helps. If we can do anything to assist, just let us know.
We maintain an “open door” philosophy, so you can contact us at anytime, about any thing. Who knows, perhaps we’ll make this a regular feature and use your question.