A guide to hopefully survive the daily commute on a motorbike.
I currently do about 11,000 miles a year commuting on my bike and appear to be surviving. So here is a guide about what I have learn't so far.
I'm finding as the years go by experience is the thing that keeps me out of trouble and appears to be making me more cautious. I can still tear through traffic with the best of them, but don't feel the need to now. I'm also having fewer near misses, I now come into situations where I can say "I knew that was coming but I avoided getting into that dangerous situation and it didn't continue to go wrong"
A friend of mine once spotted me in traffic while he was in his car. He thought it would be good fun to drive up near to me so he could wave and flash his lights at me (I didn't know he was in that particular car). But he noticed whenever he got close I would react and open the distance up again, also when the flow of traffic changed I would head for the nearest safe position, usually away from him. He gave up eventually trying to say hello, I was riding too defensive for him to do it.
So, on with the tips.
Never assume a driver has seen you, ride like you are invisible to drivers and prepare for them to do something stupid.
Avoid getting into dangerous situtations, this is defensive riding right? Find a comfort zone, avoid getting near bad drivers. Scan ahead, if you can see a situation is turning bad amongst the car drivers ahead then plan your next move. This may even include holding off and slowing down.
A common problem on a motorway is a line of car drivers in the fast lane with their tail lights flashing on and off over-reacting to the slightest speed change. What an idiot game to play, don't get involved in it. Go ride the bike in another lane. Keep a distance so you don't have to react like those people. If you spot a clear area ahead undertaking is not a bad plan to get to it. Keep an escape route open, check what the car drivers are doing so they don't suddenly come into your path.
A wing mirror is a good way to see what the driver is up to. Body language (Sleepy, nervous, Even slumped at the wheel) gives you a hint how to handle the driver. When lane splitting a high beam in their wing mirror may distract them off their mobile phone and alert them you are there. Also a courtesy toot of the horn helps (And is usually greeted with abuse, you are indeed strange people but hey you know i'm there now). NEVER ASSUME THEY HAVE SEEN YOU AND WILL REACT TO YOU. In fact expect them to ignore you.
Avoid drivers with the blank stare, these are the ones who will say "Sorry mate didn't see you" after the accident. Lane hoggers are the worst of all, keep well clear of these kind of people.
When lane filtering never go so fast that you can't stop when someone eventually (And they will) changes lane in front of you. Practice the Break-swerve-horn maneuver (Works for me!). People are more likely to change lanes if the lanes are going at different speeds so hold fire for a sec. Look for signs of people looking to change lanes from the slower to the faster moving lane (Body Language in mirror), high beam, toot, road position (Have an escape exit planned). Full beam is not a bad thing.
Mirror, signal, maneuver, yeah right, that's for robots. Always be continuously checking mirrors, keep updating youself as to what is happening then indicate, look over your shoulder (Scan beyond the gap you want to go into to make sure someone else isn't about to do the same thing) check the mirror again. If you look over your shoulder during indicating this gives you a few extra flashes of the indicator before you move. You should be flashing BEFORE you move (Most car drivers don't do this). As you move look into your mirror quickly-ish to check for other bikes who may have suddenly appeared.
Be patient with other drivers. I'm now starting to learn they will sometimes help you if you don't annoy them (Back to rule about assuming they haven't seen you still applies). However i'm still happy to toot and shake my head at a car driver who thinks it's ok to read at the wheel or use a mobile, sometimes it shames them into putting the object down.
I have always considered a big danger is other bikers, keep an eye out for them. In particular when lane filtering, let them past if need be (They become your friends and co-operate better in future). The ones that suddenly zoom past you are a menace. If you wish to overtake another bike yourself look for a signal that they know you are there, some will signal (Forms include moving over and waving arms, If they keep looking in their mirror then it's a possible yes but do it with care, start dropping hints). Even some riders will be doing the spaced-out look thing, danger, wait until it's safe. Once again overtaking other bikes, allow them time to know you are there and don't rush them, turn full beam off, hang back, you are not in that much of a rush to get there? Biker friendliness is what it's about.
Queue jumping at traffic lights, move slowly to the front, pull in FRONT of the vehicle at the front, this can prevent them trying to race you on the green (It happens, silly people) also this allows other bikes to the front. Check in your mirror to make sure the guy behind you knows you are there (He may be too busy looking at traffic lights or fiddling on his phone) If in doubt pull off before him - start to slowly move along the road as the red/amber light comes on. Check the other directions many many times to make sure no one is jumping the lights. Accelerate away then pull to the left if it's a dual carriageway to let that idiot who thinks you are trying to race him get past.
When passing side roads if there is someone there check their body language, hope that it is indeed you they are looking at and prepare more to emergency brake rather than cruise past them. In the past I have seen drivers appear from a side road going at a high speed so I have slowed down just in case they shoot out in front of me. This has avoided the most accidents in the time I have been riding. Also remember vision blockage, if you can't see them they can't see you and possibly the car driver wont be thinking on that level. If in doubt, off the throttle and cover the brake.
When you get off the bike (Like in a Petrol station) still think like a biker, keep a lookout for motorists trying to do silly things, like run you over. I avoided an insurance claim once by spotting a driver who was slowly reversing into my bike and they would have knocked it over if I hadn't run over and banged on their car roof (Yes they were angry with me but I saved them an insurance claim)
Cyclists and joggers you people need to be lobotomised. Some cyclists think they are the only thing that can move through gridlock so watch out for them swerving in front of you or even the sudden leap from the pavement onto the road (Your not some Urban Road Warrior Of The Gridlock you're a twit without wing mirrors). I'm convinced some joggers would rather get killed than stop to look before tearing out into the road in front of you.
Overtaking stopped buses, easiest way to score a hit on a pedestrian. Look both sides of bus and slow down. When the bus indicates to pull off if you happen to be overtaking at that moment check to see if they have looked for you in the mirror. The number of times I have been overtaking a bus (With my indicator going) and they suddenly decide to pull off and put you in a dangeous situation in the middle of the road. Toot the horn to let them know you are there and make them stop to let you past. Also people who cross in front of buses need to be locked away somewhere safe, that's your biggest danger when passing buses.
The best option for overtaking buses is to slow right down, indicate you are overtaking and keep looking for pedestrians.
Just a selection of things I have learned. Remember a bike is for life and it's up to you to make sure it's a long one.