GEM publishes tips to improve biker safety

12.00 | 24 April 2015 | | 11 comments

In an attempt to boost safety and mutual respect, GEM Motoring Assist has published a series of simple safety tips for motorcyclists and other road users.

GEM points out that in 2013, 331 motorcyclists lost their lives on the UK’s roads, and a further 4,866 sustained life-changing injuries. It points to studies which show that motorcyclists are 38 times more likely to be killed in a road collision than a car occupant.

GEM’s tips for riders are:
• A positive, defensive attitude is at the heart of safe riding. Make sure you’re fit and alert before setting off.
• Choose your speeds wisely. Never exceed the speed limit, but also consider the weather and the traffic levels as well as your own mood and boundaries.
• Fight complacency on every ride. Maintain your mental and physical skills, practise slow manoeuvres and refresh your Highway Code knowledge.
• Taking time to share your experiences with other riders is a great way of learning.
• Be pleasant and forgiving to other road users. After all, we all make mistakes.

Its tips for other road users are:
• Use your mirrors frequently, so you don’t get taken by surprise if a fast bike is suddenly right behind you or even overtaking you.
• If you’re following a motorcycle, it’s a good idea to implement the ‘four-second rule’. In other words, keep four seconds behind the motorcyclist so you have plenty of time and space to react if anything happens ahead.
• Signal early to give a motorcyclist time to react and re-position.
• Give a rider extra space in adverse weather.
• Be pleasant and forgiving to motorcyclists. After all, we all make mistakes.

David Williams MBE, GEM chief executive, said: “The vast majority of motorcyclists are highly skilled and experienced road users who have undergone extensive training to enjoy the privilege of riding a powerful machine on the public road.

“But having this experience is not the same as using it. That’s why we’re calling on motorcyclists to put safety first and reduce their risk when they’re out enjoying a ride this summer.

“Motorcyclists are used to anticipating the actions of other road users – it’s a key part of their training and vital for their safety. So we want to make sure they use their skills, commit to a defensive style of riding on every journey and remember that there are sure to be loved ones waiting for them to come home safe at the end of the day.”


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    I’m dubious about using the word predict. It implies you will predict correctly. And as stated, often riders don’t get the prediction correct and there’s an accident.

    What needs to come alongside predict is mitigate. So if my prediction is wrong, how am I going to mitigate the situation? In the simplest of scenarios this could mean having an appropriate speed to stop in the distance you can see to be clear, it could be that you monitor another lane that you can move to if you can’t continue in yours.

    The emphasis on prediction needs to be reduced as predictions are based on experience. Experience tells me that on a particular road, there is nothing around the next bend. What if today there’s a broken down van? You can’t predict the van being there, you can mitigate the van being there by carrying an appropriate speed through the bend not to crash in to it.

    Damian, Leeds
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    This is the fundamental problem with the behaviourist viewpoint isn’t it David?

    If the authorities insist that it is the road users aberrant behaviour that is the cause of all the problems and accidents then the individual road users are bound to adopt the same mindset.

    If we are to take the new view that all the road users (with the very odd exception) are trying to make the best adaptations they can in the light of system variation then that removes the need to blame the other fellow for an individual’s misfortunes. The behaviourst mindest is infectious and if the individual road user is basing their observations on behaviourism then there really is no need for them to seek ways of improving their abilities such as taking a training course etc.

    This is the fundamental conundrum, behaviorist techniques are used to encourage people to act in a particular way (take training, follow the rules), but the individual is thinking exactly the same thing (the other guy should take training and follow the rules) and so that makes them resist acting in the way the authorities would like them to.

    To break this vicious cycle then the authorities would do well to abandon behaviourism because if they do then the road users will as well.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Very sensible to include advice for both motorists and riders, as so many think the problem is always somebody belonging to the other tribe.

    I also particularly like the emphasis on our all being human and thus liable to make mistakes. I meet so many road users who trot out the story about their dad telling them to treat everybody else as an idiot. I find they usually do precisely the opposite and trust others to do exactly as they would wish, but the bit that really troubles me is that such a position implies that they themselves are not idiots and therefore above making errors. I always advise treating everybody else as a human, and humans get things wrong at times.

    David, Suffolk
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    Mark makes some very valid points, but our average rider has no idea that all they are doing when they are out for a ride is predicting what happens next. They don’t know this and that is why we can’t sell them any improvement schemes. If they don’t know even the most basic and fundamental truth then they will fail to understand our attempts to make them better at what they don’t know they are already doing!

    Our view is that rather than adding complexity to the problem we should really be adding simplicity to it instead. We would be much better off explaining to riders that they are already really rather good at predicting what happens next, but that they are only good at making predictions in normal situations not the abnormal ones. Thanks to the understanding that accidents happen when people do normal things in abnormal situations, which become rarer with experience, then we finally have a simple idea to sell which they can find easy to buy. All any advanced or post-test training should be doing is showing people better ways of predicting the onset of abnormal situations as it is those situations that are going to cause them the greatest number of problems.

    To save the greatest number of lives we must first ensure that every rider in the country is fully aware of the fact that all they do is make predictions. We must also ensure that every one of them is fully aware of the fact that “…it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is best able to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” Change the word ‘species’ for ‘rider’ and you have got a very good rule for riding a motorbike. We adapt and adjust by making better predictions about how our environment will change from moment to moment and as survival is just about at the top of everybody’s list then this is really not a difficult concept to get across.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident
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    I agree with Mark but, and this is a big BUT, for many years now actually since the 1970s all governments have headed training towards qualified bodies otherwise the RAC/ACU training scheme, run by volunteers, would still be in operation. It fell foul of the then new legislation. So we now have money makers and businessmen in charge of our training and we can’t blame them for that. However to my mind there are not enough of them.

    If the cyclists are taking up policies from abroad then maybe we should also look at the Netherlands where they have a riders manual produced by all interested parties and not just one as we have… the police riders manual, which is basically designed to get a police officer from one situation to another in the shortest possible time so that he can save lives or be otherwise useful.

    There are various bodies now actually looking at CBT and the possibility of improvements and or of intermediate training or a schedule of training over a period of time that would encompass many of the modern day demands and dangers that could be experienced by two wheeled riders.

    I would like to see more involvement by non professionals but then we already have that with the IAM volunteers and others don’t we. So I don’t know how a mentor could be established without going through some form of training and assessment by one or the other of the charitable advising bodies or through the appropriate training dept, the DSA.

    PS: thanks for the new S.P.A.C.E.acronym.

    Bob Craven lancs….Space is safe Campaigner
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    Taking into account Duncan’s thoughts on prediction and Bob’s fundamental ideas on managing space, here’s another take on the S.P.A.C.E acronym: Scan, Predict, Assimilate, Concentrate, Execute.

    Over the years ‘Motorcycle Roadcraft’ has, of course, been advising riders to improve their predictive and anticipation skills via continually formulating ‘riding plans’ based on: what can be seen; what cannot be seen; and the circumstances that may be reasonably expected to develop. The key is in developing ideas that the ‘average’ (I do use the word loosely) rider with a given cognitive ability can take on board to assist them in improving their predictive capability.

    We need a revolution in the way post-test rider skills development (advanced riding, enhanced riding – call it what you will) is marketed. Advanced riding instructors or observers are too often seen by bikers – certainly those who would most benefit from help – as boring goodie goodies. Regrettably, a similar view seems to be shared by some of the motorcycle media.

    Duncan has used the word ‘mentor’ in his post and I think this is a very positive step. Top sportsmen and sportswomen use coaches to help them stay at the top of their game and at that level of performance it’s seen as a normal and rational thing to do.

    We need to market post-test skills development as a desirable and ‘sexy’ thing for bikers to seek out and do. The traditional methods of promoting advanced riding featuring benefits such as increased safety, potential insurance discounts, getting to your destination felling less fatigued etc. hasn’t really cut it with most bikers.

    There needs to be a paradigm shift in the way post-test rider skills development is marketed so that bikers can be nudged, over time, into a paradigm shift with respect to their thinking about getting tooled up with more skills.

    Perhaps subtle changes in terminology may help – like ‘seek out a top-knotch mentor’ instead of ‘go to a reputable instructor’. We could ask the question – what does top-knotch or reputable really mean? I’m sure we all have ideas, but I can’t see any real advantage in getting bogged down with the devil in the detail.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    Duncan’s excellent comments are summed up in the acronym that has been used by riders taught by Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors in the USA.

    S.I.P.D.E – Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    Here’s just some of our Top Tips for motorcyclists to add to the ones from GEM.

    Riding a bike well and safely is an art form that relies on the rider being able to predict with uncanny accuracy what is going to happen next.

    All accidents, incidents and embarrasments are the result of a rider’s failure to predict what actually did happen next.

    Experience is a very poor and slow teacher of the predictive art.

    All riders would do well to seek out a mentor who can help them become better predictors.

    As well as being ace predictors riders should ensure that their actions will be as predictable as possible by other road users.

    Surprises as the result of prediction failures represent an accident that would have happened were the circumstances prevailing at the time been only a tiny bit different.

    If there is no surprise there can be no accident.

    To accelerate learning to be a better predictor it’s surprises that count so a rider should count their surprises. They’ll be surprised at how many surprises they count.

    Remember the acronym IPSGA stands for Information in the form of clues which guide Predictions as to what will happen next which will require a Stop/Go decision to be made and the controls Adjusted to ensure the situation unfolds to advantage.

    What happens next? Don’t know? Don’t go!

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Real good advice, sadly some of it may fall on deaf ears. I was out riding the other day and the motorcyclist in front did a real dodgy overtake in the face of oncoming vehicles; it quickly dawned on him that he’d codded it up and he then forced his way back in, possibly soiling his underwear in the process! The car driver braked and created a space for him. This rider relied on somebody else – the car driver, to save his bacon. Next time he may not be so lucky. This rider and others like him may well believe (maybe they don’t have a brain and think or believe, just a bunch of axons and dendrites that sort of wriggle and masquerade for a brain! Over to Duncan for more on that one! ) that every time they attack the tarmac, the road safety fairy will wave its magic wand. If any biker thinks like that all I can say is – good luck.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    Sensible suggestions but the crux of the matter is in the last paragraph. It’s a key part of their training….. that training only begins to be so apparent well after CBT with possibly a little in the pre test training. Then there appears to be a gap and some might take up an Advanced course but that is a small %.

    The greatest age group in danger of death and/or serious injury whilst riding a bike appears to be the over 35s on the country roads where the speed limits are 60 mph. On sports bikes and large street bikes.

    I do particularly like the 4 second rule (something other drivers should aspire to in all over 40 mph situations) as that gives a rider space but it should also mention that the rider should maintain safe space to the vehicle in front also. So often I have seen riders in the pre overtake position behind a large vehicle, which is against all the safety principles of safe riding according to the Highway Code as it is too close they are totally blind to whatever is happening in front of the vehicle that they wish to overtake.

    Perhaps the Police Motorcycle manual could be amended to bring it in line with the Highway Code.

    Bob Craven Lancs…..Space is Safe Campaigner
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    Good to see an organisation coming up with some everyday, sensible, constructive advice which we can all use, instead of something vague and ineffectual.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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