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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









Riding Right: Lane Positioning

Knowing where to be and when

by Susan Rzepka Orion

So you know you and your bike belong on the road, but do you know where? A lane designed for trucks and cars gives you lots of room to ride. Where you choose to ride within your lane can make all the difference between being a safe motorcyclist and a sorry one.

Motorcycle lane positioning
Most riders are unclear on what position in the lane works to their advantage.

Experienced motorcyclists divide lanes into three positions -- Left, Center and Right. No single lane position is best for all traffic and road conditions. You must adjust your position within the lane to accommodate changing situations. Choosing the correct lane position increases your visibility, allows others to see you more readily, and maximizes your space cushion when riding on the street. 

Here are some situations that illustrate how proper lane positioning can help minimize your risk while riding in traffic:

Approaching an Intersection
Intersections are dangerous places for motorcyclists, where the greatest potential for conflict between you and other vehicles exists and most accidents take place. The most common accident at intersections (which includes driveways, parking lot entrances and alleys) is the one in which another driver fails to yield the right of way and either turns left in front of you or otherwise enters your path of travel.

One way to minimize risk at intersections is to put as much space around you as possible. If traffic is approaching from the left, or if oncoming traffic is approaching and/or waiting to make a left turn in front of you, you will want to move into the right hand portion of your lane, opening up more space and time to react if the other motorists fail to yield the right of way.

Motorcycle lane positioning right of way
When potential hazards may enter your right of way from the left at intersections, move to the right.

If traffic approaches the intersection from the right, from driveways, parking lots and adjoining streets, move to the left within your lane. When traffic threatens from both sides, you'll have no choice but to remain in the center portion of your lane. On multilane roads, try to cross intersections along with other motorists, and avoid following too close behind other vehicles, where you may not be seen by oncoming traffic. Motorists waiting to pull out may not see you behind a car or truck, and pull out prematurely, before you have passed. 

Motorcycle lane positioning following distance
Maintain a minimum two-second following distance behind traffic so you can see and be seen, with adequate space to react to potential hazards.

Cornering
When approaching a curve, slow before you move to the outside edge of the corner, where you can see and be seen more readily. If the curve is to the left, move to the far right (curb) side to enter the corner before you begin to lean to your left. If the curve is to the right, move to the left, close to the centerline, to enter the corner before you begin to lean to your right. In addition to increasing your visibility, these lane positions help "straighten out the curve" requiring less lean angle to negotiate the corner. 

Motorcycle lane positioning empty road
Slow, and move to the right side of the lane to enter this corner to the left. This increases your visibility and decreases the angle of the curve.

Cresting a Hill
Hills limit your ability to see the road ahead and a driver coming in the opposite direction might easily cross the yellow line. There might also be road debris, animals, or even a curve. Prepare to crest the hill by slowing down in preparation to react to whatever you might find on the other side. Use both brakes so the driver behind will see you slowing. And move to the right within your lane, away from the centerline and the potential to collide with errant oncoming traffic. 

Motorcycle lane positioning hill
It's impossible to know what's on the other side of the hill. Prepare by slowing down and move to the right, away from the center line.

Riding Around Large Trucks
Take notice of the warning signs on the back of some trucks: "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you." Semi tractor-trailer rigs have huge blind spots on all four sides Ð left right front and back. Avoid them at all costs. Check out the No-Zone, a truck driver's blind spots, from the US Department of Transportation.   

Motorcycle lane positioning oncoming truck
Oncoming trucks often produce a strong windblast, so be prepared by moving over to the right.

Always choose the lane position that allows you to see, be seen and avoid hazards in changing situations. Stay in view, with a view, and don't forget to enjoy the ride.

Susan Rzepka Orion is a certified MSF RiderCoach and Rider's Edge Instructor who loves to ride, write, and help others who want to do the same. You can find her on the road on her BMW F 650 GS or on the web at WritingWays.com.

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