10 Motorcycle Safety Tips to Keep You on the Road

Motorcycles driving BC Highways

Whether protected by three tonnes of metal and a seatbelt or by leathers and a helmet – all drivers are responsible for motorcycle safety.

In fact, besides speed and inattentive driving, the main factor contributing to motorcycle incidents in BC is a failure by other drivers to yield the right-of-way.

Provincial laws covering helmet standards and passengers are meant to reduce the risks of riding and potential injuries; however, greater overall awareness of motorcycles is still vital for preventing serious incidents.

In the name of motorcycle safety – here are some tips for motorcyclists and motorists alike – to encourage all drivers to move in harmony.

Driving a car or truck?

  1. Treat motorcycles like they are as big as other vehicles. Sure, motorcycles don’t take up as much lane space as a dual cab pickup, but they often adjust lane positions to avoid road debris and respond to wind and passing vehicles. Allow motorcycles plenty of lane space.
  2. Double-check those blind spots. The motorcycle’s smaller size still has to be taken into consideration, especially when changing lanes. Use your turn signal and take extra care to ensure the way is clear.
  3. Back off. Stopping distances for cars and motorcycles are about equal, but wet conditions can make quick stops difficult for both. What might be a mere “fender bender” between two cars could end up much more serious with a motorcycle involved.
  4. Be extra cautious pulling in front. Due to their smaller size, motorcycles can appear farther away than they actually are. They can also be hidden behind other larger vehicles, so ensure you have lots of space to turn in front without interrupting the oncoming motorcycle. Does the bike have its turning signal on? Play it safe and wait until it turns.
  5. Change lanes for merging motorcycles. While we suggest getting out of the way for all vehicles merging onto the highway, changing lanes to leave room for motorcyclists is particularly important.

Riding a motorcycle?

  1. Avoid centre of lane when traffic slows. It’s best to have a quick exit strategy when traffic suddenly grinds to a halt. Keeping to the left or right of your lane allows you to escape quickly if a trailing vehicle fails to stop in time.
  2. Dress to be seen and protected. Wearing reflective clothing and bright colours helps other drivers see you. Also, wearing an approved helmet and garments made of leather, or Kevlar, can protect you if you fall. Protect your body from head to toe.
  3. Target open spaces. Think of it as an invisible shield. The more space you surround yourself with, the better. That way, you’re staying out of drivers’ blind spots and avoiding any sudden movements.
  4. Cancel those signals. Continuing straight ahead? Get used to checking your signals when coming up to intersections, ensuring you aren’t sending false messages.
  5. Never come between a car and its off ramp. How many times have you seen a vehicle suddenly cross over to a highway off-ramp at the last second because the driver wasn’t paying attention? When approaching off ramps, it’s best to be in the left lane or, at least, ensure there aren’t any vehicles to your left.

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable than four-wheel vehicle drivers, but it’s up to everyone to be motorcycle aware on the roads. Do you live for the ride? If so, ride to live, and share your concerns with friends who drive cars and trucks. Seeing the face behind the visor can help get the message across.

Question: What’s your favourite place in BC to cruise your motorcycle?


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Page 1 of 46 comments on “10 Motorcycle Safety Tips to Keep You on the Road”

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    • Hi Stephanie – thanks for reaching out to us here. Tail lights and brake lights serve individual functions. Tail lights provide illumination for the rear of the vehicle while it is in motion (providing other motorists with a visual point of reference for your vehicle). Break lights are a visual indicator that brakes are being applied and motorists should prepare to stop. Day time running lights do NOT turn on your tail lights. You must turn your lights all the way on to illuminate your tail lights. The federal Department of Transportation has recently mandated that daytime running light systems in new vehicles automatically turn on tail lights as well as head lights. It is best practice to always fully illuminate your vehicle – so you can see and be seen. Hope this information is helpful. Safe travels.

  1. Here are just a few but important suggestions I “live to ride” and “ride to live” :
    * expect the un-expected! (Example – a vehicle has stopped with the left turn signal on in the oncoming lane and suddenly make their turn right in front of you! You have the right of way but guess who comes out on the “short-end of the stick”? When I come upon this situation, I gear down and prepare to apply both rear & front brakes.)
    * ride like you are invisible – Don’t stay in the “blind spot” of the rear view mirror of the vehicle in front of you.
    * don’t tailgate the vehicle in front of you – keep a reasonable & safe distance.
    * keep your speed at the posted speed limit and if you must pass a slower vehicle, do so when safe and allowable- never when highway marking is a solid line for your lane!
    * when riding, stay in “your comfort zone” and don’t try to keep up with faster traffic if you feel uneasy in doing so! Pull over when safe to do so if “tailgaters” are a problem.
    * Last but not the least, take the safe drivers course recommended by ICBC to obtain your Class 6 motorcycle license. Learn care ‘n control of your machine. Start with smaller bikes before stepping up to the “big boy’s” – 1000 + cc’s

    On a personal note, I have been riding since the age of 18 on Honda’s, BSA’s, Norton’s and Harley’s. I’m 74 now and considering “retirement” from Motorcycling remembering “age is just a number” I just can’t give it up and with my wife as co-pilot, still enjoy the sport. I can put it all in perspective in one word – FREEDOM ! As in the saying, “If you don’t ride, then you don’t know”

  2. My favourite area in BC to ride is the Kootenays. Great roads in the Nelson area. Why are the roads maintained so much better there than my home area, the South Cariboo. We riding on worn out potholed pavement, no lines and very little brushing of the shoulder areas.

    Going to a “High-Vis” jacket has made a big difference when riding in traffic. It is noticeable the difference in how the rest of the motorists see you.

    Finally, can you please call motorcyclists “Riders” not “Drivers”. You ride a bike and drive a car.


  3. A great post.

    Unfortunately I’ve observed more careless drivers and motorcyclists than careful ones over the years. Tailgating, even stopped at lights or stop signs is a huge problem. Motorcyclists seem less than careful about passing other vehicles, considering their lives are most at risk.

    • Hi Chris. The provincial government is not considering lane filtering for motorcycles at this time due to safety concerns.

      Should that change in the future, any consideration of lane filtering would involve a full analysis of existing research and looking into the experiences of jurisdictions that permit the practice. It would also likely require a consultation where all road users and stakeholders could comment on the topic, as any change would impact all.

      Since many people use a highway system, any decision on law changes would not be based only on the opinions of motorcyclists, but all users of roads and all operators of roads such as municipalities and the provincial government.

        • Hello and thanks for your comment. The provincial government is not considering lane filtering for motorcycles at this time due to safety concerns. Should that change in the future, any consideration of lane filtering would involve a full analysis of existing research and looking into the experiences of jurisdictions that permit the practice. It would also likely require a consultation where all road users and stakeholders could comment on the topic, as any change would impact all. Since many people use a highway system, any decision on law changes would not be based only on the opinions of motorcyclists, but all users of roads and all operators of roads such as municipalities and the provincial government.

          • Could you at least pretend to care and not copy-and-paste your boilerplate reply, obviously devoid of thought, to someone who was attempting to engage you in good faith? Many governments and educational organizations around the world have done the research for you and found that lane filtering at a reasonable speed differential reduces congestion and improves the safety of everyone involved. You’re making it seem like it would take a team of scientists and 10 years of novel investigation to arrive at the conclusion that has been researched to death already. Come on.

  4. Wearing the Quality helmet is the most thing as it, not only saves you from the wind but also saves your head in event of any crash. Secondly, the important thing is to wear a nice protective jacket with some padding and cushioning that will saves your skin from burning and rashing.

  5. Beginners, those who are still learning to drive, and especially those who have just learned to drive, are the most aggressive drivers. However, it must be noted that motorcycle driving could be a complex process of coordinating your balance, processing what you see, being able to decide what to do, and act accordingly.

  6. Pingback: Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month - ePACT
  7. I have ridden motorcycles for over forty years. The most vulnerable I have ever felt was on a 250 cc bike, because while it might get good gas mileage, it sometimes doesn’t have the acceleration to get you out of danger in time.

    I have survived (even dumping a few times due to other drivers, but usually in combination with bad road conditions)because I assume all drivers on the road are deaf, dumb and blind unless I can make eye contact with them. Even that is not a guarantee.

    Because I learned to drive on motorcycles I acquired great defensive driving skills through experience that carried over into driving cars and trucks. Knowing the limits of both your vehicle and your current skill level, plus and extenuating circumstances such as tiredness, hunger and distractions is very important. Without that you are not equipped to deal with other drivers, let alone road conditions.

    And loud pipes? I can do without them – that’s what the horn is for. Personally, I find full face helmets are more dangerous than either “skid lids” or riding without helmets. I usually complied with the current laws, but there was a brief time in the late sixties or seventies when the helmet law was challenged in BC and the law was suspended for several months. I enjoyed the freedom of choice. It’s like seatbelts – I am old enough to have driven before mandatory seatbelt use laws came in, but after seatbelts were mandatory to be install in new vehicles. I would usually use them (my friends thought that strange – the thought I was purposefully going to drive recklessly and took it as a sign that they perhaps shouldn’t be in the car with me. Seatbelts don’t usually negatively impact one’s ability to drive, unlike full face helmets. With the limits full face helmets place on hearing and vision they should be optional.

  8. I like when you said that the number one concern you should have when using your motorcycles is safety. I agree that being safe is the most important thing to remember while handling heavy machines. I will keep this in mind as I take my toys out and have fun. Thank you for the tips.

  9. Victoria City Police,members of IRSU and West Shore RCMP all agree that,until the laws regarding motorcycle noise level standards are re-written, they can not and will not enforce this unsupportable (in court) motor vehicle law.

    I assume that since it has only been close to 5 years since the request to re- write the applicable laws has been on the books,we should not get our hopes up.

    • Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your comment regarding the enforcement of loud vehicles under section 7A.01 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations and our apologies for the delay in getting this response to you.

      Under the Police Act (BC), the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General must ensure that an adequate and effective level of policing and law enforcement is maintained throughout British Columbia. Further, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General is responsible for setting the objectives, priorities and goals of the Provincial Police Service as represented by the RCMP. While the province can set broad priorities and standards for police agencies, operational deployment of provincial police services falls within the internal management and control of the RCMP. Individual investigations and enforcement decisions occur at arm’s length from government and we cannot interfere with or direct police on such matters.

      Should you wish to write further with your concerns around police enforcement of section 7A.01 of the MVAR in West Shore, please contact the BC RCMP, as follows:

      West Shore RCMP
      698 Atkins Road
      Victoria, British Columbia
      V9B 3A4

      A violation ticket issued under section 7A.01 is based on a police officer’s subjective judgment and does not require an objective standard based on a sound measurement device. Please be advised that the Enforcement Sub-Committee of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee (BCACP TSC) has developed a ‘best practices’ approach to address loud exhaust enforcement, particularly regarding loud motorcycles, based on the successful enforcement strategy used by the Vancouver Police Department. This police reference tool is available to all police officers in British Columbia.

      We hope that this helps!

  10. Virtually 2 full years (8 May,2013) have passed since being advised that procedures and changes were being studied that would lessen the volume of noise from motorcycles. Certainly there should have been some progress announced by the responsible agency tasked with this matter. What is totally surprising is that no policing organizations have dealt with offenders who have REMOVED their mufflers entirely. Local motorcycle technicians indicate that approximately 20% of Harley purchasers remove their mufflers at time of purchase or shortly after. West Shore RCMP have indicated they are aware of cyclists who are responsible for the noise but as long as patrols are conducted with vehicle windows closed, it is doubtful any changes will occur.

    • Hi Frank,
      Thanks for the comment. We continue to work with enforcement agencies on best enforcement practices, training and education. The existing legislation allows for several enforcement options that police may use for both excessive noise or vehicles that fail to meet standards.

      • Enough already! The Magna Carta and the 10 Commandents were discussed and printed in less time. You refer to existing legislation that should address these issues but, until someone with authority within your ministry provides some related direction, there will never be improvements to our quality of life. This, in turn, leads to a definite lack of credibility within your ministry.

        As an example, since Passing Lanelegislation was enacted, there has been absolutely no changes to drivers behaviour on the Island highway. I’m not looking for the typical sugar -coated reply, just one that has some positive information that changes are coming.

  11. This all happened two months after I began riding. Two months after buying my bike. A week later, the same thing. As I coasted into the five lanes converging on Gaglardi at Loughheed, the idiot slightly ahead on my right began pulling into my lane on a wet road. This time, my familiarity with the horn, and the front and rear brake had come, (that’s the learning curve with any new bike) and avoiding a crash with a honk, I fishtailed the big bike to avoid him. 40 years ago I had at least two similar life threatening scenario’s on a bike in Calgary, but spaced over a year. I’ve only had my bike now for 2 months!

    • Thanks for sharing your recent motorcycling experiences, Ian. They reinforce how important it is for drivers to be fully aware of their surroundings before changing lanes – especially in heavy traffic and poor conditions.

  12. The driver was found 100% liable and my bike ‘crash bars’, are to be replaced. I cannot overstate the protection those crash bars gave me. Not only was my foot caught in the pedals but the bike and I slid, all 1/4 Ton of it with me underneath for 15 feet. Not only did I escape with just a road rash as opposed to a crushed and burned leg, the whole weight of the bike pivoted on that one corner of the crash bar. Not even the mirror’s were touched.

  13. I bought my first motorcycle, a cruiser two months ago. Having rode one, for a year 40 years ago, I never got over the thrill now at 66. It all comes down to the number of cars on the road which has increased dramatically over that time, and the technology governing urban rush hours which here in Vancouver are starting to fill up any time of the day, coming to a complete stop. All four lanes on the 12 billion dollar just built highway every morning now are gridlock. Within 2 months of acquiring my new cruiser bike I ran into my first idiot driver and with the saturate streets there is one in every 10. Sat on her cellphone, moving intermittently down the shoulder of the road, through the ‘one stop sign’, intersection she chose just that instant as I passed along side to pull out. With on-coming traffic and no-where to go I had to dump it and hope for the best. Never ever, ride in a car’s blind spot. Rev your engine to let them know you’re there. Assume if you find yourself there, they will pull into your lane. Your life depends on it, if you are a motorcyclist. And don’t count on the law, I.C.B.C., or anyone else but yourself to protect your rights and you, on a bike. The Times they are a-changing.

  14. I have often wondered just what happened to the old “May is Motorcycle Awareness month”. Over the past few years there has been less and less activity related to motorcycle safety by the government and local law enforcement. I have campaigned for many years for motorcycle safety and am always looking for improved ways to support motorcycle safety both with motorcycle riders and other drivers.

    There seems to be a real lack of public participation on the part of ICBC, Government and local law enforcement to bring the message to the public each year.

    I would be interested to hear from you as to whether there is still a public campaign for motorcycle safety and whether you need any assitence.

    • Hi StormRider,

      Yes, May is still Motorcycle Awareness Month in BC – although you are right, there does seem to be less activity in this campaign of late. We searched the ICBC site for a current campaign, and found that there were a number of links to information about motorcycle safety but no current campaign. We are always looking for ways to promote road safety and would love to talk with you about ways we can better promote motorcycle safety on BC Highways.

  15. It’s an old argument (even between motorcycle riders) whether “Loud Pipes Save Lives”. To my knowledge there is no scientific evidence which supports the old saying.

    That said, the original article has some great pointers for both motorcyclists and other vehicle drivers. We could all use a dose of cooperation to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the road this season.

    Lets all try to get along on the road this season and show everyone that it CAN be a safe summer for everyone this season.
    And if you have a constructive idea to contribute, you input is welcome.

  16. Although I support all highway safety initiatives, I find it extremely difficult to understand why the Ministry does not insist that motorcyclists follow the basic rules of Motor Vehicle laws. Motorcyclists seem to believe that operating their cycles without mufflers is their right. In addition to the vast majority who operate at unsafe speeds ( weekend of 4/5 May is an indication) it is obvious that neither municipalities nor provincial police forces seem inclined to enforce any motorcycle infractions.

    Why should BC citizens tolerate the continual high decibel noise during the warm weather season? As displayed by IRSU on Vacouver Island this weekend, RCMP seemed intimidated during their roadside inspections., I request that TranBC commits the same initiative to citizen’s quality of life as they do to advising auto drivers to be aware of motorcycles.

    • There is an active, combined working group within the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Justice addressing these concerns. The BC Association of Chiefs of Police have put forward a motion regarding possible regulation changes and adoption of an SAE road side testing protocol. Currently there are enforcement options under two relevant sections of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations: Excessive Noise 7A.01 of the Regulations and under Division 7 of the Regulations there are standards related to mufflers.

      Inspection can also be required with use of a notice and order. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has reviewed the technical material, the SAE standard and testing protocol, surveyed other jurisdictions regarding existing legislation and protocols for all types of vehicle noise and have begun to engage the public regarding their understanding and perceptions of the issue. We are also working closely with industry (the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council). Once the consultative phase has been completed, we will evaluate the material and consider next steps. We continue to reach out to educate both riders and motorists on motorcycle safety and awareness and recognize that the vast majority of riders are safety conscious and responsible operators.

      Hope that this information helps, and if you want to stay up to date on ministry activities, remember you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and here on TranBC. Thanks Frank!

    • It is obvious that you have never been on a motorcycle before. It is actually safer for a rider if cars can hear them coming, if people would just treat motorcycle’s with the same respect as automobiles it would be safer for everyone on the roads.

      • Obviously you do not ride a motorcycle. Sitting in a cage with the radio on is no different than an ambulance approaching you or coming up from behind you. You do not hear the sirens until they are almost on top of you.It is no different than loud pipes. It is a proven that loud pipes only hurt the ears of the motorcyclist.

        • That’s why some wear ear plugs! the noise is a real turn off, especially when they return from a ride at night waking up the neighbourhood. why do otherwise respectable people become jerks when they saddle a motorcycle?

        • What about all the loud sterios ?? I ca t sit at a light in my car without having my music drowned out by some youths choice of music.
          He obsiously would not be aware of a bike nearby .
          And as far as pollution ?? Give me a break ! I get 500 km on one little tank of gas on my bike

        • Hi Frank. I’ve ridden motorcycles and cycled in Ontario most of my life. I work for a mining company where safety is EVERYTHING! While I don’t completely agree with open pipes, I don’t believe your statements should be taken seriously until you’ve ridden a motorcycle and been cut off even once (and survived!). Being seen and heard as opposed to just seen (situational awareness seems to be optional for most motorists! I have MANY gopro videos to attest to this..) makes a massive difference and absolutely HAS saved my life on my motorcycle on several occasions. Good luck pushing authorities on this. Most of them drive motorcycles and whether they admit it or not publicly, they do understand most of our safety concerns and our vulnerability on motorcycles. Thanks, Ian.