I was recently riding in a friend’s car and we were headed down Washington Avenue in Golden, CO – one of my favorite Denver suburbs – and we came to a stop at a light. Behind us, a motorcyclist pulled to a stop but came slightly to the driver’s side of the car when he did it.
My friend became frustrated. “Why would he do that?!” he asked. “Isn’t it better to stay directly behind me in my rearview mirror?”
Thanks to my decades of experience helping motorcyclists injured in Denver, I was able to help him understand. Then I got to thinking – It’s spring in Colorado. We are about to see a lot more riders on the road and it’s time to start my Look Twice, Save a Life mantra. Therefore, here is an article about why motorcycles pull to the side of your car when they stop… with some springtime Look Twice advice, as well!
Motorcycle Behavior Explained
Auto drivers often get frustrated by motorcycle behavior that they don’t understand. Yes, we’ve all seen the hipster on the crotch-rocket racing down the road on a wheelie and that is never acceptable behavior. But there are other defensive actions that responsible motorcyclists take that you should understand so that you don’t get angry or intolerant.
Pulling to the side of your car
Motorcyclists have to think about every other car on the road and whether those drivers actually see them. When they come to a stop at a light behind a car, they worry that the car behind them won’t stop fast enough. There are so many rear-end collisions at lights for exactly this reason! Distracted drivers look down at their phones or back at their kids and hit the brakes one second too late, ramming into the car in front of them. If there’s a biker between the cars, he is in grave danger. A fender-bender between two cars is a relatively mild accident; crushing a bike and rider between those cars can be catastrophic.
So, bikers who attend motorcycle training schools are often taught to stop to the side of the car in front of them. Not all the way up next to the car, but to the left of the back bumper. This location offers two benefits: 1) It gets the rider out of the crunch zone if the car behind him doesn’t stop, and 2) Keeps him in the front driver’s rearview mirror.
In rural areas, however, the biker may pull to the right of your car if traffic slows down. Instead of explaining this behavior to you, I encourage you to watch this video. I hope you not only respect these riders’ behavior but also understand that the truck driver was distracted… something we all need to address in our society.
If you see a motorcyclist swerving in her lane, don’t automatically assume that she’s behaving silly. I took a motorcycle training class at The Motorcycle Training Academy, a company I truly admire and learned a lot about motorcycle behavior. I learned that our roads are littered with debris that I often never even see as a car driver! Even a patch of sand can be deadly to a biker who might need to stop quickly. Often, bikers swerve around on the road to avoid debris that we can’t even see.
Other times, bikers swerve to be sure that the drivers around them are paying attention or can see them in their rearview mirror. Face it, when they swerve, you notice them! Hopefully, you also drive more cautiously in their presence.
Look Twice, Save a Life
It’s spring, which brings daffodils, tree blossoms and… motorcycles! Some of my very best friends are motorcycle riders and I get excited for them to hit the road every spring, but I also get anxious. Inevitably, motorcycle crashes in Colorado increase every spring, which is why I beat the drum for Look Twice, Save a Life events.
My organization, Rider Justice, has partnered with Biker Down to host the 9th Annual Look Twice, Save a Life ride on May 15, 2021. It will start and end at Dirty Dogs Roadhouse, 9 am to 4 pm. Riders will wear “Can You See Me Now?” t-shirts and will ride in force to remind people that spring has sprung and riders are out!
Rider Up! Share This Video on Your Social Media Channels
Finally, I want to re-share a campaign I started back in 2019. It’s a game called Rider Up! and it challenges car passengers to be the first to spot a motorcyclist and yell its location in relation to the car. “Rider LEFT! Rider RIGHT! Rider BACK! Rider UP!” The player who spots and yells first is the winner. The goal is to have auto passengers help drivers locate nearby bikers, and to also train future drivers to look for and see motorcyclists on the road.
We created a fun – SHARABLE – video for the game. Check it out here. Please help us get the word out now that the daffodils are emerging and the motorcycle engines are revving.