Riding on the Motorway
Once you have passed your full motorcycle test and are riding a motorcycle that meets the minimum power requirement, you will be allowed to use Motorways. Many riders avoid using Motorways for pleasure riding as they tend to be less enjoyable and stimulating than country or A roads. The advantages that the motorcyclist has for making progress also tend to reduce when riding on a Motorway.
Motorways are designed for transporting large volumes of traffic at high speeds with the minimum of inconvenience. Most Motorways consist of 3 or 4 (occasionally 2) lanes of road plus the hard shoulder. Motorways are generally safer than other roads but do come with their own set of hazards. These points are pretty much common sense but being a motorcyclist you need to be partciculary aware of them.
Many Motorway users will:
- Pass slower vehicles on the inside lane Exceed the speed limit regularly
- Drive to close to the vehicle in front
- Attempt to exit junctions at the last moment
- Fail to make proper checks, indicate or allow enough room when changing lane
- Drive at inappropriate speeds for the weather conditions
- Exercise poor lane discipline
Use you judgment and experience to consider how this may affect you as a rider and what you can do to increase your safety. If it helps, consider the situation - what’s actually happening, risk - what may occur, action - using the system of motorcycle control to plan your approach and maintain your safety. For example:
|A motorist is moving towards the outside of his lane as you pass him.
||He is planning to move into your lane and hasn’t seen you.
||Consider moving away and accelerating or slowing down to create a gap.
|A motorist is too close behind you.
||If you need to brake hard, you may get rammed.
||Consider pulling in and letting him pass or leave a larger gap in front of you to compensate for his lack of braking space (this may provoke an aggressive response from the other driver
Motorways are typically a less challenging environment when compared to A & B roads. You are less likely to encounter severe or blind bends and the road surfaces tend to be better. Many Motorways are illuminated, which will ease night time riding. You’ll also find emergency phones and monitoring cameras which help to improve emergency services response times. However, there are additional considerations which you should plan for.
Motorway riding is monotonous and typically boring, you have an increased chance of suffering from fatigue. You may not necessarily fall asleep, but your reactions and attention to your surroundings may become impaired. If you are carrying a passenger, they have an even greater risk of fatigue than you.
Before you plan a long Motorway trip, make sure you are alert and fit enough to complete the journey. It often helps to vary your speed while riding, but in any case you should plan regular breaks at service stations, to ensure you stay alert Talking yourself through your riding and observations, will also help you stay aware of your surroundings.
Apart from the fact that Motorway speeds tend to be higher, which comes with an associated wind chill, many are exposed to cross-winds which could unsettle your bike. You will also find that other vehicles (particularly HGVs) may cause buffeting when passing or being passed.It is important to ensure you are properly dressed for the increased exposure. If you have a waterproof over-suit it may be good to wear it as a precaution. Apart from keeping you dry, it will be effective at reducing wind chill. You should wear high vis clothing and ride with your dipped lights on. Many motorcyclists who don’t normally wear a high vis vest or belt, will if they are riding on a Motorway.
Pay particular attention when passing large vehicles, aim to give them as wide a berth as possible, to allow for any vortex, slipstream or buffeting. If you are experiencing cross winds, reduce your speed to allow you to compensate more easily.
You may be familiar with the POWER acronym - Petrol, Oil, Water, Electrics, Rubber. From a motorcyclists point of view, service stations are few and far between and stopping on the hard shoulder should be avoided unless it is an emergency. You must ensure your bike can make the journey. Before setting out perform your standard maintenance check and do it again when you stop for fuel.
Joining & Exiting Motorways
Motorway slip roads are usually designed to allow traffic to join and leave, with the minimum disruption to traffic flow. When joining a Motorway you may have a choice of slip road. If safe, try to pick the lane that gives you the best view of the road you are joining. Observe the traffic flow immediately ahead and also in the distance to determine if bunching may occur, check for any hazard warning or variable speed limit signs as these will give information as to the conditions of the road ahead. As you accelerate to match the motorway speed look for your entrance gap and any potential escape routes incase that gap closes. If you are joining with other vehicles look for potential conflicts over gaps. In all cases the traffic on the motorway has priority, but as a motorcyclist you are vulnerable and should always aim to avoid conflict with other vehicles.
When exiting always try to ensure you are in the exit lane before the 300yd marker and stay alert for late exiters who may be prepared to sacrifice your safety in order to make the exit. Traffic can also bunch up at exits, so allow plenty of room for maneuver.
As soon as you exit start adjusting your speed for the road ahead. There maybe a roundabout or traffic junction shortly after the exit. If the exit has two lane look out for signs of late lane changers and people who have exited in error. There immediate reaction may be to correct their mistake by trying to get back on or changing lane. Looking out for motorcycles may not be a consideration.
Although it is common to find vehicles in all lanes on British Motorways, you should always aim to ride in the first (left most/inside lane) unless overtaking. Once you have completed your overtaking maneuver aim to return to the first lane. Where possible avoid overtaking a vehicle passing another vehicle as this gives you fewer options. You should consider each lane change as a discrete overtaking maneuver and use the system to plan it. Be particularly aware that it is hard to judge the speed of other vehicles on a straight road, so allow plenty of room before committing to overtake.
When approaching a joining slip road check to see if there are joining vehicles approaching. It may be worth moving to the second lane to give them room to merge providing it is safe to do so.