As the 26th annual National Ride to Work day approaches, we thought it was a good time to remind motorcyclists and drivers alike of the ways we can all make our roads safer for riders. Held on the third Monday in June every year, the goal of this day is to encourage everyone who owns a two-wheeled motorized vehicle of any kind to ride to work to show the country how many bikers are on the roads and to raise awareness of the dangers they face when they join commuter traffic.
The Origins of National Ride to Work Day
First held on July 22, 1992, as a way to provide visibility for avid motorcyclists, the event became a non-profit organization in 2002 and has gained momentum ever since. The Congressional Motorcycle Safety Caucus estimated that over one million riders now participate in this event, making it the largest annual motorcycle rider event in the country.
According to organizers, the goals of the event are to demonstrate the following to the general public and to politicians:
- There are a large number of motorcyclists in the U.S.
- Motorcyclists are from all occupations and all walks of life.
- Motorcyclists can reduce traffic and parking congestion in large cities.
- Motorcycles are for transportation as well as recreation.
- Motorcycling is a social good.
Supporters of the event want to make the point that with more two-wheeled vehicles on the road, commuting traffic is actually reduced; workplace parking lots have more spaces available; and that motorcycles have less of an impact on the environment by using less gasoline and producing lower levels of harmful emissions.
However, before a million riders hit the road this June, they should be reminded of how to commute safely.
What Motorcyclists Should Do
Especially for weekend riders who don’t have a lot of experience in commuter traffic, it's important that you review the following safety tips before hooking on your briefcase for the ride to work:
- Make yourself as visible as possible. Wear bright, reflective clothing and avoid riding in other vehicles’ blind spots. Turn on your high beams even during the day, and always use your turn signals.
- Wear protective gear. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets in Missouri, but you should also wear protective clothing, gloves, and boots. Remember that the ride to work isn't a pleasure ride, and the risks of riding in heavy traffic are too great to take without protecting yourself as much as possible.
- Plan your route. It's much harder for a motorcyclist to contend with stop-and-go traffic, so plan an alternate route that avoids major congestion whenever possible. You’ll be far more comfortable and safer, even if the commute is a little longer.
- Predict driver actions. It's imperative to be observant as you ride. Watch for signs of drivers’ intentions—such as sudden lane changes or braking—since commuters often fail to signal and are frequently feeling stressed as they drive to work.
- Ride smart. The crowded commute to work isn't the time for stunts or tricks. Don’t speed, split lanes, or ride on the shoulder. If you want to be treated like any other commuter, you'll have to act like one.
Ultimately, your safety as a motorcyclist is in your hands. Even though you have every right to be there, other drivers may be unaware—or even resentful—of your presence. It's up to you to ride defensively and take special precautions during busy commutes.
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