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Sharing the Road Safely with Motorcyclists

By Jeff Cummings

You’ll see a lot of motorcyclists with a bit of spring in their steps as they unfurl the covers of their prized possessions for their first ride of the season.

And according to AMA member Liane Langlois, president of the Alberta Motorcycle Safety Society (AMSS), there will be many more of them on provincial roadways than ever before. Demand for motorcycles spiked in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


As many Albertans were looking for new hobbies during the pandemic, some discovered new passions for motorcycles. According to the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council, sales in the province jumped by almost 16 percent in 2020 and 18 percent in 2021. 

“That’s one thing you could do in the pandemic is go riding when you couldn’t really do anything else,” says Langlois, spearheading several safety campaigns with AMSS to mark Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month all through May.


With more motorcycles on the road, Langlois suggests drivers must be mindful of sharing the road and giving each other space—much like the physical distancing we’ve all gotten so used to. Every driver can play a part in preventing collisions with motorcyclists, which are more likely to lead to injury or death.

“The art of shoulder checking has been lost, I feel,” says Langlois. “People are so dependent on the new technologies in our vehicles and mirrors. And sometimes, with all that tech, people forget to check their blind spots, missing someone on their motorcycle.”

Last year, 20 motorcyclists were killed on Alberta roadways, and 80 percent of those were on rural roads. That’s slightly less than 2020’s rate with 19 deaths, according to stats from AMSS.

And out of all the trends involving motorcycle collisions in the last decade, Langlois says one of the three biggest killers of motorcyclists involved head-on crashes with vehicles making left-hand turns.

“Traffic safety starts with each road user (motorcyclists and vehicle drivers),” says Langlois. “If I’m on the road, I can only control what I do, so I need to make sure that I have the space around me that’s comfortable for me. If someone isn’t giving me the room I want, I will move into another lane or back away.

“I think, in those situations, we all get a little complacent over time.”

Learn how to drive safely in the city.

Here are some other essential tips to keep motorcyclists safe:

For motorcyclists:

•Take a course like this one from the Canada Safety Council.

•Drive to the conditions. Always drive at a speed that’s suitable for the conditions. Remember, wind speeds can change at any given moment in Alberta.

•Wear a helmet and other protective gear, including eye protection, a durable jacket, pants, and gloves. Also, pack extra clothing to prepare for unpredictable weather, such as hailstorms or wind.

•Give yourself plenty of space on Alberta’s roads and be visible. Try to avoid a driver’s blind spots if you’re in another lane. Be sure your gear, including your helmet, is reflective for others to notice. Another good tip is to ride with your headlights on, even during the day.

For drivers:

•Shoulder check. You need to be extra aware of what’s around you during motorcycle season. Make sure your blind spots are clear before changing lanes on Alberta highways and freeways.

•Keep a safe distance, leaving three to four seconds of space between you and the motorcycle—and more if weather conditions are poor.

•Bad weather or poor road conditions affect motorcyclists more adversely. The impact of slippery roads, gravel roads and potholes is amplified. Be patient, extra cautious and courteous. 

•Take your time when turning left at intersections. Be mindful that a motorcyclist could be following a large, oncoming vehicle before you make that turn. Scan ahead.

•Listen. Motorcycles are usually louder than passenger vehicles, and there’s a good reason. A motorcycle is smaller than a car and may not appear in your side mirror. If you hear one, check and double-check before changing lanes.