Accident Scene Management / Road Guardians
Motorcycle under Brooklyn Underpass

I’ve heard it all!

  • Pull over safely
  • Never pull over under a bridge
  • Always drive to an exit to get off the highway
  • Angle your vehicle to increase visibility

Blah, Blah, Blah. What’s a biker to do? If you experience an emergency and are unable to drive to a “safe” location, what should you do? If the rain coming down so hard that you can’t see a thing and you are hydro-planning, is it still unsafe to stop under a bridge?

I won’t pretend to be the ultimate expert but this is a question I just don’t see answered when I search the Internet. Opinions from motorcyclists are as varied as the wind, so I will speak from 30 years of riding experience. You are welcome to share your opinions after the article and give us some examples of what YOU have done or would do. I will speak about interstate travel only in this article.

Pull Over Safely Rodney_Bursie_photography-motorcycle
When I need to pull over on the interstate, I check my mirrors first to be sure no one is coming up fast from behind me or following too closely to avoid rear ending me. I assume they are distracted and may need a little extra time to make an informed decision about moving over or slowing down.

When I feel it is safe, I apply my turn signal before backing off of the throttle or hitting my brakes. I slow down a little and check my mirrors to be sure the person in back of me understood my intention. I slow down enough to be able to exit onto the shoulder and past the rumble strip with ease. While crossing the rumble strip, I let go of the brake. I am constantly scanning the shoulder to be sure there are not any hazards, such as pieces of tires, broken glass, etc. I pull as far as I can to the right before stopping. I put my flashers on and check my mirrors again before I put my bike on the kickstand. I then exit to the right (away from traffic).

If you have never done this before, give it a try. Reach with your left hand and grasp your right handlebar. Hop once or twice with your right foot then step away from the bike. You are exiting away from traffic rather than backing your body toward traffic. With a little practice you won’t look too silly. Now you can carefully do whatever it was you pulled over to do, keeping your body facing traffic so you will know if you suddenly need to jump out of the way. When re-mounting your bike, be sure the handlebars are turned all the way to the left so full weight of the bike is on the kickstand. Grasp the right handlebar with your right hand. Step on the footboard with your right foot and step over the saddle of the bike with your left foot. Again, this will keep you from the vulnerability of turning your back to traffic as you mount your bike from the left side.

Cancel your flashers and put your left turn signal on. Do not start advancing your bike until you see a large enough gap in traffic. Increase your speed on the shoulder so when you move into traffic, you are going fast enough to avoid being rear ended or causing other traffic to apply their brakes which increases the chance of them losing control.

Brooklyn_Underpass_BWNever pull under a bridge
If that is wrong then I’m going to hell. It’s not like I see a bridge and think, “I want to pull under that bridge!” But there are times when it is safer to be under that bridge than out on an open highway with a deluge of rain pouring down and lightening striking so close I am temporarily blinded. It’s best to plan ahead and not get caught in the rain or to exit if you need to put rain gear on, but there are times when rain just happens. If you’ve been riding for any length of time, you know what I am talking about.

There are a few rules for pulling under a bridge, however. See my notes above. Here are a few extra hints. When you pull over, pull as far forward as you can without getting back out into the rain. There will be others who may join you. If you must double up, get as far off of the road as possible and never leave your bike near the traffic lane. It is not safe for anyone and you jeopardize more than your own safety when you do that. If there is no room for you, and you still want to stop, leave your bike in the rain, grab your gear and go under the bridge to seek shelter. Do not risk the safety of others to keep your bike under the bridge. Keep your rain gear in your right saddlebag. That way you won’t have your back to traffic as you access your gear.

Angle your vehicle to increase visibility
Your motorcycle should NOT be angled to increase visibility. Angling your bike just gives cars and trucks more surface to strike. While a large car with strobes or a truck can get more attention that way, a motorcycle is simply not sturdy enough and being hit by another vehicle can cause it to strike other people who are on the shoulder of the road. Keep your bike pointed in the direction it was traveling, add flashers for extra visibility, and move off the road as far as possible.

Always drive to an exit to get off the highway –never pull over on the shoulder
I hate the words always and never. It’s just not reality. Sometimes pulling over is necessary. If it is not necessary, than wait for an exit or rest area to pull over safely.

Happy Travels!

Vicki Sanfelipo AKA “Spitfire”
Co-Founder Road Guardians
Director Accident Scene Management

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