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Is The Motorbike Speeding While Overtaking Really The Motorist Making It Up?

Motorbike overtaking a car
14th May 2014

“The bike just appeared out of nowhere trying to overtake and going too fast”, is a line that is likely to make an appearance on a defendant’s statement during a motorbike accident compensation case to state that they “didn’t see” the motorbike or the cyclist was travelling too fast and “failed to give a signal in time”.

It betrays a common motorist perception of the motorcyclist, fear of an accident likely to be caused simply because of the presence of a motorbike on the road and the image of “a leather-bound figure hidden behind a darkened visor and hunched forward over two wheels”.

Many motorists are simply unable to relate to the motorcyclist’s real experience of safely navigating traffic queues and congested traffic lanes. As many as forty per cent of accidents involving vehicles in contact with motorbikes occur because the motorist has failed to look sufficiently in advance for a motorbike rather than simply spotting the familiar shape of another car approaching.

Motorcyclists overtaking on one or two lane roads...

On one lane roads, motorcyclists will always aim to pass vehicle as quickly as possible, but there can be a problem when attempting to overtake on two lane roads.


When travelling on two lane roads, traffic moving in the same direction is more likely to be travelling at about the same speed as other vehicles, which means there is sometimes only a 10 – 15 mph difference between the bike and the vehicles being overtaken. Unfortunately, even at this relatively low speed the biggest risk is that when the rider is about to overtake, the driver also decides at the same moment to change lanes but hasn’t seen the bike moving out and alongside.

However on one-way roads the speed difference between a bike and other vehicles being passed is usually much greater and most vehicle drivers do not want to be 'trapped' in the lane they occupy and are looking for an opportunity to sneak into the motorcyclist’s lane.

Low speed on busy roads...

In both scenarios, motorcyclists know that they need to be extra vigilant and watch for sudden and unexpected vehicle movements between lanes. Therefore, many bike riders simply will not be passing along at speeds faster than 10 -15 mph, especially on busy roads, as they will not have enough reaction time to avoid potential accidents.

The cry of “the bike just came flying out of nowhere at 100 mph” in situations described above are very remote indeed. It’s far more likely that the motorist has, once again, failed to use his mirrors!