‘Start seeing motorcycles’ on Illinois roads, advocates say

(The Center Square) – Even vigilant drivers don’t always notice motorcycles. That’s why the Illinois Department of Transportation continues reminding motorists to “Start Seeing Motorcycles” for Motorcycle Awareness Month.

Alden Almagro, owner of the Ride Chicago motorcycle training at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, tells riders to “behave as though drivers can’t see you.”

“Assume that cars are going to change lanes into you,” Almargo siad. “Know what you are going to do when they do that.”

Vehicles have blind spots. Drivers don’t always use their mirrors. Motorcyclists should use lane positioning to make themselves as visible as possible, IDOT advises. Expect the unexpected, IDOT emphasizes in its news release.

When he is on his bike, Almagro says he pays attention to everything that is going on around him.

“I’m watching the people that are parked on the right to make sure that doors don’t open,” he told The Center Square. “I’m watching the car in front. I’m checking the mirror to see what’s going on behind me. I’m checking the people who are waiting to turn left or right into traffic where I’m going.”

Don’t ride when you are tired, he advises, or when you’ve been drinking or using any other substances.

“Don’t do anything that takes away your concentration,” he said.

Motorcyclists represented just 3% of registered Illinois drivers but they accounted for 11% of traffic fatalities in Illinois in 2022. Riding a motorcycle is disproportionately more risky than driving a car.

“Be patient,” Almagro said.

Patience is also what IDOT emphasizes in its safety tips for motorcyclists. Among other recommendations, give yourself space and time to react, make lane changes gradually and allow room for emergency braking and for avoiding a crash.

Always wear proper safety gear. Even on a hot day or when he is in a hurry, Almagro always wears his gear, he said.

“It’s always the times that you don’t wear it that you are going to need it,” he said.

A full-gear package includes over-the-ankle boots, gloves, protective jackets and pants. And while not required by law, a properly fitted helmet with face shield or protective eyewear, is encouraged.

IDOT suggests wearing bright colors and clothing with reflective strips and decals to increase visibility in traffic, particularly at night.

Motorcyclists in Illinois are required by law to have their headlight on at all times. IDOT recommends that motorcyclists always signal before changing lanes. Another safety tip is to flash the brake light when slowing down or getting ready to stop.

IDOT offers free Cycle Rider Training Courses for riders age 16 and over who have a valid driver’s license, or motorcycle license or permit.

“Learning from people who know what they are doing will reduce risks,” Almagro said.

Ride Chicago offers a 10-hour basic training program for $95. It also offers an intermediate training course. Scooter training costs $45.

Even experienced riders who have taken Ride Chicago’s training tell Almagro that they learned things they did not know.

“They find out about bad habits that they’ve had … or they pick up tips,” he said.

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