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Without a doubt, the riskiest place to be on a motorcycle is in town. It's the most demanding and unpredictable environment of all and you need to be as sharp as a fighter pilot to avoid trouble.
Learn to rely on one person, yourself! Be paranoid. When you see a dented, dirty or neglected car, be especially paranoid. Damages are evidence of mistakes, and you don't want your bike to be involved. Dirt and neglect show disinterest, and that disinterest probably bleeds into their driving as well, so stay away from those cars.
At some points of a journey through busy towns, 30 mph (50 km) can be way too fast, take it easy. After years of practice you'll develop a sixth sense for what people might do or what might happen next. In the meantime, realize that many hazards can be hidden until they present themselves right in front of you.
Pedestrians can be one of the worst offenders. They can suddenly walk out between parked cars, sometimes looking the wrong way or not even looking at all. Drivers can also emerge from behind doors flung open without warning. Children and animals are the most unpredictable, expect them to do anything. Delivery vans, bike messengers, taxis, buses, and any other commercial vehicles using city streets can often be in a hurry and have different priorities than you, look out for them especially.
Keep an eye out for slippery sections of road, where traffic stands still or where cars brake hard, as they can be covered with diesel fuel (a rainbow on the road), oil and rubber. A piece of debris like a flattened pop-can may well prove to be your undoing if it's in your path. Never expect your route to be guaranteed clear if traffic lights are on green. Have a peek at the intersection to make sure opposing traffic has stopped first. When lane- splitting, where legal, be extra diligent.
Too much speed makes motorcycles unreadable because they only have one headlight. A car driver can easily miss-read a motorcyclist's speed and proceed through an intersection too early. Slow down to be seen, especially at night.
Photo via www.youmustbetrippin.com
Riding in towns and cities can be risky. It can make racing on a twisty course look safer. The benefit of faster commuting, preferred and sometimes free parking and of course the fun make it all worth it. Don't forget a lot is happening, and much of it can change quickly. It all needs taking in, and to do that, you have to slow down, pay full attention and enjoy the ride EatSleepRIDE.