Predicting Traffic Behaviour
Wouldn’t it be cool if you knew what every vehicle on the road was
going to do before they did it? The truth is that experienced riders
can actually predict traffic behaviour – it’s is not a black art,
it’s just a question of knowing which signs to look for.
reason why it is important to be able to predict with reasonable
accuracy what drivers are going to do, is because when commuting in
traffic you often have very little space to manoeuvre should
something go wrong. This is especially important when you’re
lane-splitting, where you are sometimes separated from other traffic
by mere centimetres. With your reaction space so severely
restricted, you lose most of your options in an emergency situation
– you can’t swerve, your escape routes are cut off, and you’re most
likely limited to braking as the only form of evasive action.
Personally, I hate to have only one option in an emergency
situation; therefore, I work from the premise that prevention is
better than cure – in other words, I try stop the problem from
becoming a problem in the first place, rather than wait for it to
happen and then react to it.
More often than not, drivers give tell-tale signs of what they
intend to do. The most obvious one is a car with an indicator going
blinkety-blink – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out
that the car is going to make a turn or change lane at some point
(although, in some cases, it simply means the driver knows how to
operate the indicator stalk, and nothing beyond that). But there are
other less obvious signs that can also help you predict behaviour,
especially when you’re lane-splitting in heavy traffic. Cars will
often edge slowly towards the adjacent lane before they change
lanes. If you are approaching a car that’s doing this, assume that
he is going to change lanes and slow down to accommodate him. Never
accelerate to prevent a lane change – quite often the driver will be
blissfully unaware of your presence, and you could end up being cut
off at a speed too high to allow you to evade in time.
Be on the lookout for cars that accelerate or brake suddenly
(especially if there are no obstacles in front of them) – they might
do it to take a (real or imagined) gap in the next lane (see
Sudden checking of mirrors is another indicator of an imminent lane
Most drivers tend to (rightly) focus more on the road ahead than on
their mirrors, so a person who suddenly begins to look around is
probably planning a lane change. Again, rather assume it and be
mistaken than ignore it and be in pain. If you’re lane-splitting and
there’s a gap in one of the lanes, expect somebody to want to fill
it. If there’s a gap of several car lengths ahead of you, expect one
or more of the cars in the adjacent lane to cut into your lane.
Often such a gap will be an opportunity for you to speed up
reasonably safely, so be vigilant and prepared to take sudden
evasive measures (see
As you probably know, minibus taxis are true ‘lane-surfers’ – they
will merrily jump from lane to lane in an attempt to get through
traffic quickly. There is only one rule when approaching a taxi:
expect the unexpected. Your only defence is to make sure the taxi
driver is aware of you and be prepared to counter an unexpected
swerve immediately. I normally don’t pass a minibus taxi if there is
a gap in the traffic next to him (and even so, I’ve seen minibuses
attempting lane changes with cheerful disregard to the fact that
there is no space in the next lane).
good trick is to try to notice each car individually as you drive
through the stream of traffic, ascertaining whether their indicators
are on or off, considering their positions in the lane, and looking
at the head movements of the drivers – don’t worry about a mental
overload: your brain is a remarkable computer, and you’ll be
surprised at how much information in can process.It goes without
saying that you can’t do this effectively when you’re going too
fast; if it’s too difficult, it’s a good indication that you should
consider slowing down.
The key is not just to predict drivers’ behaviour, but to be
constantly prepared to deal with their moves. More often than not,
your best defence is to drop back, let the offending driver do
whatever he wants to, and pass him when it’s safe to do so.
can’t over-emphasise the importance of defensive driving on a bike,
especially in traffic. Always remember that you are a lot less
protected than people in a car, and precariously balanced at best.
In an argument between a car and a bike, guess who’s going to come
off second best? Get to your destination alive – all other
considerations are secondary to that.