Every motorcyclist knows that to ride safely and effectively, you have to behave differently than you would in a car — proper form in small movements like blind spot checks could mean the difference between spotting a hazard, or accidentally changing lanes!
And while we as riders may all use similar techniques, the laws and habits for riders around the world vary more than you might think. Take a look below at what some of our two-wheeled friends consider “normal” when they swing a leg over the saddle:
It’s Stricter in Switzerland
While undoubtedly beautiful, Switzerland is known to have some of the most expensive traffic fines in all of Europe, with the average minor violation costing 300 Swiss Francs ($320). Every year the stunning alpine passes and rolling hills of the Swiss Alps attract thousands of tourist riders, though unfortunately many discover that things that are legal elsewhere (like lane-splitting) are illegal in Switzerland. In some areas it’s even mandatory to switch off your engine while waiting at a red light!
Riding Sidesaddle in India and Pakistan
In countries like India and Pakistan, women can often be seen riding on the back of motorcycle taxis. Since much of the areas’ traditional clothing for women consists of long, loose-fitting fabric, there’s a dangerous risk of the fabric getting caught in the motorcycle’s chain. To prevent this, women often sit perched on the seat with both legs hanging over the side of the motorcycle, riding side-saddle just as an equestrian would, while maintaining perfect balance over bumps and potholes.
Running Red Lights in the U.S.
Believe it or not, in many areas of the U.S. it’s actually legal to run red lights! But before you go trying this out in front of a police officer, know that there are rules surrounding this shocking law. Often called “red light laws,” states like Wisconsin, Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia allow motorists to proceed through red lights that aren’t changing in a reasonable amount of time (usually two minutes) for the rider. This is typically only legal if the way is clear, and there is no other vehicle approaching to trigger the lights.
Avoiding Animals in South Asia
In some parts of India, cows can be found in many places you might not expect. There are countless dashcam videos of cows crossing roads, obstructing narrow alleyways, and sometimes even attempting to cross busy highways with an apparent lack of fear. While most motorcyclists may be used to a squirrel or even stray dog crossing the street, a cow is one problem that would demand a bit more attention!
A Uniquely British Greeting
Around the world riders have many ways of greeting each other on the road, from the popular two-finger salute to lifting a foot off the peg. But it’s perhaps British riders, however, that have the most traditional method of acknowledging each other. To “doff your hat”, is an expression that was common in Shakespeare’s time. In modern-day motorcycling, the gesture is simplified to a single tilted nod of the head.
Speedy Shopping in Italy
In the picturesque, and often tightly packed cities of Italy, scooters are the perfect size for helping riders slip through small gaps and tight parking spaces. You’ll find these versatile vehicles being used for everything from work commutes to heavily-laden grocery trips. Don’t be surprised if you see bags balanced in front or rear baskets, or even between the rider’s feet!
Be Safe in Bangkok
In Vietnam, an incredible 87% of households own at least one motorcycle. However, the result of roughly 20 million motorcycles in the country means Thailand also has one of the highest rates of motorcycle accidents and fatalities in the world.
The Most Important Habit…
Overall no matter where you ride, a commitment to safe motorcycling practices is key. Be sure to always follow local rules, wear appropriate gear, and perhaps most importantly — have fun!