Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips
Courteous Passing and Signal your intentions
I’m opening myself up for some criticism by posting this, but when motorcycle riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway and you need to pass, one safety tip I’ve found helpful is using better communication and courteous passing. While passing may be illegal, it’s a frequent occurrence. Here’s how I deal with it.
Why take the criticism? Because I see it so often – it’s a rare stretch of the 469 mile long Blue Ridge motorcycle ride that isn’t painted with a double yellow line. Passing zones are few and far between. Crossing the double yellow line is breaking the law, so consider that before you do it. If something goes wrong, you’re at fault, and any ticket you get is deserved.
Still, I can’t recall a recent motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway where it didn’t happen. It’s a common situation as the comfortable travel speed for many car drivers is around 35 mph on this mostly 45 mph road. While most bikers are content to adapt to the lower speed and relax and enjoy the scenery, the situation can get frustrating when the curves get tighter.
Motorcycles and cars approach curves differently. Cars tend to get off the throttle and slow down when going through a turn. Motorcycles want to be on the gas to gain traction, ground clearance, and stabilize the bike in a turn. Applying the brakes when behind a car in a turn makes the motorcycle want to stand up when it should be leaning and it’s harder to steer and more unstable.
In a perfect world, you follow along to the next pull-out, the car slips in and lets you by. Give the driver that opportunity, it’s the best, safest, and legal option. A lot of times that happens. Sometimes it takes a couple overlooks before the driver recognizes the easy solution.
Just as often though, you’ll come up on a car which slows and starts waving you by to make an illegal pass. Here’s how I approach it -
- If you don’t want to pass, drop back and give the car some space.
- If you do want to pass, but it’s not safe here due to an approaching curve, limited visibility, or other traffic, be courteous and work with the driver. Drop back a little and signal your intent that you do want an opportunity to pass by using your turn signal.
Communicating to the driver by using your turn signal lets him know your intent and you can work together to make the pass as safe as possible.
The driver may wait for the next pull off, give him the opportunity to use it, as it’s safest for everyone and the legal way to do it.
If you do choose to pass, do it politely and with some respect. Don’t blast by at warp speed with the pipes screaming. Stay in as high a gear as you can and make it a smooth and controlled quiet pass. Wait for a long enough section of road with clear visibility and enough margin for safety so you don’t convince the driver all bikers are dangerous and out of control or end up proving it as well. I usually give a wave of thanks to those who let me slip by, I appreciate their courtesy and respond in kind.
- Use passing zones when available
- Crossing the double yellow line is illegal
- Give the car a chance or two to exit into an overlook and let you by
- Communicate with the driver by using your turn signals
- Wait for a safe opportunity
- Pass quietly and with respect
At some point on your Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle ride you’re going to be presented with this dilemma – to pass or not to pass. There’s a darned good reason crossing the double yellow line is illegal, it’s dangerous! In a dangerous situation one of your best tools is good communication. Use those signal lights and show some thanks if you decide to take a ride on the wild side of the line. A lot of times, seeing your signal lights alerts the driver and results in a safe and legal passing event and a better Blue Ridge Parkway ride for everyone.
These tips work with bicycles as well, be kind and let’s all enjoy our ride!
- Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here - AmericaRidesMaps.com
Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience. Total Rider Tech