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Parking Lot Safety for Motorcycles

One of the most important, yet most neglected, skills all motorcycle riders should learn is parking lot safety.  While few motorcyclists drive at blinding speeds in areas with parked vehicles, these places nonetheless present unique hazards when it comes to clearance, visibility, and road surfaces. 

This article will outline the fundamental skills all bike riders should possess in order to navigate the average parking lot accident-free.  While it will certainly be of interest to motorcyclists, it will also prove useful to public safety officials and others concerned with promoting vehicular safety.

Equipment considerations
Proper equipment use is just as important while riding through parking lots as it is when going 65 MPH down a major highway.  In particular, riders should keep the following points in mind:
• Keep the helmet strap secured.
• Use suitable eye protection, whether this includes goggles, a face shield, or shatterproof glasses.
• Wear a jacket made of cowhide, corduroy, denim, nylon, or other durable material.
• Wear long pants, knee protection, and suitable foot protection.
• Use gloves at all times the bike is in motion.
• Wear high visibility gear.  This is especially important in parking lots, where motorists are usually less alert than when driving on public roads.  Many a biker has been side-swiped by an inattentive driver who pulled out of a spot without looking both ways first.

Operating the bike’s controls
• Use hand or mechanical turn signals when in the parking lot.  This will further increase the biker’s visibility to auto drivers.
• Apply the front and rear brakes at the same time when parking, just as on the open road.  Remember that up to 70% of your bike’s stopping power depends on the front brake.
• Lean into turns in a parking lot, just as bikers do anywhere else.  It takes very little momentum to upset a modern bike, even at very low speeds.

Using the SEE system in parking lots
The SEE system is used by millions of motorcyclists to get them safely from Point A to Point B.  It can be broken down into the following steps:
1. Search for possible dangers.
2. Evaluate all potential hazards, including turning cars, loose or uneven road surfaces, rain or other precipitation, etc.
3. Execute the proper action to avoid the hazard.

For example, in parking lots, riders should be alert at all times for vehicles pulling out from spots.  Motorcycles are far less visible than the average car or truck, so cyclists should never assume that a motorist sees them.

Just as important as watching for vehicles pulling out of spots is being alert for those pulling into them.  Some drivers focus completely on getting the best spot available, as if it were a competition with others.  No motorcycle rider should ever get hurt because some inattentive person chooses to whip around her in order to park six feet closer to a building. 

Perhaps the most dangerous part of a parking lot is at the ends where vehicles make turns to go down succeeding rows.  As riders approach these ends, they should look twice for cars coming from either direction.  Also, riders should signal their intention to turn well before doing so.  This could save their lives.

Special parking lot safety hazards to be on the alert for
Any of the following circumstances can make parking lots especially dangerous.  Bikers should be extra careful in case they spot any of them.
• Pot holes, loose road material such as gravel, or rises/bumps in the road.
• Slick spots caused by oil or other fluids.
• Dark conditions, including periods during or just prior to rainstorms.
• Hazard markers or other warning signs.

By following the above recommendations, motorcycle riders can safely share parking lots with other bikers as well as drivers of passenger vehicles.