Rural roads are major and minor roads outside our towns and cities, and at times they can be difficult to navigate. Many of them are narrow, with blind bends and limited safe places to pass, and have no pavement or cycle paths.
The latest Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that between 2016 and 2021, 67% of motorcycle fatalities occurred on rural roads, compared to 41% in traffic.
Our country roads can often seem intimidating. You may find pedestrians on the road, horse riders, slow-moving farm vehicles, and cyclists, so it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings.
IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s leading road safety charity, has some helpful tips to help you navigate those long and winding roads.
Most rural roads in the UK have a 60-mph limit, however this doesn’t mean you should drive at this speed. These winding, narrow carriageways pose high risks so ride at a speed you are comfortable with and confident with. Be prepared to slow down or stop to allow larger vehicles coming the other way to pass.
When you approach a sharp bend take it slow even if the limit is 60 mph. Use your horn when approaching blind bends to alert other drivers to your presence. At night you can flash your lights to give a similar warning. Look out for high hedges or other foliage that may interfere with your line-of-sight and always stick to the left-hand side of the road.
Farm vehicles such as tractors and combine harvesters are large and complex machines to navigate; so, the driver will appreciate your patience and understanding. A fully loaded tractor and trailer might make it more difficult for the driver to see – remember all vehicles do not have the same view or maneuvering capabilities as you.
Keep an eye out for signs indicating cattle or wildlife and be extra alert when you’re riding in those areas. When approaching horses and other animals, you should reduce your speed. Don’t rev your engine too much as you may spook them. Alan Hiscox, Director for Safety at The British Horse Society: “Unfortunately, the number of incidents involving horses on Britain’s roads remain far too high and it is evident that more needs to be done to ensure riders feel safe on the roads. For motorcyclists, it is important to understand that horses can easily be frightened by motorcycles and the noise they emit.
In line with the Highway Code and in order to reduce horse fatalities, we are encouraging motorcyclists to adhere to our Dead Slow campaign messages. This includes passing horses and horse drawn vehicles at speeds under 10mph and allowing at least 2 metres space of distance. Motorcyclists are also urged to wait behind the horse rider and only overtake or pass if it is safe to do so. Whether you are a motorcyclist, horse riders, motorist or any other user group, we encourage all road users to be courteous and patient with one another whilst sharing the roads. With a bit of understanding and consideration on all sides, there’s room for everyone to use the roads in harmony and safety.”
The unpredictable British weather is a hot topic of conversation, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on the conditions before you leave. If there’s bad weather, avoid country roads where possible. Main roads and motorways are more likely to be gritted, while country roads may be flooded, covered in snow or mud, or have fallen trees.
Wear your leathers; they are they to protect you. Riding in shorts, and flip-flops is a no-no, even on a hot, sunny day. Your leathers can prevent you from suffering serious injury. Even if you aren’t involved in a crash with another vehicle, you could simply lose control of your bike.
Remember, country roads can throw up all kinds of problems. However, these tips should help you stay safe. Just remember to take it slow, be aware and be careful of any potential hazards.