Riding Tip: Avoid This Position At Intersections

August 2, 2017 Tags: ,

 TEAM Arizona Riding Tip:

Avoid This Position At An Intersection

It is tough for us to drive or ride anywhere and not take notice of other motorcyclists and their habits (don’t judge us for judging you-ha!).  We see some strange behaviors from time to time, and we can’t help but shake our head in disbelief occasionally.  It seems common sense may be uncommon after all.

This topic came to us during our morning commute after watching motorcyclist after motorcyclist commit what we think is an obvious error when stopping at an intersection.  First, a primer in lane positioning.


In our courses we talk about positioning ourselves on the road way that gives us the best chance of seeing hazards and being seen by other motorists.  We take an active approach; positioning ourselves within our lane is dynamic.  Not only are we placing ourselves to see and be seen, we’re also positioning ourselves where we gain the most time and space.

To better define lane positioning, we look at a lane as having three positions (left third, middle, right third).  Yes, there are technically unlimited positions one could take, but for matters of simplicity, we will define a lane as having three positions: 1 (left third), 2 (middle), and 3 (right third).  With lane positioning defined, we can take a look at our options when stopping at an intersection.


 Take a look at the intersection picture above.  What do you notice about the three positions within a lane?  What do you see in Position 2?


Take a look at the picture above.  Notice anything about the three lane portions?  Is there a lane position you’d probably want to avoid?  Why?

You’ve probably figured out that we want to avoid the middle third of the lane due to oil, coolant, transmission fluid, debris, gravel, and other hazards that may collect in the middle of the lane.  Not only do these contaminants make it difficult to stop when approaching an intersection, they also make it difficult when accelerating away from the intersection should an out-of-control vehicle approach us from behind.

Upon leaving the intersection, contaminants can remain on our tires, so if we should decide to perform a corner or have to perform a hazard avoidance maneuver like a swerve, it is possible our traction levels can be reduced.  If you’re like us, you want all the traction possible.


It may not seem significant to most riders, but stopping in the middle of a lane at an intersection may be an indication of a much larger, not readily obvious problem.  It may signify that the rider lacks an overall lane positioning strategy.  So if you are the rider who hasn’t given much thought to where they position themselves at intersections, we want to challenge you.  Think about your lane position well before the intersection, and at the very least, avoid the middle portion of the lane when coming to a stop at an intersection.

Do you notice any unusual habits by riders on the road way?  Share them with me in the comments below or send me an email.

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Bill Seltzer Yamaha FJ-09Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011.  He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee.  Have questions or comments about the article?  Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.com


  1. Dawn Griffith 12 months Reply

    I see this all the time. I also see riders riding the bumper of the vehicle in front of them or at stops leaving less than two feet between them and the bumper in front of them. This leaves them with no where to escape when the vehicle in front slams on their brakes or the vehicle behind them get rear ended and pushed into them. I’ve witnessed this actually happen twice on Thornydale road a few years ago. Sometimes wish I could just pull up next to them and tell them how they are adding unnecessary risk to riding on 2 wheels, but then I think it’s not my business and they would look at me like I had two heads any way, even more so if I were in a cage.

    • Bill Seltzer 12 months Reply

      Ooohhh that’s a good one too Dawn! We talk all the time about having escape routes. Tough to maneuver the motorcycle if it is snuggled up to the bumper of the vehicle in front of you. Sounds like we want to stay away from Thornydale! Thanks for sharing your perspective Dawn.

    • Parry Dunlap 12 months Reply

      Thank you for that Dawn. Being a new rider I personally would rather have someone advise me of wrong doing rather than learn the hard way. Just like if I had something in my teeth, Tell me! haha I also understand that most people aren’t as open as I am, so it’s a tricky choice.

      • Bill Seltzer 12 months Reply

        Nice one Parry. We understand pain reinforced learning is one way to learn, but if we have a choice, make it pain free! 🙂

  2. Burke Whitfield 12 months Reply

    I am 72 and been riding since 16 years of age. I was also a motor officer and what was stressed during training was to avoid the middle of the lanes. It is a fact that your positioning determines a lot of your riding safety.

    • Bill Seltzer 12 months Reply

      Well said Burke…lane positioning does determine a lot of our riding safety.

  3. Great tip and reminder! Also very good to hear from you Bill! I’d love to hook back up with you guys again and get back to teaching!

  4. Nancy 12 months Reply

    When I’m approaching a busy intersection I begin to swerve within my lane. I’m sure the drivers waiting to make that left turn think I’m crazy but at least they see me.

    • Bill Seltzer 12 months Reply

      There is research to support your actions Nancy. Animation helps drivers see motorcyclists, so movement side-to-side within your lane can create sufficient headlight movement as to make other motorists aware of your presence.

  5. John Wollersheim 12 months Reply

    During group rides on country roads our leader used the right third intensively. His reasoning was that it left him the maximum clearance from oncoming vehicles. He now uses the left third and only moving to the middle when cresting hills after it was pointed out that his visibility to vehicles entering the road from the right was very significantly reduced. As well his risk from wildlife coming from the right ditch left him only one direction to avoid a conflict, reduced reaction time and reduced visibility of animals in the right ditch.

    • Bill Seltzer 12 months Reply

      Reads like a good transition made by the ride leader. Seeing and being seen is crucial and proper lane positioning absolutely helps us reduce our risk and increase our safety margin. Thanks for sharing John!

  6. Ron Edgell 12 months Reply

    When approaching an intersection in the inside lane where opposing traffic can turn left in front of me, I tend to ride in the right third of the lane, allowing those vehicles across the intersection, sufficient time to see me and avoid the temptation of turning left into my line of travel. When one travels in the left third of the lane, approaching an intersection, their presence can be blocked by left turning traffic that is traveling in the same direction.

    • Bill Seltzer 12 months Reply

      Great to hear from our June 2015 Rider of the Month! Ron, you bring up some very good points. Seeing and being seen is a dynamic proposition. The right third of the lane can be great for some situations while the left third can serve us better in other situations. Up to us to determine what works best and when. Thank you for sharing Ron!

  7. John Staehli 12 months Reply

    When riding at night, if you’re the first in line at a red light and in either the L or R tire track, your headlamp can blend right into the front lights of the car behind you. I saw it in Glendale once. The only way I could tell there was a bike across the intersection was the silhouette of the riders feet on the ground. Wife was driving and she missed it completely.

  8. Lynn W. 10 months Reply

    Stopping in the middle of the lane (hump) can be a real mistake for those of us that are vertically challenged. Placing the bike on the highest point and needing to put our feet to the lower points creates an imbalance either way. It is also true in a slanted stop. Positioning in my case is critical.

    • Bill Seltzer 9 months Reply

      You’re not kidding Lynn. A crowned road or roads with humps due to vehicles wearing down lane positions 1 and 3 can present real issues for riders; even those who aren’t vertically challenged. Glad you’re thinking about lane positioning to maximize your safety!

  9. Dannie Fox 9 months Reply

    I have equipped my street bikes (K1600 BMW, Gold Wing) with Clear Water driving light’s. People have no problem picking me out of the headlights at night. If I think someone doesn’t see me a quick flick of the hi beams and 16,000 lums of LED light gets their attention. But under normal conditions they operate at 10% and doesn’t blind on coming drivers. My philosophy is you can’t have to many lights front and rear. Night or during the day.

    • Bill Seltzer 9 months Reply

      Being seen is critical and using lighting to accomplish that goal is a great method. Nice work Dannie!