Seeing Red

Had an unpleasant encounter with a fellow motorist yesterday. Unpleasant for me because a couple in a car nearly knocked me off my scooter and unpleasant for them because — from their perspective — another mad biker pulled out in front of them carelessly.

What went wrong? Since I got the scooter I’ve been taking extra care to ride defensively and focus on observation and anticipating all the hazards and potential hazards ahead of me so that I can negotiate them safely.

The situation was I was riding in the left lane of a dual carriageway and there was a light stream of traffic passing me on the right (going in the same direction). Then up ahead I saw a roadworks vehicle stopped in my lane. This meant that I — and everyone else in my lane — would soon have to pull into the right lane to pass the stationary vehicle. I did all the right things: checked my mirrors — there was a car approaching in the right lane but it was quite a way back — then I switched on my right indicator, then before moving out I did what motorcyclists call a “lifesaver”, which is a look over your right shoulder to check in the blind spot. The car had continued to accelerate along the lane and was now much closer to me. I began to pull into the right lane, slowly and looking ahead and behind all the time. Surely they had seen my indicator. Were they ignoring it? It soon became obvious that the car was ploughing on regardless and that if I didn’t swerve back into the left lane I would soon be “toast”, so that’s what I did. As it passed the lady in the passenger seat looked at me with a genuinely surprised expression on her face. Not aggresive, just a “What are you playing at? You nearly got yourself killed!” look.

It was then that I realised what must have happened. They hadn’t noticed my signal, and the reason they hadn’t was that my Yamaha X-MAX 125 has red rear indicators.

I don’t know what the norm is where you live but in the UK and most European countries all indicator lights — front and back — are amber, so road users come to expect an indicator to be that colour. Only on some vehicles they’re not. I’ve seen American cars on the road from time to time with red rear indicators, and I remember not noticing them as easily as the normal ones. The scooter’s front indicators are amber, but at the back there is just a cluster of red lights: normal light and braking light in the centre, and indicators either side. It looks really cool but that’s not really the point is it?

Now I’m torn. Part of me thinks I should get them changed for amber ones for safety reasons, and part of me likes the way they look and thinks I should take this as a lesson to indicate earlier and not to assume that my indicators will get me out of trouble.

What would you do?

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About Chris Neal

Personal Technology Consultant. Tailored services and advice for people who want more from their technology.
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6 Responses to Seeing Red

  1. Tom Steel says:

    I’d really recommend you got them changed – they won’t look cool if they’re embedded in a bumper of a car which mistook them for a red brake light. (let alone what state you could end up in).

    Can you have amber bulbs under the red cover so they look red when off but shine amber when you’re indicating as a compromise?

  2. Chris Neal says:

    I agree in principle Tom but I don’t think they work like that. The bulbs themselves are clear, and the colour of the light comes from the colour of the plastic lens cover. The rear lights and indicators on the bike are covered by a single plastic (red) lens, so I’m not sure it can be changed, but I’ll ask my dealer about it.

  3. Tom Steel says:

    Good luck, I’ve enjoyed reading about your scooter travels around London!

  4. Chris

    Are red indicators legal? I remember the old Roadcraft stuff – and something under Construction and Use laws require amber/orange indicators.

    I’d get them changed. Also get the steel toed boots. They make a nice dent in the doors of bad car drivers 😉

  5. Chris Neal says:

    I wondered that too, but then if they weren’t surely reputable dealers wouldn’t be able to sell them. I’ll do some research.

  6. Tom Hartman says:

    Riding a Motorcycle and counting on a turn signal? Maybe you should get a brand new amber indicator and then build a car around it.

    Here in the US we are replacing the standard stuff with turn indicators that feature the European style clear white signal lens and amber bulb.

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