A System for Safe Scooter Riding – IPSA and TUG

Today, I’m going to get just a little bit technical, and talk about a formal system which we can use to guide every aspect of our riding. It is a system that is flexible, and can be used continually to cover everything we do while out on the road.
Although this may seem a little complicated at first, please bear with me, and you should see how a little study and application of this system will be extremely worth the effort.

Of course, what system worth its salt doesn’t come along with a mnemonic or two, right? Never wishing to disappoint, here are a couple for you:


Let’s begin by looking at IPSA: It is a mnemonic to help remember the four phases of this system: Information, Position, Speed and Acceleration.

There a couple of things to note about the diagram above:

  1. The information phase covers all other phases. In other words, it continues while all other phases are being processed.
  2. The “Position”, “Speed” and “Acceleration” are in order. They are to be followed in that order.
  3. It is flexible. At any time, circumstances may dictate that we enter the system again at any point.

Safe riding is all about negotiating hazards. It must be noted that a “hazard” can be an immediate, pressing situation, or it could be a situation that your observation skills tell you is developing. It could also be simply making a turn or making it safely through a green light. All of these things – for our purposes – are hazards.

Before we start to put all this together, we need to look in more detail at the “Information” phase. This is itself divided into three parts:

What this means is that information is not only received and processed (such as observation, mirrors, etc…), but also given, which could be in the form of signals, sounding of the horn or flashing your lights.

So, let’s start to put all this together.  When negotiating any kind of hazard, the “IPSA” system is applied:

  • The information phase is started. Remember that this phase continues all the time while the other phases are being processed. This phase includes good observation of the situation, making observation links (something I will cover in greater detail in later posts), seeing what the hazards and potential hazards may be, and considering signals to alert other road users of your presence and intention.
  • The Position phase involves making sure you are in the right position in the road to negotiate the hazard – and to ensure good visibility and view (how well others can see you and how well you can see).
  • The Speed phase involves adjusting your speed – if necessary – to be able to safely negotiate the hazard. For a corner, this could involve adjusting your speed to a safe one to be able to competently negotiate the bend. For passing through a green traffic light it could be adjusting your speed (downwards!) in anticipation of the lights changing to red, or a car running the light.
    Note: the overriding factor that determines your speed is making sure that you always ride at a speed so that you can stop in the distance you can see to be clear.
  • The Acceleration phase begins when you are clearing the hazard and are smoothly accelerating to an appropriate speed to continue your journey, or it could be using the throttle to maintain your speed to offset the loss of speed due to cornering forces.

Please note that, at any stage, the information gathered through the overriding information phase could require you to re-evaluate and enter the system again at any point (for example: a vehicle could begin to pull out from the junction – forcing you to re-enter the system at the position phase and shift your position to give yourself a buffer zone).

So, after all this dry theory, let’s look at a couple of real-life examples to hopefully make things clearer:

We are about to negotiate a hazard (left turn).
Looking at this example (from bottom to top):

Information is taken (assessing the situation, checking your mirrors). Information is given (a turn signal).

Position is adjusted. The rider has moved to the left of the lane in preparation of the turn.

Speed is adjusted. The rider is slowing down in preparation for the corner.

Acceleration is gently applied as the corner is negotiated, and the hazard is clearing.




Now, lets look at another. In this scenario, the rider is simply travelling through a green light:

Information is taken and used. In this case, the lights have been green for some time – consider that they may change at any moment. The car in front is about to make a right turn.
Careful observation of the situation ahead and to the sides is taken. Mirrors are checked to see what’s happening behind.
Consider giving information. If you are are not sure the driver has seen you, consider sounding your horn.

Position has been altered by moving towards the left of your lane – to give yourself a buffer zone, and to increase your visibility into the road on the right.

Speed has been adjusted by easing off the throttle in anticipation of the lights changing, or the car moving.

Acceleration begins having cleared the junction and resuming your travelling speed.

What may cause us to re-enter the system at any phase? Well, consider the first example above (the left turn). If, the driver on the left has edged just a little too far out, and you see a vehicle coming from the opposite direction which will have to move out to clear the front of the car, you re-enter the system at the position phase, and move more towards the middle of your lane to give yourself a buffer. You would then continue considering adjustments to your speed, and, of course taking, using and giving information.

So, there we have the system for Scooter control. Thanks for staying with me!

I will leave you with few scenarios which you may like to run though in your head – and while out on the road. Try to see where each phases of the system is applied. You should see that there are no instances of negotiating a hazard where this system cannot be effectively applied.

  • Cresting the brow of a hill.
  • Entering a highway from an on-ramp.
  • Passing an ice-cream vendor on the side of the road.
  • Travelling straight on a road where a car in front is signalling towards your lane.
  • Passing a slow-moving truck.

Until next time, Scoot Safely!

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3 thoughts on “A System for Safe Scooter Riding – IPSA and TUG

  1. As much as I admire Andrew’s 48% best asenwr rating (the first asenwr), I have to disagree with him. As I get older, I like to sit more upright. I find a forward crouch very uncomfortable. I have been riding a BMW airhead’ for about 25 years now yeah, the same bike! and I sit straight up, and I’ve never had trouble with my back.Now as for scooters. I thought a touring scooter’ was one with more CCs. For a long time, scooters went only as big as 250cc. In fact, 250cc -was- a touring scooter in the 50s and 60s. Today there are really big scooters, 500-650cc, that are as convenient and easy to ride as a scooter but can cross continents at freeway speeds. I have known motorcyclists who, as they got older, could not handle the weight of a big motorcycle, so they got one of these big scooters and were very happy with it. A friend of mine hurt his foot in an accident and could no longer operate the foot controls on a motorcycle so he got a Honda Silverwing and he absolutely loves it. In general, scooters are much easier to learn to ride, and to handle, than a motorcycle. For just basic transportation, they are often a better choice.If you have the same size of scooter from the same manufacturer, and one model is a touring’ model and the other isn’t, I would first want to know what features are different that makes it a touring’ scooter. Longer spring travel? Bigger wheels? More baggage space? More weight capacity? Find that out and decide whether it’s worth the extra money to you.

  2. I just found your website and I’m really enjoying reading your tips and have started to apply them towards my own riding. Thank you for your good work and I intend to keep reading. I’ve linked your site to mine as well.

    1. Thank you Robert. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment – and the link. I’ve been reading your blog too! 🙂

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