November 6, 2009

720 words 4 mins read

Ride Friday: Lane Splitting – Can't we all just get along?

I live in California, and as such lane splitting (or lane sharing, white lining or filtering) is completely legal. Okay, to be exact, it isn’t illegal. Good enough for me. I generally don’t lane split except when traffic is going very slow (below 30mph). I am not the lane splitter you hate; you know the people, the crotch rocket riders going through completely stopped traffic at 60mph. No, I play nicely, I only go approximately 10mph over the speed of traffic (as recommended) and if traffic gets above 30-40mph, I filter back into a lane and ride with the traffic. Why does this matter? Because some of you car drivers have a shit poor reaction to those of us on two wheeled vehicles.

Let me make it simple for you car people. You want me to lane split. Why? Because every vehicle on the road in front of you means that much more delay in every acceleration (everyone has to wait for the person in front of them to move enough) and every vehicle in front of you means that much more road taken up by buffer between vehicles. If I’m lane splitting, I’m neither slowing you down, nor taking up the road you need. In other words, my lane splitting gets you to where ever you are going, just a little bit faster.

Now look at it from the perspective of the motorcyclist. Every time we come to a stop, we have to put our feet down, not fun. All the agility and maneuverability of the bike is lost at low/stopping speeds. Most importantly, I’m tiny compared to you. If you are an average Jane Doe soccer-mom in your SUV, your vehicle weighs in at approximately 6,000 pounds (or 3 tons). My motorcycle, which is on the heavier side of bikes, weighs in at about 700 pounds (less than half a ton). When you are almost 10 times as heavy as I am, a kiss by your bumper (because you didn’t notice traffic stopping so fast) can have lethal consequences for me. Yes, lane splitting gets me home quite a bit faster, but more importantly it keeps me from getting flattened.

For those of you who still don’t buy it, who are sitting there thinking to yourselves, “Screw you, all you motorcycle people think you’re hot shit”, please… we don’t need any more grief. When we’re riding along normally we’ve got to pay attention to every vehicle around us because, once again, a little ‘tap’ could be lethal. If we’re lane splitting, we’ve got to pay attention to TWO lanes of traffic for all sorts of obstructions like people changing lanes without signaling, but also the little things like MIRRORS. Yes, we’ve got to pay attention to where your rear view mirrors are so we don’t snag them and we have enough space to get by. Plenty of people are trying to kill us without even realizing it; we don’t need more people giving us grief on the road and putting us in more danger, just because you don’t like us.

Where does this all come from? Recently I was lane splitting on my way home, traffic was sluggish, but not stopping, so I was hopping in and out of lanes as speeds varied. At one point I had to come back into the lane due to an obstruction in my way (Translation: Two big trucks side by side) and as I always do, I try to make sure I come back in at a point with enough front/back padding in the lane to be comfortable for everyone (most especially those behind me). The person behind me, driving a large white sedan, took offense to this. They decided to try and ride my back tire (cause really, motorcycles don’t have a “bumper”) for the entire time I was in the lane. They were scarily close to me. I’m sorry you don’t like me, but where the hell do you want me to go? Rhetorical question. Needless to say the very next chance I had, I split forward. Even if I only got one car ahead (which normally I wouldn’t have done), at least I was away from that situation.

So please, if you’re in a car and you see a motorcycle lane splitting politely, cut them some slack. Thanks.