Monday Rant: Motorbikes Could Solve Traffic Woes

With the Pan Am Games in Toronto, any number of charity runs, marathons, parades and other street-closing activities happening right across Canada throughout summer, the ever-increasing problem of traffic congestion is only growing.

Debates over freeways, toll roads, congestion taxes and the rest rage night and day, often with vehemence and agonizing despair. Yet one surefire way to ease congestion has been left off the table. Why? Because it makes car drivers jealous and angry.

Lane splitting is often labelled as a pet peeve by drivers. Angered by the thought that someone might get somewhere before them, drivers gnash their teeth and honk their horns at motorcyclists who are only doing what is a: safer for them, and b: better for traffic.

That’s why places like California in the USA, New South Wales (NSW) in Australia and a host of other places have now legalized the practice.

In NSW, the government turned from wanting to more clearly criminalize the act to actually legalizing it entirely after a trial period showed the dramatic positive effects. The trial was done after bikers began acting like cars in traffic – causing more gridlock and making commute times even worse. Showing what happens when they don’t split led to the government of NSW authorizing a trial of allowing the practice, one that eventually became the law as drivers and legislators alike discovered shorter commutes, safer roads and less stress.

Not only is it good for congestion, lane splitting is safer for motorcyclists – provided they do so in a responsible fashion. In NSW, riders must only do so in traffic that is moving at less than 30 km/h or is fully stopped, must not do so in school zones, and are responsible for pedestrian and cyclist safety. All reasonable restrictions that ensure safety for all road users.

Yet still places like motorbike-hating Ontario refuse to even consider a trial. Heck, Ontario is one of the only places in the world motorbikes aren’t even given access to the HOV lane.

Lane splitting is also safer because motorcyclists are rear-ended in traffic far more frequently than car drivers – lane splitting removes that risk. A week ago I was in traffic stopped legally behind a car near a jammed-up freeway offramp. Some muppet zoomed up and dove into the “gap” that I was occupying. Luckily I saw him and because had good road position was able to shoot between the cars in front to escape. He missed me by millimetres. Know what one of the cars I was now stopped next to did? Honked at ME! Splitting gets motorcyclists out of vulnerable positions on the road and into a safe zone.

It is safer in slow-moving traffic because a car is less likely to change lanes into the car next to them, so bikers can use cars as a sort of shield.

And by the way, when motorcyclists are at the front of the queue, they take off faster, clear the area and make your road less congested – win, win, win.

And yet, motorists still complain about it. So let’s address some of the common complaints:

  1. Why should he get to go ahead of me?
    Because he (or she) has chosen a smaller, more efficient and more nimble form of transport that is capable of accelerating far faster than you and getting through smaller spaces with a safe margin.

Don’t like that? Maybe you could buy a bike… then you can “go ahead” too!

But back to the reason bikes going ahead benefits everyone: When one person in the queue is faster, the average speed of the entire queue is then faster. Bikes getting out of the intersections faster means that improves EVERYBODY’s average commute time – even yours! So stop being a jealous, whiny loser, and look at the bigger picture.

  1. But I never see them coming and they scare me!
    Then get off your phone.During your driving test you will have been assessed on how often you checked your mirrors, if you didn’t do it enough, you failed. You should still be doing this. Check your mirrors every 10 seconds and you will see all but the dumbest of motorcycles lane splitting.
  2. Some of them do it too fast!
    Yep. That’s true. Some motorcyclists are idiots and do dumb things. Some car drivers and pedestrians are idiots too, but we don’t ban them from driving or walking. Laws that define a difference between safe splitting and stupid splitting are effective. We’re all adults right? Most of us use common sense most of the time.
  3. It’s more dangerous!
    No. It’s not. Places that legalized lane splitting see a drop in car vs bike collisions, and a lowering of the serious accident rate.

Lane splitting under normal conditions is safer than not doing so. Just so we’re clear: if you lane split at 80 km/h when everyone is stopped, you’re a moron. You’ll be injured, and it will be your fault. At modest speeds though, lane splitting is proven safer.

  1. They’re loud when they come past.
    Get off your phone.
  2. My sister is a nurse and she saw a guy with his left arm poking out through his scrotum because of a motorbike!
    Tell your sister thank you, nursing is a noble profession.As for what she saw, big whoop. I’ve seen gardeners fall and impale themselves on a rake while they planted their spring bulbs. Life has its risks. You choose yours, I’ll choose mine. Nobody is forcing anybody to jump on a superbike with the throttle pinned wide open – we choose to ride and should be free to choose to make the safest decisions when we do so. So how about getting out of the way and letting bikers do what’s safest for them - and most convenient for you?