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Dodging the Roadkill: Lane Splitting

 

Dodging the Roadkill - A Biker's JourneyClarksville, TN – Lane splitting is a relatively new concept to me.  Since I’ve only been riding for 18 months, it’s not something I’ve ever done, but the concept is picking up steam across the country.

Lane splitting is riding a motorcycle between lanes or rows of slow moving or stopped traffic that’s moving in the same direction.  Sometimes called lane sharing, whitelining, filtering or stripe-riding, it allows bikers to save time and bypass traffic congestion.  It may also be safer for the biker than being stopped in congested traffic.

Now, I’ve avoided some traffic by passing on the shoulder, but at the moment, I haven’t had the “balls” to drive between cars and trucks that are backed up on the interstate.  It just never occurred to me to do that.  I don’t feel safe doing that.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting. (J&P Cycles)

Motorcycle Lane Splitting. (J&P Cycles)

But my attitude may be changing.

In an article posted by the American Motorcyclist Association on the topic, I learned that one of the most dangerous situations for any biker is being caught in congested traffic.  Stop-and-go traffic, distracted drivers and other conditions pose an increased risk of an incident.

I never thought of that.

According to the Hurt Report, which is a comprehensive motorcycle crash study, “moderate or heavy traffic was the situation at nearly 60% of accidents involving bikers.”

WOW!

In the 18 months I’ve owned my Harley, I’ve logged nearly 55,000 miles.  I’ve been “trapped” in stop-and-go traffic numerous times.  Birmingham, Alabama, Jacksonville, Florida (the dreaded I-75), Mobile, Alabama and so on.  What bothered me the most was the frustration of the situation and the unbearable heat.  I never once thought about the danger.

The risk of minor contact with another vehicle is greater in those types of situations.  Sometimes even a minor “bumping” or “rear-ending” can cause major damage or injury, or both.

Lane splitting is very common in other countries.  Seen mainly in Asia and Europe, the practice is common and motorists are not frustrated or surprised by it.

Of course in America, not everybody loves motorcycles, so the potential for intentional injury or road rage is greater.  

I can see the one guy flicking his cigarette at me, or throwing his drink at me, or even worse, pulling his car into my direction preventing me from passing.  Just to be an asshole.

I’m in favor of doing what’s best for me and my fellow bikers, with safety first.  The AMA’s position is “this option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind.” “The evidence that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving vehicles slightly reduces crash frequency compared to staying in the land with other slow moving traffic.”

Read the AMA article here.

At the moment, it’s only legal in some parts of the country, notably California, but other states will be taking a look at this issue soon.  

I, for one am not comfortable doing it, but I support the right TO do it.  It’s an individual decision and should be done with safety in mind.  Like I said earlier, educating the public about it and making other motorists aware of it will be the challenge.  There’s nothing worse than being stuck on the interstate, when all of a sudden, a biker has the “advantage” to move through all of the congestion, while you just sit there.

This is an interesting issue, but I applaud the AMA for it’s position and hope the politicians see the benefits of allowing motorcyclists the option to be in a safer position.  


About Hank Bonecutter

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