There’s a couple of groups in BC trying to get lane filtering legalized for motorcycles, and they’re getting some media coverage on the idea now. So here’s a little bit of information for my non motorcycle riding friends. (still not quite sure how I ended up with those)
Firstly, what we want in BC is Lane Filtering, not Lane Splitting. It may seem like semantics, but they are very different.
Lane splitting is basically treating the line between the lanes like you have another lane for a motorcycle, and often includes people splitting between cars at speed.
Lane filtering is the simple idea that when traffic is crawling, motorcyclists can use the space available to them to keep moving forward. This greatly reduces the risk of being rear ended. It also alleviates congestion so that our friends in cars can get to their destination sooner, and with less frustration.
This is the way things are done pretty much everywhere else in the world, because it simply makes sense.
If you’re having a hard time understanding why this makes sense, here’s a little thought experiment for you:
Imagine you’re driving down an empty road, and you see that there is a red light half a Km ahead. Would you stop right away, or keep driving until you can’t go any farther?
Would you stop if there’s no one in front of you, just because the light is red, and then crawl forward and stop again when the light turns red again before you get to it?
That’s essentially what denying lane filtering is telling motorcyclists to do. We can keep moving forward through traffic, with absolutely ZERO impact on the people around us. Yet we’re told to stop for no reason, and the net result is that you, as a car driver, are stuck in traffic even longer because you have to wait for all the motorcycles to take their turn with the cars, rather than just free up space.
If you let motorcycles go ahead in stopped traffic, they will be gone before you even get anywhere near the speed limit again, because almost every motorcycle will out accelerate all but the fastest cars.
Allowing lane filtering will immediately reduce congestion, and will probably have a higher return on the reduced congestion in the long run as more people choose to ride to take advantage of filtering.
If you’re concerned with the fact that motorcycles have to squeeze through a tight space, and may hit your car, simply don’t hug the dotted line.
Our roads are so wide that if you put a one ton truck in the right lane with a couple inches between their tires and the white line, and an SUV in the left lane with a couple inches between their tires and the yellow line, you could drive a smart car up the middle with plenty of spare room on either side.
I see people bring up safety every time this topic comes up. But it doesn’t take long to realize that when they say “safety” what they really mean is “But what if they scratch my paint?”
If you really care about safety (the ability of the motorcyclist to get on with their day with minimal risk of injury, or death), then all of the studies that have been done on the subject show that filtering is safer for motorcyclists.
The risk of being rear ended drops to nearly zero when motorcycles filter. And the risks associated with being stuck in the elements on a bike that isn’t moving drop dramatically as well.
We aren’t asking to turn the roads into a free for all. We are asking to be able to move as far forward in stagnant traffic as is safely possible. Drivers are less likely to try and change lanes when there’s a car occupying the next lane, than they are when there’s a motorcycle in that space. We’re actually less likely to be hit by a lane changer when we filter, than when we are taking up a whole lane for ourselves.
So that’s not really an issue. We are more than used to drivers trying to hit us. We deal with it every day, we’re just asking that the laws allow us to remove some of the risks that we deal with on a daily basis.
As long as you don’t try to make filtering dangerous for us, it won’t be. We are no more likely to scratch your car as we go past, than anyone else that you share the road with right now.
Lane filtering is safe, and it reduces congestion for every road user.