Motorcyclists react to column

The in basket: It got to the point Monday when I winced whenever the little chime announced I had a new e-mail.
I had that morning invited motorcyclists to defend the practice of driving between lines of stopped freeway traffic, something I’d seen when I was caught in an early-October freeway back-up in Los Angeles. Having checked locally, I declared it illegal.
Well, sound off they did, most of them pranging me for not knowing that while it’s illegal here, it’s legal in California. They even have a term for it – lane splitting.


The in basket: It got to the point Monday when I winced whenever the little chime announced I had a new e-mail.
I had that morning invited motorcyclists to defend the practice of driving between lines of stopped freeway traffic, something I’d seen when I was caught in an early-October freeway back-up in Los Angeles. Having checked locally, I declared it illegal.
Well, sound off they did, most of them pranging me for not knowing that while it’s illegal here, it’s legal in California. They even have a term for it – lane splitting.
Officer Anthony Zill of California Highway Patrol said it’s been legal in his state for at least all 16 years he’s been with CHP. A cursory search of the Web suggests that California may be the only state that doesn’t forbid it.
By the end of the day, about 45 people had e-mailed or phoned to set me straight. While I like to use the names of those who write to Road Warrior, that’s too many for this space. I’ll add the names in the on-line version.
Others who told me I should have checked with California were (skip to the next paragraph if you aren’t fascinated by lots of names) Alan Strange, Dan Topness, Randy Jowdy, Bob Bevis, Brian Bennett, Ron Ackermann, Jim Hollenback, Don Van Doornik, Mark Lowe, Jeffery F. Gilbert. Michael Lary, Jack Bryson, Ted Moore, Mark H. Grimm, Dirk Wiebusch, Tom Schmidt, John Weatherill, Joel Sparrow, Scott Johnson, Drake Stern, Ivan Bunker, Garland Freymann, Mark Crispin, Nathan Anderson, Maynard Peterson, Alice Sherburne and Bruce Baillie.
Some who wrote elaborated on its advantages.
Michael Lary: “As a motorcycle rider, I can tell you that sitting on a 600-pound-plus motorcycle going one to three miles per hour for several miles is very demanding physically and difficult. It is very hard to balance a bike at below 5 mph and, if you have a passenger, very risky.”
Garland Freymann: “After researching the subject, the California DOT found that allowing motorcycles to use this procedure speeds up the time in gridlock for automobiles.”
Nathan Anderson: “Folklore attributes this practice to the fact that “air-cooled” motorcycles would rapidly overheat in the California heat if not moving during stop-and-go traffic.”
Ivan Bunker: “I’ve lane-split in California before and it works great, people move aside for you and are nice about it. But I do realize that it has to be done at a safe speed, about 5-10 miles over the speed of traffic, and the traffic has to be moving slow also. And having an ‘air-cooled’ bike, sitting in traffic does overheat your engine and your left forearm would look like the Hulk, pulling in the clutch all day.”
Most who replied didn’t address the main theme of the column, as stated by a reader named Frank G., which was that he thought most motorcycles violate the law when its convenient and haven’t earned his respect.
Ted Moore did address that: “I ask you to visit a rally and see just a few of the local charities that motorcyclists support. Stop by the
“Governor’s Run”, it’s the first full weekend in May every year and 2007 is the 25th anniversary. With well over 1,500 motorcycles at this one rally, it’s pretty hard to believe that every one of them are the wild and crazy riders mentioned.”
Ron Ackerman turned Frank G.’s words back on him. “If I may indulge in a little hyperbole, I hate how ALL those car
drivers change lanes without signaling, tear down the roads at 90 miles an hour, and throw their lit cigarettes out their windows. To paraphrase
Frank G. ‘I don’t want to hear the response that this is only a few
drivers. That is BUNK. It happens day in and day out by more and more
drivers.’ So therefore all car drivers must be at fault.”
The out basket: I checked with Lowell Porter, head man at the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, who said our Legislature was asked by a couple of motorcycling organizations to legalize lane splitting here a couple of years ago. He obtained a videotape of lane-splitting in action in California, taken by their state officials, he said, and showed it to the lawmakers. That was the end of that, he said. Legislators found it so obviously dangerous they gave it no further consideration, he said.

6 thoughts on “Motorcyclists react to column

  1. It has gotten to a point that I feel I most respond to the alligations that I hate all motorcyclist. I originally responded to someones complaint about the (cable) barriers being dangerous to motorcyclists when they got into accidents. When the writer said that the state should have more respect for motorcyclists then to put up such barriers.
    It brought to mind a recent PSA I had hear on the radio about how we should be respectful to motorcyclists on the road because they are smaller vehicles and are not always seen.
    Then within 10 mintues of hearing this PSA, a motorcyclist when whizzing by us in traffic on Hwy 3 going at least 80 mph weaving between cars because they’re smaller.
    I stated in my first letter that I will be respectfull to motorcyclists when they start showing respect.
    Now, on to car drivers, the Road Warrior can dig in to his archives to letters to the editor and find were I challenged him on speeding to go with the flow of traffic. He felt people that were obeying the speed limit should pull over and let faster drivers by. My respond was if the speed limit is 40 then go 40 unless he wants to change speed limit laws to suggestions. Then (he) will need to think about changing STOP signs to “if the urge hits you please stop.” I think you catch my drift.
    I’m against law breaking in any mode of transportation.
    For the individual who thought I hate all motorcyclists, I don’t, It’s just that my best friend was killed when he was just 21. He was one of the safest people I knew on a bike. It was a freak accident when he hit a loose manhole cover coming home from work late at night. It bothers me that people take life for granted on something my friend loved to do. That was 30 years ago this pass July. “Only the Good Die Young”
    I hope this answers everyone’s question.

  2. You could be your own Freud.

    Your disdain for motorcycle riders is obvious even in your very denials.

    These two quotes tell the whole story:

    “It’s just that my best friend was killed when he was just 21” and “It bothers me that people take life for granted on something my friend loved to do”

    So, motorcycle riders take their lives “for granted”? Leaving aside the cliche and whether it has any meaning at all, what is the logical justification for assuming that riders are less interested than you regular folks in staying alive?

    Yes, riding is dangerous, and so is eating at McDonalds.

    Fact is, some of us are absolutely the MOST alive while we are riding.

    Your illogical fear and hatred of riders is only getting more obvious as you continue to explain yourself.

    I am not attacking you, only pointing out the obvious in case it doesn’t show up in the mirror.

    The only real problem here is that your irrational feelings are VERY common, and are one source of the increased danger faced by riders every day.

    Too bad there is not more thinking and less feeling going on in the heads of our fellow travelers.

  3. Drake,

    I was talking about the ones that drive recklessly with disregard for themselves and others. So I will keep an alert eye in all my mirrors and prayer for those that continue to show disrespect for the law and others. And continue to miss my friend.

  4. Where to start…
    The practice of riding between lanes of traffic or lane splitting is
    accepted in California and the Califormia Highway Patrol states it
    reduces traffic congesting accidents (of the low speed, rubber neck kind).
    Frank’s assertion that “more and more riders” are doing things that are excessively dangerous (it’s safe to say riding period falls into the dangerous catergory) is the part of his letter that’s “BUNK”.
    There are over 320,000 endorsed motorcyclist in WA…..because he sees 5, 10, maybe even 50 doing “dangerous” things, still falls clearly into the “only a few riders” column….don’t you think?
    Riders are they’re own worst enemy with regard to fatal accidents. 6 of 10 fatals are single vehicle, motorcycle off the road and someone dies.
    But, 4 of 10 die because they tangled with a four-wheeler. Sometimes it’s the bike’s fault, sometimes the four-wheeler’s, a lot of time it’s both.
    Bottom line: Auto’s look for bikes. Most of us will be behaving
    ourselves.
    Motorcyclist, look out for everything, get some training, get your head on straight ’cause the autos usually don’t even see you.

  5. Concerning Californias legal practice of lane splitting. The California Highway Patrolman was incorrect on the start of lane splitting. In 1963 it was legal for motorcycles to split lanes. Reasoning was bikes were smaller and quicker than cars and we could move right up to the stop light, legally. There were people in cars that did not appreciate this practice during extreme traffic back ups and they would open their doors so that bikes could not pass. We are not talking Gold Wings or Big Harleys back then. 150cc to 300cc bikes were the norm back then. So with all of that said, Lane Splitting in California has been legal for 40+ years.

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