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Monday, October 28, 2013

Lane splitting on a Royal Enfield; could it work in the U.S.?

Here I am on the new Royal Enfield Continental GT in the UK.
I rode a Royal Enfield Continental GT through London traffic during the press launch recently. Lane splitting is the custom in the UK and in much of the world, but is frowned upon in the U.S. except in California.

With the Continental GT's added power and vastly better brakes I felt confident and safe splitting lanes, something I would never do here in Florida on my 1999 Bullet. Drivers in London gracefully tolerated my moving ahead of them at stoplights.

Recently this YouTube video recommending lane splitting on a motorcycle as "safer" than sitting in traffic caught my eye. Its message;

"Motorcycles riding between cars! Calm down, the legal practice of lane splitting saves car drivers time and money by reducing overall congestion while allowing motorcycles to take charge of their own safety. Here's why everyone, including car drivers, should support legal lane splitting."

Really? In the United States? Amid texting drivers who never signal when they change lanes? The video claims it can work, but as proof it shows successful lane splitting only in places where it is inactively practiced and — this is important — tolerated by drivers.

If lane splitting were to be introduced (highly unlikely) in the U.S. outside California I think it would have to be accompanied by an advertising campaign to convince car drivers it is something they must allow.

Two words: Road Rage.

American drivers who are disadvantaged in heavy traffic do retaliate and we see this even in states with no motorcycle lane splitting. Watch what happens as you try to merge onto a busy expressway. Signal all you want as you attempt to get in: drivers in the lane you must reach before your lane ends will routinely close ranks and ignore your plight.

The Los Angeles Times recently cited a survey showing that two-thirds of motorcyclists who lane split report that a car tried to block them. And they're not just being paranoid — 7 percent of motorists surveyed admitted to using their vehicle to impede a motorcycle!

I suppose the answer the authors of the YouTube video would make is that motorcycles can get away with passing before car drivers have the time to react inappropriately. To me, that's slim comfort.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. having ridden in Portugal where it is legal and (mostly) accepted and respected it is hard on me not to do it back home where the lanes are bigger. This is even when PT has the highest accident rates in the EU. I didn't however try it at highway speeds over 30mph, but many did...

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