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Side-splitting, lane-splitting proposal

19 February 2013, 20:03

Western Cape transport and public works MEC, Robin Carlisle, is considering introducing legislation to prevent motorcyclists from "lane-splitting" (driving between the traffic during congested periods of high density traffic during rush-hour).I find this proposal side-splittingly hilarious.  I gather that you would deduce from my tone, that I too am a motorcyclist and I do not at all agree with this proposal.  There are several points as to why this is my view, which I shall attempt to detail below.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of my employment, I am required to use my car on many days of the week, as I am required to attend meetings at customers.  On the days however, which I have no meetings, I use my motorcycle to commute.  The difference in the time it takes me to travel to and from work is less than half on those days, and yes, I do go down the centre lane between the cars.  I have been riding motorcycles for 27 years now and in all that time, I have never had a serious accident (and the two smaller ones I had, had nothing to do with lane-splitting).  As an experienced motorcyclist, there are certain safety tips that are constantly in my mind and I am sure that all experienced motorcycle riders do the same. A few examples of these are as follows:  When I am travelling between the cars, I always try to be sure that I am never going any faster than 20Kmph above the speed that the cars are traveling.  That is to say, if the cars are stationary, I will travel at 20Kmph between them.  If the cars are travelling at 30 Kmph, I will do 50 Kmph between them. With a 20 Kmph difference between me and the vehicles surrounding me, it gives me plenty of time to react and avoid any potential collision, should the situation arise.  Another thing I (and I am sure, "we") do, is be constantly alert.  I am not only watching the cars in front of me, but also the car in front of that and the one in front of that, so I am always "scanning" the vehicles around me up to three cars ahead.  One becomes very aware of the body language of car drivers and I can quite safely anticipate subconscious intention by the driver to change direction.  There are many such (little) indicators - a brief glance in the mirror, a brief shift in body position in the car seat, a sudden increase or decrease in speed, etc.  The point is, one gets very used to picking up on these.  As a motorcyclist, you are VERY aware of your surroundings.  I also know areas of potential danger and areas where it is safer to pass.  When travelling through bumper to bumper congestion, it is fairly safe to do so (with the use of my two above points), as long as there are no gaps in the traffic.  If a spot ahead of me clears between two cars on either my left or right, I will decelerate and proceed with caution.  The reason for this, is that if a position open between two cars, the one lane is inevitably going to be moving slightly faster than the other and the potential exists that a motorist will try quickly switching lanes to take that position.  They often do this without indication, as it is a last minute decision.  I can go on and on, but I think you should be getting the point by now - those of us experienced enough, are quit capable of "Lane-splitting" safely.
Having said all of the above, I'll come to the crux of the matter.  I don't think our dear MEC has considered the repercussions on the traffic flow and congestion if he were to implement his proposed legislation.  The main reason I use my motorcycle when I can (as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece), is to save travelling time and avoid traffic congestion.  I f I was forced to sit behind cars day in and day out and endure the same congestion, it would take away the advantage of using my motorcycle in the first place, so I would revert to using my car.  I have spoken to many motorcyclists about this and they all say the same.  This would lead to there being thousands and thousands more cars in the traffic each and every morning which would further ad to our already very congested roads in the mornings and evenings.  I am not going to sit behind a row of cars sucking on exhaust fumes travelling at 10Kmph for an hour each day and night.  Unlike you (car drivers), we cannot close our windows and put on out air-conditioners.  Please keep this in mind the next time you see us out on our bikes in traffic in the sweltering heat, the wind, or the rain and cold.  We would like to get to our destination sooner if possible.
I will say that I do agree that there are a lot of idiot "bikers" out there who do travel between the cars at ridiculous and dangerous speed, but I can assure you that they are in the minority.  Why should we all be penalized for a small group of wrong-dowers, when there is already legislation in place that can deal with them?  They can be stopped and penalized for reckless driving, as it is a crime and there is legislation to deal with it.  It then becomes a policing issue again.  There is no reason to put "blanket legislation" over all of us to restrain a minority.Besides all of the above, motorcycles take up less space on our roads, take up less parking, use less fuel, are far more environmentally friendly than cars, do less damage to the road than cars, etc. etc.  Look around you this evening and tell me how many cars do you see travelling the same route to and from work each day with only ONE person in them?  And our MEC would like to ad to this?  It sound terribly counter-productive to me. 
In conclusion, Mr. Carlisle, I really don't think that you have given this much thought at all and you seriously need to reconsider.  Secondly, how about proving us with some facts?  Of all the reported motorcycle accidents, what percentage are due to "lane-splitting?
Yours in biking... 

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