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May 13, 2009

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Paul Robertson

I'll put it up front that I am a Bikey, of the motor kind and the peddling kind.

I agree the guy you observed was a jerk. However, If he was on a Duc' he was riding something similar in performance to many of the $150K, (and up), 4 wheel exotics you frequently review.

He's still a jerk, but I've seen identical behavior from Drivers in aforementioned 4 wheeled rockets. The point being that it's the individual rather than the number of wheels on their transportation.

Riding on 2 wheels, especially in GTA, is not a particularly rational thing to do. Bikes can do things cars just can't, but they are inherently fragile. I've driven in Europe as well and concur that it makes sense there.

They're, by far, better drivers in a better system. We were in a Taxi coming into London and being passed by Motorcyclists in the HOV lanes as they lane split. The difference was the Cabbie was actually paying attention and moved over a bit to let it happen.

No cursing, no swerving, no crap.

In the GTA this would've been on the evening news as a fatality. My observations, especially while riding, are that folks here don't like to be passed.

The mistake I see my fellow Motorcyclist make are not as dramatic as your example, (provided by said Motorized Jerk), but rather riding like most drive.

A Bike of 600cc or more has more than adequate power to go from 100KMH to 140KMH and back down again in mere seconds. Yet when this power is used to get past a 4 Wheel Mini-van it can easily be construed as aggressive driving in our little GTA world.

In fact, it's essential to survival. Staying anywhere near 4 wheels on 2 wheels is a death sentence.

You race, you drive a multitude of high performance vehicles. No doubt you understand the difference between the Jerk and the example I just gave. Passing quickly and effectively versus 'The Jerk'.

From what I've observed, my fellow GTA drivers do not discern any difference and as a Motorcyclist I get lumped in with the jerk.

Irritated over Lane-splitting? Let's just on work on not getting upset by be passed.

Then Lane discipline and then, maybe, a generation from now we could try adopting lane-splitting.

RT-Guy

Michael Weijers

This tired old argument of bike vs. car has been going on since Harley met Davidson. Joan Claybrook raised it to a shrill art form in the 1970s as head of the NHTSA. It also gets trotted out every six months about bicycles, pedestrians etc. I'm surprised the horsey set hasn't weighed in.
Yes, there are plenty of motorcycle riders out there who take foolish risks, with themselves and those around them, but they are far out-numbered by the car drivers who do the same. Stand on any busy corner and within five minutes you'll witness any number of acts of four-wheeled stupidity.
I've been riding motorcycles for 32 years and while I've pulled my share of dumb/thoughtless moves (and been lucky enough to survive them), by far the greatest threat have been the oblivious, self-righteous car drivers who secretly believe everyone on two wheels has a death wish and are all too willing to lend a hand in fulfilling it.
Why do we ride? At the risk of sounding like some dime-store philosopher, the t-shirt really does say it best: "If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand."

Mark Richardson

Hey Jim:

I didn't say that lane-splitting is legal here - it's very illegal, and the cops will bust motorcyclists for doing it if they catch them. Something along the lines in the HTA of "drivers cannot overtake in the same lane." But I did say that lane-splitting, or whitelining, for motorcyclists is legal everywhere in the world - encouraged even - except for Canada and the United States, with the exception of California. In fact, to take it a step further, it's even legal in many parts of Europe for motorcyclists to use the bus lanes. If it speeds up traffic and eases congestion, why not?
- Mark R., the esteemed Editor

Chris

I am an avid "bikey". I don't, but I would love to be able to lane split, or at the very least lane filter when traffic is stopped esp due to a traffic jam. I'm not crazy, I just want to keep moving like everyone else, I just happen to ride a vehicle small enough to fit in smaller spaces.

However it is illegal in Ontario, it is at least mentioned in the drivers handbook how every vehicle is entitled to their own lane. Something I wish some cage drivers would remember when trying to merge into me on my bike to which the usual reply (when I get one) is "I didn't see you", for the love of Pete LOOK first.

It used to be you could get a "improper driving while highway divided into lanes", now you can be charged under HTA 172 for "driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to drive, without justification, as close as possible to another vehicle, pedestrian or fixed object on or near the highway" HTA Ontario Reg 455/07 Section 8iii.

I agree that some "bikeys" make others look bad, just like some "cagers" make the others look bad.

Either way I ride like I'm invisible & I fully understand the right of weight. In a perfect world the right of way would exist all the time.

Steve W

Hang on, you've turned a legitimate criticism on a reckless rider (the guy being a bit crazy on the highway) around halfway through to tar us all with the same brush because of us legally 'filtering' (as it's called in Europe) through a traffic jam?

Your esteemed editor colleague is correct. My commute goes from 45 minutes to 30 when I ride the bike. If I filtered, it's probably even quicker. And that's obeying the speed limits along the way too.

It's a trade off. I get rained on, gusted on, bugs splatted on my visor. But I get there quicker than you sitting in climate-controlled comfortable seats with the radio on.

I'll leave the flaming to someone else.

Bill Taylor

I had the lane-splitting discussion with Mark last year in a bar in Utah (at the end of the day's driving and riding). I was driving the Hyundai Accent to L.A., he was riding his Harley on this book tour.
It wasn't just the splitting itself that spooked me a little but the speed some of these guys were going. And in states with no helmet laws, at that.....

Crash Corrigan

When I worked as a dispatch rider in London back in the late '70s-early '80s we used to joke that our life expectancy was around 3 years. I did it for 18 months until one day when I was sent to pick up a package from another rider who was en-route. When I arrived to meet him, he wasn't so much as "en route", as "on the floor with a crowd around him". The ambulance guys were still scraping up what was left of the poor fellow and yet my dispatcher was more interested in whether I'd yet obtained the package which he was carrying. It wasn't so much the morbid fellow on the end of the radio which got to me, but the look in the police officer's eyes as I reached into the guys saddlebags to retrieve the parcel. This was around the same time that a friend of mine died in the tunnel near Hyde Park Corner. He went into it late at night and somehow hit the top of the sidewall, and that's high enough for a double-decker bus to go through. Needless to say, I quit the job shortly after this.

I still ride now because it's in my blood (My Grandfather was a wall of death rider and his Brother rode the globe of death with a live lion in a sidecar), but you couldn't pay me enough to ride in downtown traffic nowadays.

One of our major problems that we have here in Canada is that our riding season is so short. Other road users are not accustomed to seeing bikes on the road all of the time, so when Spring comes, they're not ready for us. My advice to riders is, get out onto the "open road" and enjoy the freedom which a bike offers you, but if you have to venture in and around heavy traffic, take it easy and ride like everyone else on the road is a complete and utter moron (Many of them are!). That way you stand half a chance of surviving and becoming an old fart rider like me. Bikes are a lot of fun if you respect them, but always remember the golden rule of motoring...Big Truck hurt little truck - Little truck hurt car - Car seriously hurt motorcycle!

Derek

I disagree with your stand point. Car drivers do astonishingly stupid things that put us motorcycle riders at risk. That is the reason we do what we can do get away from traffic and cars. On the highway this sometimes means passing a few cars to get into the clear ahead.

Lane splitting is debatable, but I will admit it certainly speeds up a trip downtown.

And lastly, there is no possible way you can achieve the exhilaration found on 2 wheels with 4. That's why we ride.

Randy

I went to France with my Family in 2005. Driving into Paris in our Renault 'Scenic' rental. We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the motorway.

I had NO IDEA the motorcyclists over there do lane splitting. It was fortunate it was a warm day as I had the window rolled down, so I could hear an approaching MC so I decided not to change lanes. When the MC passed us, he had to be traveling at least 120 kph, while the rest of us were crawling along at 40. Needless to say it would have been ugly if I didn't hear him approach.

Because I adjust my mirrors they way Formula 1 drivers adjust them which is to use the side mirrors to eliminate the blind spots, I couldn't see the MC approach.

If I did make that lane change, I bet the guy would be up for a Darwin award.

Matt Tesluk

California also allows lane splitting. They have apparently done studies which show that the bike is safer to split in stop-and-go traffic than to stay in the lane and risk an unobservant driver rear-ending them (even a small tap could end up in a broken bike/rider). As well, the bike isn't wasting its gas idling. While traveling there, I made good use of this legal maneuver, and it was very uneventful, and very stress free to not sit in traffic for the 30 minutes I'm sure it saved me.

However, here in Ontario, it is hard enough to get people to use their turn signals, let alone to get them to keep their emotions in check when then are stuck in gridlock, and a bike can filter right by. In order to allow it here, Ontarians will need to get over the sense of entitlement they have for their lane, learn simple courtesy, and once again SHARE the road.

ps: while there are no charges related specifically to lane splitting in the Ontario HTA, police will hand out anything from "unsafe lane change" to "stunting" if caught (and in stop and go, that's a big IF). As well, if a driver were to elect to open their door and the motorcycle gets hit, there is HTA165 for this, but if there is proof of intent to cause harm to the motorcyclist, criminal charges could follow.

mxs

Why to flame you? It's your opinion. You have yours, I have mine.

Interesting, how it seems to bother you that lane-splitting works in Europe, but doesn't or wouldn't in Ontario. Why is that? Are the bikers in Europe so much more responsible and skilled, or do skills of the drivers in Ontario plainly speaking suck on average in comparison to European ones. Being born in Europe, I know what I think. How about you?

ck

"I saw one particularly loony bikey during my drive home from Quebec City last week."

I'm with you on that. I drove from Kingston to Toronto the other day, and I saw a complete loony too! He was in a red car -- aren't they all red? -- being a complete jerk. Weaving all over. Way too fast. Putting everybody at risk.

The author sounds like every other non-motorcyclist I've ever discussed bikes with. They always say, "Oh, you like bikes? My friend/relative/co-worker/poodle was killed on a bike." I respond by saying I had a friend/relative/co-worker who was killed in a car. Bemused look follows.

Tired, tired, tired cliche column.

And, er... "bikeys"? How old is this guy, 90? Velcro shoes?

Greg H

Without a doubt, motorcycles are awesome machines. But they belong on a track where they can be used to their potential.

I frequently think that if the motorcycle were a new invention today, it would be blocked from road use by politicians and insurers.

I feel badly for riders who are injured through no fault of their own (careless drivers), but lane splitting just seems like bad karma.

John Frewen-Lord

As you say Jim, lane splitting is common in the UK, and while we do expect it, it can still take you by surprise when sitting in a slow moving traffic jam. I am still amazed that I haven't had a mirror (power, heated, etc) taken off, or a long gouge down the side of my paintwork. I have however become a bit philosophical about lane splitting - if you ride on two wheels in all weathers, then maybe you deserve a bit of a break...

Ottawa Rider

The crux of your argument seems to be that 'bikeys' are crazy to begin with. So, how can you assign a level of risk to lane-splitting? If drivers would just take driving seriously and maintain the slightest bit of lane discipline, lane-splitting would be beneficial for all.

I am in favour of lane-splitting, but recognize that it is not likely compatible with the rather immature North American driving psyche. However, what I would really like to be able to do is filter. That is, moving through stationary or near stationary traffic instead of sitting there idling for no good reason. This can be done safely and is of benefit to everyone.

P.S. I prefer Jeremy Clarkson's term "motorbikists" to "bikeys".

andy johnston

Wow..If you have so much care and concern about the safety of a "RIDER" who travels immediately adjacent to an automobile, how do you feel about bicycles sharing the road with automobiles? How safe are they...Should we bury them with their bicycles? Now THAT is a real issue to discuss.

Scotty Forgie

As a "bikey"with 26 yrs on two wheels, and avid fan of Jim's diatribes, I can honestly say that I really couldn't care if lane splitting gets legalized or not here. "The Man" can still cite riders with 'Fail to remain in marked lane' tickets as the law sits right now. And I haven't an issue with that either. Where the hammer falls with me is when the Police see fit to cite a lane splitting rider with HTA 172 Stunting and Streetracing charges for this minuscule mistake. It was on CP24 last summer, when, in a gridlocked DVP mess, a biker, late for class at U of T to turn in a paper, saw fit to pass between stopped cars in a traffic jam, to afford himeslf passage to the next exit ramp a few hundred yards away. He, and the police officer involved both told of the lane splitting occurring at a walking pace, certainly not a bane to society, or recklessly endangering other motorists "parked" at a standstill in the gridlock. But the officer saw fit to abscond with the rider's licence and bike for 7 days, costing the accused thousands of dollars in towing, impound fees, raised insurance rates due to his licence suspension. And then when the accused finally got his day in court he was absolved of all charges and found innocent of stunting and streetracing. But did the law allow any avenue for him to reclaim his lost monies for towing, bike impounding, risen insurance rates for the next few years for a suspension that he was found not guilty of? No. Because this Draconian law is written in such a way that the arresting officer is judge, jury, and sentencing at the roadside. The accused is guilty at the cop's word. I know this has been gone over, but we still need to have this law fixed, because as it stands right now, it does no good to us as Canadians, to allow our politicians to erode away our basic rights and freedoms guaranteed to us by The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Like the right to trial by a fair and impartial tribunal, BEFORE punishment.

Muskokaphotog

Two comments: Just as a cyclist will nearly always lose a battle with a car, so will a motorcycle with a car. If a lane splitter comes racing along at twice the speed of highway traffic and a car makes an otherwise safe lane change, there may be a motor cycle flat on the road. On the other hand, in slow moving urban traffic, why not? Our urban centers should be much more two-wheel friendly. I do object to the summer convoys of motorcycles that come rumbling along, sometimes dozens at a time. My rural road in Muskoka is a favourite for this nonsense.

Joe U

I used to live and drive in California, where lane-splitting is legal and common.

Knowing the ability of any motorist to be driving while asleep, the practice always worried me.

However, from the Biker's point of view, the risk is minimized if you are lane-splitting to pass a car, and the quicker the pass, the safer - for any driver.

Also, in practice lane-splitting mostly occurred at low (or 0) speeds in rush-hour congestion.

Brodie Stoin

I agree -motorcycling may be a wonderful pursuit but is fraught with peril. I believe re-engineering the basic motorcycle could make it safer yet just as enjoyable...

Firstly, I'd add two additional wheels to stabilize the vehicle (no more risk of 'dropping' the bike if evasive manoeuvring is required).

Then I would encapsulate riders in a reinforced frame for crash safety. Plus, for comfort, I'd add a windshield and glass surrounding the 'green house' and wrap the framing in sheet metal -so that riders would no longer have to wear helmets but would still be safe.

This design could allow more than one passenger to enjoy the ride -as many as 4 or 5 - and would allow plenty of storage for weekend treks...

Sure, this motorcycle will bear much more weight but with the added stability you can now utilize a much bigger engine - say a 6 cylinder...

Morgan

First, the fact that the author can approve or not approve comments suggests instant bias . . . I will try to post nonetheless.

If you do not get motorcycles then why write about it? No doubt there are as many idiots in cars as on two wheels. So Kenzie, why not stay with what you know and understand? It would make a far more informative article as your musings as simply uninformed . . . I welcome anyone's opinions but not ill-informed judgements.

Jim

Mr Esteemed Editor:

Sorry if I misunderstood!

Legal or not, it's crazy.

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi Michael:

This is an argument that never gets tired to me, and thanks for helping to make my point. The stupider car drivers are, the less sense motorcycles make in traffic.

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi Chris:

Never heard us called "cage drivers" before.

Again, it sort of makes my point!

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi Steve:

Thanks for not flaming me.

But again, you bikeys keep making MY point! If you get there at all, you may arrive a few minutes earlier, but wet and bug-splattered.

Sounds like fun!

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi Bill:

Don't get me started on helmet laws!

Actually, it was a bikey who told me that bikeys have the right not to wear a helmet. But when they crash, they also have the right to lie in the ditch until they get better...

Jim

Jim

Hi Derek:

Again, the stupider the car drivers...

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi mxs:

Lane-splitting bothers me in Europe too, although as several commentators have pointed out, it is legal there, and both riders and drivers seem more aware of it.

Still, the risk seems enormous given the slight gains. The slightest mistake by a driver results in a scrape on his fender, and a mangled biker.

I don't like those odds at all.

And over here, it is near-suicidal to even contemplate it...

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi ck:

For a "tired cliche" column it sure generated a lot of thoughtful comments.

Yes, there are a lot of stupid car drivers out there. Which is why I drive a 'cage'.

How old am I? I've managed to live long enough to father four lovely kids, I still have all my skin, the only bones I've ever broken were in my nose (nasty squash incident), and I've survived two major roll-overs in race and rally cars thanks to seat belts, helmets and roll cages.

I did lay a bike down once (at rest, thankfully, and learned my lesson cheap).

Never owned Velcro shoes, although they seem a clever idea. But my Pilotis are even better, with their elastic laces with slide-tab closures; easier to get off in airport security line-ups when I'm on my way to Silverstone (three weeks ago), Spa (two weeks ago), or Zolder (last week)...

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi Andy:

I know people who have been killed on bicycles too.

I also once personally witnessed a bicycle courier run a red and try to dodge a car that came (legitimately) out into the intersection. The guy slammed into a concrete pole and wasn't moving when the paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. Never did find out what happened to him, but I can guess.

My point - and I hope my bike-riding daughter is reading this - you don't have to be an idiot two-wheeler to get killed or seriously hurt in a crash with an idiot car driver.

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hi Scotty:

W/R/T the 'lane-splitter / street racer", your story perhaps better than most outlines not only the idiocy of this law (how can you 'street race' at a walking speed?) but the idiocy of some cops.

Surely he had better things to do that day, like run about ten thousand people for hogging the left or middle lanes on the 401.

The fact that the Justice of the Peace agreed with the perp is, as you point out, irrelevant as far as this law is concerned.

Wonder if he failed his course?

Rest assured that cases are working their way through the legal system challenging this thing on a number of counts.

If all else fails, the best we can hope for is an election. Don't forget, for better or (mainly) for worse, the fight against Photo Radar got Mike Harris elected.

Jim Kenzie

Jim

Hey Brodie:

I like the way you think!

What would you call this new invention??

Jim Kenzie

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