Feb 16, 2013

More of the Same

A short burst of comments on one of the off-road groups I belong to fired up the geezerly aspect (90% or greater) of my personality. One of the guys cited ex-Minnesotan Pat Hahn as a source for why Minnesotans wouldn't take to lane-splitting well.

Pat is a good guy, a friend, a serious motorcyclist, and a published motorcycle author. However, his opinion on lane-splitting is mostly inexperienced and anecdotal. Now that he's a west coast guy (Oregon), his opinion has shifted a bit from when he was a Midwesterner and had only experienced lane-splitting from the perspective of the young hooligan who did it, illegally, when he was pissed off or in a hurry. One of the cool things about writing is that you can become an official "expert" purely by research. You don't have to actually know anything. Even cooler, once you write about something and get it published the lazy assholes in the Mainstream Media will repeatedly ask your uninformed opinion about this subject that you know so little about. As long as the rest of us know that media "experts" are nothing more than people in a bar with barely-informed opinions (like the rest of us), their opinions can't do much harm. When we imagine that the lazy assholes who print and broadcast the crap that passes for information in our braindead society are actually bothering to identify and interview real "experts," we're all doomed.

So, when one of the guys cited Pat as a source and justification for his fear of lane-splitting, I posted a pissed-off response. The more I think about it, the more pissed off I am.

I think Pat's attitude has changed now that he's actually had an opportunity to use lane-splitting in northern California. I did more than 100k miles, lane-splitting constantly, in my decade in southern California. I totally disagree that it is a "dangerous" practice, unless we're just applying "dangerous" to any aspect of being a motorcyclist on-road. You can do anything stupidly and many motorcyclists belong in public buses because they don't have the skills or brainpower to safely transport themselves across a padded room.

California has done motorcycles a serious disservice by eliminating/minimizing
exhaust noise regulation. Loud pipes and lane splitting do not coexist peacefully. Pick one, act like a hooligan or become part of the transportation system.

Midwesterners are specially poor and aggressive drivers, something I realized
  when my wife and I spent the beginning of January in Oregon and northern California. I had almost given up on American drivers knowing how to merge in traffic, manage reasonable spacing, or cope with moving vehicles. As congested and overcrowded as the San Francisco area is, traffic moves fast there. Incapable idiots are not tolerated and will be pulled over and ticketed by the CHP for trying to merge at something under the prevailing speed.

If we tossed out the useless and irritating "Start Seeing Motorcycles" campaign
and put the same energy into informing drivers that lane-sharing is legal, Minnesotans would figure it out as fast as anyone. A motorcycling campaign to wise up drivers to motorcycle advantages and one that also attempted to civilize motorcyclists might save motorcycles from obsolescence: helmet requirements,
massively tougher training and licensing requirements, relentless exhaust noise and emissions enforcement (for all vehicles), legalized lane splitting and filtering, and state-legislated motorcycle/scooter parking advantages.

Otherwise, autonomous vehicles and computerized traffic will make motorcycles as obsolete as buggy whips. And those things are coming a lot faster than you think.

--- In TC_Dualsport@yahoogroups.com, Needs Information wrote:

> I drive the metro area as much as 750 miles per week, from 5AM to 6PM mostly. Commuters can be a very nasty bunch. Some are sneaks that use the shoulders to gain advantage and some are self proclaimed traffic moderators that will block others from not doing as they do. MnDOT has a campaign, not so well promoted, to do the Zipper Merge. The 'moderators' get very very aggressive against this policy despite its official promotion by MnDOT and state law enforcement. It may take a generation to get the moderators off the road, if ever. Their bad attitudes get passed on to their children pretty much.
> What has this to do with lane sharing? These same moderators would rather see you crash than be gotten ahead of, and many will do whatever they can to prevent your passing illegally (or even legally if you could ever get the legislators to change the laws) . . .

One reply (abbreviated) noted:

> We're a pretty conservative bunch here, lower case C,
. . . "Minnesotans would figure it out as fast as anyone. " I have grave doubts about that my friend, emphasis on the grave. Just too much anger on the roads. "Midwesterners are specially poor and aggressive drivers" No legislation will change this I'm afraid.
. . .
> Not to throw water on your fire, but I don't expect to see much change going on with lane usage legislation, or cage driver attitudes.
My response is:

No fire to dowse, there. I have no doubt that the whole of the US is too lower-case-conservative (as in timid-to-downright-cowardly) to make any useful changes in any activity. We are a decaying empire that hasn't yet smelled the rot. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to suggest the metric system and we still can't manage that obvious change. National lane-sharing is not likely, but a national ban on motorcycles on public roads is almost a certainty as autonomous cages take over the major roadways (on its way to your town soon). Change or die is the rule of nature and we've probably picked "die."

I think you overrate the "genius" of California drivers, they have girlyman moderator/regulators there, too. I put solid steel wraparound bumpers on my old Toyota pickup to move them out of my merge lane when I lived in CA in the 80's. The 1% are particularly arrogant about holding their space on California roads; Mercedes, Volvos, Suburbans, and the $100k sports car crowd. Those people never go away, but you can make their lives and position precarious enough that they begin to suck it up and keep their stupid ideas to themselves.

Still, most people are reasonable and allow space and even make space for sharing and filtering. You can't eliminate an activity because someone will object to it. Ok, you can, but that's a conservative way to design and maintain a system and it will fail from an inability to evolve.

The cool thing about splitting is it is voluntary. You can wait in traffic if you don't have the skill for it it, think it is dangerous, or don't have an appropriate vehicle. There were times when I thought splitting wasn't the best choice and I stayed where I was. Mostly, I split anytime traffic was moving under the speed limit. Seriously, I suspect I split for at least 100k miles of my 300k motorcycle miles in CA, though. I rarely ever stayed in my lane on PCH between Huntington Beach and Long Beach.

AMA Press Release: "Washington, D.C.: Self-driving cars would be allowed to operate on Washington, D.C., roads under the Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012 (B-931), introduced by Councilwoman Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). The bill would authorize autonomous vehicles, which are self-driving cars, to operate on the roads in the district, establish a system for taxing users of autonomous vehicles based on vehicle miles traveled -- 1.875 cents per mile -- require the district Department of Motor Vehicles to create an autonomous vehicle designation for registration, titling and operation permit purposes, and establish safe operating protocols for such vehicles"


Trobairitz said...

Hey - we had coffee with Pat Hahn yesterday morning and Troubadour was riding with him yesterday to film a Team Oregon training video.

Maybe we need to ask him if his opinions have changed.

It is funny how things are taken as gospel after being read one time, without realizing that the author can change their opinions later. I never used to like mushrooms but I love them now. My opinions have changed.

That is over simplifying it, but you get what I am trying to say.

T.W. Day said...

It is always interesting to hear Pat's opinions, even when I disagree. He's been passing on a collection of lane-splitting research and articles, which I have used here and in my MMM column.

Even more interesting, I'd like to know more about how Team Oregon has contributed to Oregon's 50% reduction in motorcycle deaths. Now that is a success story.

Trobairitz said...

I think, in my humble opinion, that a lot of Team Oregon's success comes from their team of dedicated instructors who genuinely care about motorcycles and teaching old and new riders to be as safe as they can be when they are on the road.

Yes, it is a mandated course for anyone under 51 right now, and next year it steps up to everyone, but without the instructors and course material it wouldn't be the same.

Not only are they teaching people to ride but are advocating ATGATT and teaching them the observation skills needed to stay alive and identify potential dangers and hazards as well as how to react to those dangers and hazards.

In Oregon we seem to see mostly single vehicle motorcycle accidents and the cause is usually failure to negotiate a curve. I think proper training is essential to teach the riders how to choose your entry speed and avoid that target fixation that might take you off the road.

One of the other things that is great about Team Oregon is they encourage further training beyond the Basic Riders Course, they have an Intermediate course, a Rider's Skills Practice course and also an Advanced Riders Training Course.

Now if only we could encourage drivers of 4-wheeled vehicles to take some advanced training..... I don't think getting your license at 16 and never brushing up on your skills is the way to go, but it is the norm.

Okay, off soap box now......

T.W. Day said...

Could be. Most of the MN instructors I work with are pretty dedicated to those concepts, too. However, we're not doing anything noticeable to morbidity or mortality statistics. Like the rest of the MSF country and most of the world (outside of Japan), training seems to have little impact on safety statistics.

I have to say, though, when I was in Oregon in January (perfect riding weather all 8 years, too), I didn't see enough motorcycles on the road to consider the state much of a motorcycling domain.

Could be most of the motorcyclists in Oregon have moved on to cages? That was a real disappointment. Pat tried to justify the absence of motorcyclists by claiming that Oregon riders don't like riding in the cold (50-65F is cold) or rain (seriously?). If MN weather swapped with OR . . . what am I saying? Nobody rides here, either.

T.W. Day said...

I snagged this stuff from the Oregon Motorcyclist site (http://oregonmotorcyclist.com/misc_page.php?page=training):

The 2009 Oregon Legislature passed several laws that affect motorcyclists. Some of the laws go into effect Jan 1, 2010; others are phased in over several years. Most of the laws are related to motorcycle endorsements for Oregon driver licenses and motorcycle rider training.

Senate Bill 124
Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, Senate Bill 124 increases the penalty for riding without a motorcycle endorsement from a Class B (minimum $360) to a Class A (minimum $720) violation. The law also requires a court to suspend the fine for the violation if the rider completes ODOT-approved motorcycle training and receives a motorcycle endorsement within 120 days of sentencing.

Senate Bill 546
Senate Bill 546 will require all new motorcycle riders to complete an ODOT-approved motorcycle safety course before they can be issued a motorcycle endorsement by DMV. The law has a five year phase-in period based on the age of the rider.

ODOT-approved motorcycle safety courses are provided by the TEAM OREGON Motorcycle Safety Program. Since 1997, Oregon law has required all riders under 21 to complete a TEAM OREGON Basic Rider Training course as part of the endorsement process. Under the new law, mandatory training will be phased in for all new motorcycle riders regardless of age. Beginning Jan 1, 2011, new motorcycle riders under the age of 31 must complete the TEAM OREGON Basic Rider Training course as part of the endorsement process unless they have a valid motorcycle-endorsed license from another state. Additional age groups will be phased in as follows:

Jan. 1, 2012 - All new riders under age 41
Jan. 1, 2013 - All new riders under age 51
Jan. 1, 2014 - All new riders under age 61
Jan. 1, 2015 - All new riders no matter what age.

As of Jan. 1, 2010, Senate Bill 546 increases the motorcycle endorsement fee for new applicants from $77 to $87 (this does not include the cost of a Class C driver license). The new law also adds two questions to the DMV regular driver license knowledge test pertaining to the safe operation of cars and trucks around motorcycles.

House Bill 2370
As of Jan 1, 2010, House Bill 2370 requires insurance companies to provide a discount on motorcycle insurance to riders who complete an ODOT-approved rider education course. The amount of discount is not prescribed in the law, only that a discount needs to be given.

I have to suspect some of this intelligent legislation has a positive effect on Oregon's fatality rates, too.