May 18, 2024

Putting Putting Last Things First

In it’s usual half-assed, half-cocked way, the Minnesota legislature is considering motorcycle lane-sharing/splitting in an amendment tacked on to Minnesota Statutes 2022, section 169.974, subdivision 5. The new sections are 1) “Only if the operation of the motorcycle does not exceed 40 miles per hour and is operated at no more than 15 miles per hour over the speed of traffic, a person may operate a motorcycle (1) abreast of, overtake, or pass
another vehicle within the same traffic lane, or (2) between two parallel lanes of moving or stationary traffic headed in the same direction
. . . and 2) An operator of a motor vehicle that intentionally impedes or attempts to prevent any operator of a motorcycle from operating a motorcycle as permitted under paragraph (e) is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.”

I have no significant objection to the first article as it appears to be a reasonably competent copy of the California lane-splitting/sharing statutes that have been in place since the 80s. The second half is an extension of the entitled, cowardly Minnesota motorcycle attitude that it’s everyone else’s job to watch out for incompetent, reckless and careless motorcyclists. We’ve been here before in my column, many times in fact. Not only do motorcyclists imagine themselves to be free from having to bother with noise and emissions regulations, because of their incredible self-importance, they imagine that “right of way” traffic laws should always assume the motorcycle has the right of way. Lawyers are going to have a field day with this nonsense, but motorcyclists are risking everything putting this horse before the cart.

I love splitting lanes, even though I have rarely done it since I left California in 1991. I feel confident that I would be able to continue that practice, even in less-skilled and passive-aggressive Minnesota traffic. However, I have experienced the aftermath of following one of our many grossly illegal biker gangs in both Cities’ traffic and on rural roads. After those clowns have passed a few motorists (or the motorists have suffered the risk of passing them) most everyone on the road is in a mood to swat a motorcycle. Recently, a friend tried to justify this nonsense by claiming a weird relationship, “loud pipes, which many riders find naturally enjoyable, same as playing a musical instrument loudly, which many musicians naturally enjoy.” I suspect I might find it enjoyable to take potshots at noisy vehicles, but I suspect my enjoyment ends when the bullet hits the target? Who cares what 1% of 1% of the population “enjoys” if that impinges on the peace and quiet of the majority of the people in hearing distance? Not to mention the fact that it is illegal in Minnesota and most states to modify either the exhaust of intake of a modern vehicle. The fact that cops are too lazy and/or cowardly to mess with that crowd does not justify the noise or make that behavior legal. The idiotic “road captain” nonsense is making enemies for motorcyclists every time that privilege is exercised on top of the noise that always comes with that crowd.

learn to rideBut mixing pointless hearing-damaging noises and anti-social behavior with a driving tactic, that is as risky and depending on tolerant behavior as lane splitting, is gambling with lives (on both sides of the obvious crashes that are going to happen soon after this law goes into effect). I admit some of those lives are dirtbags, but too often the dirtbags bring down useful and decent people, which is where the “operator of a motor vehicle that intentionally impedes or attempts to prevent any operator of a motorcycle from operating a motorcycle as permitted under paragraph (e) is guilty of a petty misdemeanor” portion of this law is going to do damage in the best of cases. Since many traffic cops are going to default to assuming the cager caused the crash, even though statistics makes that pretty unlikely, ordinary drivers are going to punished for motorcyclists’ bad and/or incompetent behavior. After that happens a few hundred times, the majority of road users are going to object to being responsible for the irresponsible crowd.

Attracting the attention of the majority of road users and taxpayers is likely to backfire on those to imagine this law is going to be a good thing for Minnesota motorcycling. When taxpayers realize that absolutely nothing about allowing motorcycles on public highways can be economically justified, they will likely start considering the obvious and logical solution: relegating motorcycles to the “recreational vehicle” category and removing the damn things from public roads. And I am here to say “I told you so.” If we made the slightest effort to reduce the public nuisance aspects of motorcycles before introducing lane splitting, I think it might be possible to introduce the practice to Minnesota highway users. If whoever is driving this dumb idea ignores that fact, there will be blood.