8 Ball In The Wind

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lane Sharing Explained Part 3 Countering The Opposition

In the first two parts of this series, I discussed some of the various studies involving lane sharing.  With the 2014 and 2015 UC Berkeley Studies, and Dr. J.V. Ouellet's 2011 study being the main focus.  In this part of the series I will be discussing some of the opposition I have encountered working on the issue, and what could be used to counter that opposition.

I have encountered many varied facets of opposition.  Some of which actually seem less to be about lane sharing as about the perception of appearing interested.  The majority have been more disinclined to support the issue either simply because the WSP doesn't support it, or because of technical questions.  The latter is a much easier opposition to overcome; simply find and supply the answers in a concise and concrete manner (I didn't say it would be "easy" only "easier").  Countering the WSP's opposition is more difficult, as it is a much more ethereal opposition.  I have yet to receive a definite description of why they oppose it.  Usually their opposition is expressed in a vague and almost circular way.

Some of the opposition in the Washington State Legislature against lane sharing appears to be caused by a misconception that data was intentionally "cherry picked" to support our positions, while ignoring data that doesn't.  However, if the opposition would actually look at the number of studies; done in different years, by different researchers, on different continents, yet still having data that generally conforms might alter that mindset.  

Similarly there has been expressed the belief that somehow the studies from the University of California Berkeley somehow used inaccurate data, and additional studies should be done by a university in Washington.  The data that was gathered and analyzed by UC Berkeley came directly from collision reports and as part of the study, an additional form completed and submitted only on the data points the study was analyzing.  Since lane sharing isn't currently allowed in Washington State, any study done by a Washington university would have to rely on reviewing the same data as Berkeley had.  Therefore the only likely significant difference would be that the study was performed by a university in Washington rather than California; and at a significant waste of taxpayer dollars duplicating Berkeley's study no doubt.

These two facets of the same basic opposition would seem to be generated by a perception that lane sharing is 'dangerous' and maintaining position in traffic is 'safe'.  This perception would seem to stem from those in cars, relating to a space their vehicle can in no way fit through.  While people in sitting down inside their cars have a reduced field of vision compared to motorcyclists; who sit up higher and having a wider unobstructed field of view, allowing them to perceive the situation in a completely different way. 

Automobile drivers are strapped securely down inside their metal enclosure, protected from the environment and activity outside, and unable to do anything about their being restricted to moving within the lanes of traffic on the highway.  

Motorcyclists  have no enclosure around them to block possible view or movement.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has even endorsed lane sharing, stating in part; "A motorcycle's narrow width can allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on roadways where the lanes are wide enough to offer an adequate gap."  That statement alone shows a great deal of the reasons motorcyclists in Washington State should be allowed to lane share. 

Motorcyclists can use their mobility to allow drivers of other vehicles to see them better.  By using a safe and prudent speed differential, motorcyclists are able to take control of their own safety, all while aiding in reducing traffic congestion as well as carbon emissions.  No one knows better than a motorcyclist the vulnerable position we are in during heavy traffic congestion.  By allowing us to use our great advantage in maneuverability, acceleration and braking, to pass between lanes, motorcyclists are no longer being forced to endure an increased risk of injury and death by maintaining a position in an under-utilized lane space.  

A motorcyclists needs to be able to take charge of their own immediate safety.  Lane sharing allows the motorcyclists to this this.  Putting the motorcycling in charge of their own interaction with other vehicles on the road.  It is that control that provides motorcyclists with that element of safety.  That is why, as shown by the studies we have already looked at, that lane sharing collisions are fewer and less severe than for non-lane sharing motorcycle collisions.  With the width of our motorcycles no more than about three feet, there is still close to two feet of clearance on either side of out motorcycle.  Think about that, if there was a space on the road half again as wide as the clearance for your car to safely pass through, wouldn't you want to be allowed to move through it if you could in congested traffic?  That is all lane sharing is, and why motorcyclists want the option to be able to use that tool to help move safely through traffic.  It is the rider who makes the decision whether to proceed into a situation where a crash could occur. Since punishment for a bad decision will be immediate and painful, it is to the riders benefit to make fairly good decisions.

In this way, not only can the motorcyclist  select the most advantageous position to continue moving, and by doing so is no longer restricted to a vulnerable position that increases the risk of being seriously injured or killed.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Lane Sharing Explained Part 2 The Studies

As I had said in my last blog post, I will be discussing today the 2014 University of California Berkeley Lane Splitting Study and the 2015 UC Berkeley Lane Splitting Study.  Both studies show that motorcyclists that choose to lane split have reduced risk of head, torso, and fatal injuries in crashes.  As we have seen before, lane sharing crashes are only a fraction of the number of crashes involving motorcyclists.  Not just in California, but in Europe as well; as can also be seen in the European Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study (MAIDS).

When you look under the "results" on page 2 of the 2014 Berkeley study, you will note that it is compiled from data involving 7,836 motorcyclists.  This is a significant sampling, being roughly ten times larger than that of the 1981 'Hurt Report'.  The data obtained can be used to better understand the safety benefits of lane sharing.  Especially after comparing them to the findings of Dr. Ouellet's 2012 study showing approximately 60% of motorcyclists lane sharing during congested traffic situations.  Yet, only 0.6% of motorcycle crashes were related to lane sharing.

The 2014 Berkeley study shows a significant different in the make-up of motorcyclists in California who lane share.  The percentage of unlicensed riders was moderately lower among lane sharing motorcyclists at 18% compared to 22% of all other motorcyclists.  The lane sharing motorcyclists were also; less likely to carry a passenger (2%) compared to other motorcyclists (6%), less likely to be rear ended by another vehicle (2,7%) compared to the other motorcyclists (4.6%), less likely to be affected by alcohol (1.3%) compared to other motorcyclists (3.3%).  So, the 2014 Berkeley study shows that lane sharing motorcyclists were more likely to be; properly licensed, solo riders, at a lower risk of being rear-ended, as well as being less likely to have consumed alcohol than other motorcyclists who chose not to lane share.  These findings conformed well to the 2015 Berkeley study which contained a sampling of 5,969 motorcycle collisions.

Both studies also show a significant difference in the number and severity of injuries received by lane sharing motorcyclists.  Injuries to the torso, and head, and fatal injuries were all significantly lower for lane sharing motorcyclists.  The differences in both studies conformed to each other extremely well, showing results that generally conform to 

2014 Injuries: lane sharing motorcyclists (LSM's) vs non-lane sharing motorcyclists (NLSM's)

  • Head injuries  LSM's 9.1%   NLSM's 16.5%
  • Torso injuries LSM's 18.6% NLSM's 27.3%
  • Fatal injuries  LSM's 1.4%   NLSM's 3.1% 

2015 Injuries: lane sharing motorcyclists (LSM's) vs non-lane sharing motorcyclists (NLSM's)

  • Head Injuries  LSM's 9%  NLSM's 17%
  • Torso injuries LSM's 19% NLSM's 29%
  • Fatal injuries LSM's 1.2%  NLSM's 3%

Both studies indicate that lane sharing motorcyclists tend to be better equipped, solo riders during commute hours, traveling at lower speeds.  While there are a segment of riders who travel at a higher speed differential, most travel at lower speeds in relation to the flow of traffic.  With the overall lane sharing activity beginning to drop of sharply between 35 & 40 mph.

I would strongly suggest that you follow the links in this blog post, and read the studies for yourself.  If lane sharing is to become an option in Washington State, then the motorcycling community needs to become better informed on the facts, and able to counter arguments that opponents may bring forward.  I'll discuss some of those arguments in the final part of this three part series.  

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lane Sharing Explained Part 1 An Introduction

Lane Sharing is simply described as the practice of motorcycles passing through slow moving or stationary traffic by utilizing the space between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.  The image above provides a reasonable representation.  As depicted above; when lane sharing is allowed, more vehicles are able to utilize the same pavement area enabling more vehicles to move through congestion overall.  Lane Splitting is the same practice, only at highway speeds and above.  While Lane Filtering is this technique practiced on city streets to "filter' up through traffic to intersections.

It seems as if, even when presented with the studies showing the effectiveness of lane sharing,  some legislators and others simply refuse to believe it.  So I am taking this time to explain the practice in as simple a way as I can.  All while including ample supporting information.  Not so much in the belief that it will be sufficient to convince everyone, but to at least give them references to research and discover the truth for themselves.

Riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous thing.  Riders don't have 'crumple zones', we have perhaps some leather to protect us.  It is up to the rider to take control of our own safety.  After all, it is the rider that must pay the inevitable price for our actions, not some lawmaker.  By taking control of our own actions and options for moving through traffic, motorcyclists can help insure our own protection in the moment.  In the end, it is our own riding skills that we must rely on to protect ourselves.  We have to be constantly vigilant for the actions of other drivers that could lead to our injury or death.  This is just one of the reasons I am an active proponent of lane sharing on Washington State's highways.

In 2011, Dr. J.V. Ouellet, a co-author of what has been called the most in-depth study on motorcycle traffic safety of the 20th Century, the Hurt Study, published a study entitled "Lane Splitting on California Freeways".  In this study, among other things, the data from the Hurt Report was compared to new research performed by Dr. Ouellet's team.  It was found that the conditions under which lane sharing occur conformed quite closely to that from the late 1970's.  Dr. Ouellet also found that lane sharing activity decreased as freeway traffic speeds increase.  With a quite definite decrease above 40 mph.  Also, motorcycle crashes involving lane sharing account for a very small number (less than 1%) of all motorcycle crashes.  In the 1970's research for the Hurt Report only 0.6% of motorcycle crashes involved lane sharing.  In the European report MAIDS (Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study) which studied crashes in Europe during 1999-2000 the percentage of lane sharing involved crashes was only 0.4%.  

One of the prime arguments many of those who oppose lane sharing is the risk of the motorcyclists being hit by a vehicle that suddenly changes lane in front of the motorcycle.  The following is a quote from Dr. Ouellet's study that addresses that concern directly.  "The risk that a car might change into the motorcycle's path does not disappear when the rider is maintaining a normal position.  Most motorcycle/car crashes occur when a car driver fails to see a motorcycle, and making an unsafe lane change after failing to see a motorcycle in an adjacent lane is just another variation on the common problem.  In addition to the risk of a lane-change crash, motorcyclists in a normal lane position face the risk of a rear-end collision, with the motorcycle striking the rear of the vehicle ahead or being struck from behind by a vehicle following it too closely."

A rider maintaining normal lane position has little or no ability to affect whether a car in an adjacent lane will intrude into the motorcycle's space.  The motorcyclist is entirely reliant on the car drivers's vigilance and judgement.  A vulnerability that strikes the very heart of the great majority of motorcycle/car crashes.

To put it simply, data suggests that lane sharing may be safer than NOT lane sharing.   If this finding is valid, then laws restricting and effectively banning lane sharing could easily be having the unintended result of increasing the risk of motorcycle crashes.  Thereby increasing the risk of serious injury or death.  Consider it objectively and see what you think.  I'll be covering the 2014 & 2015 University of California Berkeley studies on the practice in an upcoming post, so keep your eyes open for it.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Some House Transportation Committee Members Upset With Aggressive Tactics Of Bikers

As the motorcycling community has tried to apply pressure to achieve the goal of a public hearing on the lane sharing bill in the House Transportation Committee, some members of the committee found the email requests of some members of the community to be aggressive, bordering on threatening.  There is no place in the political process for the use of threats or malicious emails.  They tend to have the exact opposite effect that is desired.  Only pissing off the person receiving them.  That is why, even if you disagree, it is still a good idea to be diplomatic and respectful when communicating with legislators.  Think about it, if someone disrespects you in a message, are you likely to do something they are asking you to do?  I think not.  So I have to ask if anyone did get nasty or disrespectful, did you get the reaction you wanted?  

There were even reports of a website created to attack Rep. Clibborn on this issue, as I was informed by the Assistant Majority Whip during a brief discussion outside the capitol on Monday (March 20th).  He made sure that I had understood how upset many of the legislators were about this.  Besides numerous comments and posts on Facebook, this blog seems to be the only other online site speaking out on this issue.  However, as you can easily discover by looking at the archives, this blog has been running since 2010, and has only made a handful of reports on this issue, and yes, those have been in the past week or so.  But I have tried not to be disrespectful, only pointing out the facts as I know them.  I would hope this blog is not considered a weapon to attack individuals, but to express my opinion on things I am involved in.

Whether good or bad, the issue of Lane Sharing is getting talked about in the legislature.  Sadly, the talk seems to be more about an aggressive challenge to one of their own than the merits of the bill.  That talk is causing concern to many.  Including supporters of the motorcycle community.  Even the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee expressed concerns that needed to be allayed.  I am only partially sure my telling him that it was specifically stated to be "polite" when making emails or calls regarding the bill actually eased his concerns. 

One of the worst things that can happen to our efforts in Olympia is for our respect and support among legislators to shrink due to the effect of a few individuals who allowed their zeal to overtake their common sense and civility.  Unless someone is out to unintentionally sabotage the efforts of the motorcyclists of Washington, I would hope that no one would make aggressive or threatening emails in an emotional release as they typed.

As I have previously posted, The Chair of the House Transportation Committee has not, and is unlikely to call a public hearing on SSB5378 (The Lane Sharing Bill) prior to the cut-off for bills from the opposite chamber to pass out of committee this session.  When asked to hold a hearing last week the Chair simply repeated that it wasn't "my fault" but there wasn't going to be a hearing.  While she does have the final say on whether or not to hold a hearing, it now seems that the Chair was possibly trying to show loyalty in not stating why she wouldn't.  She apparently wished to do the honorable thing towards some members of her committee, and not 'throw them under the bus'.  However, this week I have been informed face to face by at least one committee member who had said they would speak to the Chair request a hearing, but now wanted to "clear the air", saying that she had "lied" about requesting a hearing from the Chair.  While it is a shame that happened, the fact that she had opposed the bill to begin with had always caused me to accept her statement that she would request a hearing with a grain of salt.  While it would have been nice if she had, it would also have been quite surprising.

Personally, I feel it would have caused much less confusion, and still not thrown anyone 'under the bus' if Rep. Clibborn simply said that she didn't believe there were enough votes in favor of the bill to warrant a hearing.  But using absolutes; such as "everyone" and "no one" lessened her credibility.  Especially after changing her story as she did on discussing the bill with Capt. Alexander of the WSP over a period of just a minute or two during our meeting.  However, in the long run, I doubt it would have changed things much.  Although hopefully there would have been less hard feelings all around.

The support for 5378 is spreading among motorcyclists.  There is even at this late date an effort to hold another protest at the capitol on this Friday (March 24th) that is not an ABATE sponsored protest.  I take that as a sign of broader support for the technique. As well as an opportunity to build a foundation on which a broad based effort can be made to educate legislators in the congestion relief and safety benefits of lane sharing on Washington's highways.  If we can properly educate enough legislators, than this can continue to roll forward.  It just needs to be done with mutual respect and honesty.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Bikers Protest In Support Of Lane Sharing BIll

On Friday, March 17th, bikers from across the state endured the cold and rainy weather and journeyed to Olympia to protest the decision not to hold a hearing on SSB5378 (The Lane Sharing Bill).  In just over two days, the protest went from an idea to being implemented.  Gathering around the circle around the sundial between the House and Senate offices, bikers peacefully showed their support for a hearing.  The threatening rain held off, and local television new media (KIRO 7 & KING 5) were there to cover the protest.

With the State Deputy Coordinator for ABATE of Washington and myself initiating the speeches, several other riders soon joined in to add their voice in support.  While the protest was a success as far as bringing in a wide range of motorcyclists using social media; it did not have the desired effect.  As the House Transportation Committee and its Chair still did not support the bill enough to call a hearing.

With the cut-off date for it to pass out of committee now only days away, the fight will have to move on to the interim period.  Using that time to educate legislators on the effect of the bill, and the safety benefits of lane sharing.  It's going to continue to be an uphill fight, but we are making progress.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bias Shown In Statements By Committee Chair

Washington State House Democrats member Judy Clibborn web page banner

After a Town Hall meeting at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue on Saturday, March 18th Rep. Clibborn spoke with a constituent that apparently she didn't realize was a motorcyclist.  Her statements provide a glimpse of her bias towards motorcyclists, and may explain why she rarely ever holds a hearing on motorcycle related legislation.  It seems that Rep. Clibborn finds motorcyclists to be "intimidating and scary".  During the conversation, she told her constituent that her committee members "lied" when they stated they would request a hearing on bill 5378.  When her constituent asked Rep. Clibborn to allow the committee to hear the bill, and let the committee vote on the bill, she reportedly responded; "No, I will not waste my time."

Apparently Rep. Clibborn also feels that motorcyclists have all "misinterpreted the studies" showing the benefits of lane sharing.  She stated that there are "no safety benefits of lane splitting."  Which would seem to point towards Rep. Clibborn or her staff not ever reading the studies from the University of California on the subject.  If they did, the safety benefits to motorcyclists would be quite clear and evident.

If these statements are true, it would seem to point to a deep rooted bias against motorcyclists.  This could explain why at least nine motorcycle bills have been referred to the House Transportation Committee since the start of the 2017 session, and not a single one has even been given a hearing.  It may also explain why a bill that was voted out of the Senate with a bipartisan majority vote is being ignored in the House Transportation Committee.  It could also explain why a bill requiring medical insurance for any motorcyclists who chose not to wear a helmet while riding, and that was given a bipartisan majority "Do Pass" recommendation in the House Business & Financial Services Committee was then referred to the House Transportation Committee and allowed to die from disinterested neglect.

What does it say about our state government when one individual can allow her personal bias to block an entire class of legislation, allowing to be killed irregardless of the support or benefit of the individual bills.  Telling Constituents that she considers holding a public hearing on bills to be a "waste" of her time should give Rep. Clibborn's constituents as well as the rest of Washington State's citizens concerns as to how well legislators are fulfilling their obligated duties.  Perhaps Rep. Clibborn and the House Democratic Party Leadership should reread this portion of their own website, and begin to actively follow through with their own words; "Everyone should have the freedom to travel quickly and reliably, regardless of where they come from or where they are going.  A modern transportation system with options for all commuters promotes not just mobility, but equality and opportunity."  With her ongoing practice of allowing motorcycle related bills to languish and die in her committee, it would seem the Rep. Clibborn does not feel Washington State's motorcyclists are worthy of that "equality and opportunity" the the House Democrats so proudly promote on their Transportation web page.  To categorically ignore motorcycle related transportation bills tends to contradict another part of that same web page; "Commuters need to get to their jobs without wasting time and money stuck in traffic."  Yet a bill that provides a low cost congestion relief effort is sentenced to death without even a hearing.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

WSP & WTSB Using Deceitful Videos To Manipulate Legislators

In Washington State, there seems to be a great deal of confusion and disinformation on what lane sharing is all about.  Experience has shown that when someone is able to be shown what is truly being discussed and what is being used to manipulate their opinion, their awareness is raised.  That is essentially what this article will attempt to do.  To raise your awareness of what lane sharing really is, and what it is actually about.

What lane sharing is truly about is moving through stopped or slow moving traffic.  In this case, it is also additionally restricted to the states “limited access facilities” (freeways).  So only when traffic on the freeway is stopped or moving at 25 mph or less, would motorcyclists even be able to attempt this practice legally.  Even then, they are restricted to only a maximum 10 mph speed differential above the speed that the traffic is moving.  That 10 mph speed differential is a key factor to consider.  As is the actual space between lanes of traffic, compared to the perceived space.

The average compact sedan on the road is about 15 feet long.  That 10 mph speed equals roughly 15 feet per second.  So in the time it has taken a lane sharing motorcyclist to think "One-One Thousand", they have only passed one compact sedan, and not even the gap between cars.  As a rider scanning four to five seconds ahead, that should effectively allow you more than enough time to react to developing traffic changes.  That is why, as studies from around the world have shown, motorcyclists actively lane sharing are involved in only a fraction of the total number of crashes where it is allowed.

The fact that lane sharing is performed generally during commute times during the weekday, and rarely at night or on weekends, demonstrates that this technique is used by citizens riding to and from their businesses and places of employment.  Studies have also shown that lane sharing motorcyclists tend to wear more protective gear, are less likely to be impaired by either drugs or alcohol, and are much less likely to be carrying a passenger.  Also; compared to the rest of motorcyclists on the roadways, lane sharing motorcyclists are involved in fewer crashes and have fewer and less severe injuries in general than other motorcyclists.  This would seem to contradict the WTSB and WSP's position on the dangers of lane sharing.

However, both the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Traffic Safety Board have resorted to using videos of illegal behavior to demonstrate their opposition to lane sharing.  However, the behavior shown in the videos would be illegal under the bill.  This can only be viewed as an attempt to manipulate the emotions while ignoring any educational opportunity available.  

For example; the Washington State Traffic Safety Board during a 2015 Senate Transportation Committee hearing on a lane sharing bill used as it’s testimony two videos of behavior that would have been illegal under the bill, and one that was edited for shock value in an attempt to show the committee how “dangerous” lane sharing would be.  The video clips that showed obvious illegal behavior brought rebukes from the committee member and the committee chair for that reason.  The representative from the WTSB could not seem to understand the question when asked if showing someone breaking the law was a good reason to oppose the law. 

The shock value video clip was much more damaging, but also much more deceitful.  In this clip, a touring motorcycle crashes between a pick-up truck and a semi truck’s trailer.  At the point in the video that the rider goes down behind the bike out of vision and the bike comes to rest, the video ends.  I have in my possession the full video.  Four seconds after his bike went down in this crash, the rider is standing up next to his bike.  This video was obviously edited to have the most emotional impact on the viewer.  The truth of the clip actually demonstrated the opposite of what was desired by the WTSB.  So it had to be altered prior to being shown to the committee.  This means that the WTSB used not only videos of illegal activity in its testimony to a Senate Committee, but also that they used a “doctored” video in an attempt to manipulate the committee members emotions.

WTSB video final shot, leaving viewer with impression crash victim died

Frame from same video 4 seconds AFTER the WTSB video ends, which shows
victim standing and looking down at his motorcycle.

I have been informed by no less than the House Transportation Committee Chair, Rep. Judy Clibborn that the Washington State Patrol is continuing this same effort of emotional manipulation.  During a meeting with members from ABATE of Washington, Rep. Clibborn stated that the WSP representative who she had just met with, had shown her a “5 minute long video” of a motorcyclist on a sport bike “racing” through slow moving traffic at high speeds. 

This means that in its opposition to lane sharing, the WSP has resorted to using illegal behavior of an individual to oppose a proposed law under which that very behavior would be illegal.  It is becoming obvious that the WTSB and the WSP seem to both have resorted to using the concept that if lane sharing becomes a law, people will violate it, therefore it should not be passed. 
Sounds like a rather silly argument, doesn’t it?  By using that same argument, shouldn’t then all the laws that the motorcyclists in these videos violate not have been passed into law?  

How many other laws were violated in these videos that the WSP and WTSB have used in their opposition to lane sharing reckless driving, speeding, aggressive driving, improper lane change, to name just a few.  Would the WTSB and WSP argue that those laws should also have been opposed because someone would violate them?  Of course they wouldn’t.  So what is the real reason the WSP and the WTSB so strongly oppose lane sharing?

Catch ya on the road sometime...