8 Ball In The Wind

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Complete Integration of Motorcycles Into Transportation Policy Planning

Currently, in Washington State, motorcycles make up 4% of the registered vehicles.  That still accounts for more than 250,000 vehicles.  Yet, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Department of Licensing seem to either totally misunderstand the differences between a motorcycle and an automobile, or simply choose to ignore those differences.  As we move closer to the date for reaching Washington State’s “Target Zero”, it is becoming more evident to those who see and understand the differences that strategies to reduce fatalities in automobiles simply cannot be as successful with motorcycles.  There are actually very few ways that the two are similar.  Until that is realized, and transportation policy ceases seeing motorcycles only as a safety concern, the fatality rate will continue to, in the words of the Washington Traffic Safety Commision, remain “fairly flat”.  Which means that the current strategies for automobiles are not as effective with motorcycles. 
One of the key problems is that transportation policy planners are currently virtually ignoring motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers.  Motorcycles are not currently being integrated into and are underutilized as a part of a comprehensive transportation policy.  The evidence of this is quite easy to observe.  Take for example the May 2016 WSDOT report Two-Lane Rural Highways Safety Performance Functions.  In the 406 pages of the report; pedestrians as mentioned 35 times, bicyclists are mentioned 33 times, and motorcycles aren’t even mentioned at all.  Similar disproportionate differences occur in WSDOT’s June 2016 report Urban and Suburban Arterial Safety Performance Functions: Final Report.  Possibly more telling of the institutionalized mindset regarding motorcycles is found in the March 2011 WSDOT report Performance Analysis of Centerline Rumble Strips in Washington State. 
In that report, it states that “In looking at contributing circumstances for the 35 motorcycle collisions in the dataset, it is clear that CLRS are not an effective countermeasure for this class of vehicle.”  The report does not state why centerline rumble strips are not an effective countermeasure, except that there were no reports of sleeping or fatigued motorcyclists associated with the 35 collisions.  However, the report does state that the percentage of fatal motorcycle collisions increased by 23%, from 30% to 53%, after installation of centerline rumble strips.  The authors of the report state on page 38 that because the motorcycle dataset was “skewing portions of the CLRS analysis”, all the motorcycle collisions were excluded.  The authors were so narrowly focused on the effect of centerline rumble strips on fatigued or sleeping drivers that they could not understand the probable reasons for the increase in fatal motorcycle crashes after installation of the rumble strips.  Even though they briefly describe the conditions under which most of the crashes occur, their narrow focus and unfamiliarity with even the basic handling characteristics of motorcycles led them to simply “exempt” all motorcycle collisions so that they were no longer “skewing” the data.  Anyone who has even the most rudimentary understanding of how a motorcycle travels through a turn can quickly see the relationship between rumble strips and 85% of the motorcycle collisions.  These collisions all had one thing in common; flat, unbanked curves.  Of the collisions on these curves, 86% were “lane departures to the outside of the curve”. 
A motorcycle maneuvers through a curve by leaning.  While the body of a car may “lean” somewhat on the suspension, for all intents and purposes, the tires are still flat on the roadway.  Motorcycles turn by actually leaning onto the curved sides of their tires.  While on the road, a car has approximately 144 square inches of contact with the road surface.  A motorcycle on the same road has approximately 16 square inches of contact with the road surface.  Now add the fact that in the curve, the motorcycle is no longer in the vertical plane with the roadway, but is off center at an angle equal to the amount of lean needed to maneuver through the curve.  Factor in the destabilizing oscillations of the rumble strip on a vehicle with an already offset center of gravity and the reduction of road surface contact below the already small 16 square inches as traction is lost due to the rumble strip.  If the destabilizing effects of the rumble strip, decrease in both traction and contact surface, added to lean angle lead to the bike going down in the curve, centrifugal force will send the now sliding motorcycle across the oncoming lane resulting in “lane departures to the outside of the curve”.  Just as 86% of the motorcycle collisions on curves were reported.
This combination of disregard and misunderstanding of motorcycles and how they interact with the roadway as opposed to automobiles has led to inefficient transportation policies and planning.  It is the hope of this paper to show that motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers can be an effective mode of personal transport that can, in conjunction with other modes of transportation, can be used to; ease traffic congestion during commute times, reduce parking space issues in urban and suburban curbsides, as a fully functioning mode of transportation.
That is not to say that by simply promoting the use of motorcycles all these things will come to pass, but with the promotion of certain strategies and options, the entire transportation system can experience the benefits.  As has been shown in other parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom.

Objectives and Actions

1.      Safety Statistics
Safety statistics are a key factor in demonstrating whether a process or a proposal such as this is functioning properly.  One must acknowledge the negative statistics, but also highlight progress made and focus on possible solutions.  Not merely stating the percentage of increase or decrease of fatalities for example.  Transportation planners need to look beyond the basic statistics and look to gain a greater understanding of transportation safety issues which should bring greater recognition of what sort of intervention might be effective and when.  With an eye towards including long-term trends, since most transportation plans are scheduled out over periods of decades.
The statistics themselves may require better clarification.  This would better provide beneficial data to transportation planners.  For example; simply stating whether a motorcycle fatality was wearing a helmet or not can be very misleading.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 64% of fatalities to unhelmeted motorcyclists are due to injury to parts of the body other than the head, while 81% of fatalities to helmeted motorcyclists are due to injury to parts of the body other than the head.  Thus reporting that a motorcyclist died while not wearing a helmet can be somewhat misleading and inflammatory.  If the fatality was due, say, to internal organ damage in the torso caused by trauma, whether or not a helmet was worn is unlikely to have had any effect on the final outcome.  Also, combining the statistics for “killed” and “seriously injured” can lead to an over estimation of the seriousness of the injuries.

2.      Government Recognition
It will be shown that motorcycling has its place alongside that of bicycling, walking, and public transit in the preferred transportation paradigm.  Doing so will promote the use of motorcycles in conjunction with bicycling and walking.  For those who are less likely to travel to light rail stations for the commute to work or school because the distance to walk is too great, or they are physically unable to pedal a bicycle that distance; motorcycles provide an excellent option while also taking up less room in light rail station parking areas.  Also, motorcycles in an urban center will consume much less parking space.  Allowing more people to park which should help reduce their stress as has been shown is an issue in the INRIX impact of Parking Pain study.
By the recognition of motorcycles as a fully integrated mode of transportation by transportation planners, it will help raise public awareness  Which should aid in reducing the current vulnerability of motorcyclists on the highways.  With greater awareness of the differences between automobiles and motorcycles, and their significantly different capabilities and deficiencies, transportation policies can be better focused to aid in increasing safety benefits for all transportation modes.

Conclusions and Discussion
Not recognizing and dealing with the different needs and capabilities of motorcycles on the public roadways may actually have the unintended effect of preventing the reduction of motorcycle fatalities simply due to transportation policies that provide infrastructure that is perfectly safe for an automobile, yet could be a fatal factor in; motorcycle stability, control, and safety.


Target Zero   http://www.targetzero.com/   

 Two-Lane Rural Highways Safety Performance Functions 2016    Shankar, et al.  WSDOT https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/reports/fullreports/856.1.pdf
Urban and Suburban Arterial Safety Performance Functions: Final Report 2016          Shankar, et al.  WSDOT
NHTSA DOT HS 810 856 Traffic Safety Facts, Oct. 2007 Bodily Injury Locations in Fatally Injured Motorcycle Riders  pg 2  https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/websites/crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/lps96244.pdf

INRIX Impact of Parking Pain study   Cookson, Pishue  2017  http://www2.inrix.com/research-parking-2017 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

WSDOT Researchers Ignore Motorcycles

According to the 2016 Traffic Safety Conference presentation by Texas A&M's Transportation Institute there has been; "Limited research to address riders safety when impacting roadside safety hardware."  In the presentation made at the June, 2016 conference Texas A&M also stated that there is no US testing standards for motorcycle riders safety when impacting roadside safety devices, and no world standard for testing when impacting in an upright position.  This is significant in that several studies done around the world show that roughly half of these types of impacts occur with the rider in the upright position.  For decades, studies in the US and other countries have reported that motorcycles and their riders often experience 'lane departure' and impact 'a fixed object'.  Yet the primary focus has long been whether the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet or not, and if the collision was fatal or not.

The Texas A&M report also states that since 1975, passenger vehicle deaths have been reduced significantly while motorcycle fatality rates have remained relatively flat.  Could this be that safety efforts have tended to be focused on the motorcyclist wearing a helmet and their ability to be seen by other vehicles, and not items that have been seen to cause serious and fatal injury?  While it's true that motorcycle safety training, similar to that of Total Control Training in California, has been shown to help reduce the fatality rate. Helping to prevent serious injuries by looking at ways to reduce the risk of those 'fixed objects' along the roadways could drastically reduce the rate of fatal motorcycle collisions.

While many in Washington State government seem to find data from other countries irrelevant, or for some other reason tend to disregard them, it is important to realize that other nations have been looking into these same issues due to a more pressing need, while American researchers have rarely even considered studying motorcycle issues effectively.  For example; in Europe between 2001 and 2009 62,000 people were killed in collisions involving powered two-wheelers (motorcycles, scooters and mopeds).  That is nearly twice the average yearly total in the US.  Australia is another country that has done extensive research into motorcycle safety beyond helmet usage and visibility.  

In the 2013 study 'The Protective Effect of Roadside Barriers for Motorcyclists' by the University of New South Wales, in Australia; sums up the issues with roadside safety barriers and motorcycle fatalities quite nicely in its opening paragraph; "The United States and Australian Roadside Design Guides do not consider motorcyclists in the risk-based decision process for the deployment of a barrier, because the severity indices for barriers and fixed hazards were developed for passenger vehicles."  In other words, these barriers, and roadside safety features were designed to protect passengers in vehicles weighing several thousand pounds, with the body and chassis of the vehicle around them, as well as air bags and passenger restraints.  None of which are a protection for a motorcyclist.  In many cases it is the motorcyclist who impacts the fixed safety feature or guard rail.  Resulting in serious, if not fatal injuries.  In this Australian study, it was found that 71% of motorcycle casualty collisions were speed related; 78.9 percent occurred on a curve; 69.6 percent occurred in a rural location; and the majority of casualty collisions involved helmeted motorcyclists and occurred on dry, sealed roadways, in speed zones of less than 60 mph, in the daytime, and not on highways/freeways or at intersections.  In other words, helmeted motorcyclists riding in good weather, on good rural roads, going over the speed for a curve.  Sounds perfectly logical doesn't it?

In the 2011 report for the Washington State Department of Transportation, the researchers found that a 23% increase in crashes involving "fatal & serious injury" following installation of rumble strips were "skewing portions of the CLRS analysis".  So what did the researchers do?  The "exempted" all the data from all the motorcycle crashes completely from the final findings of the report.  Because motorcycle crashes were affecting the data in a way the researchers didn't want, they ignored it.  Whereas in other countries motorcycles are beginning to be considered a viable alternative mode of transportation, in Washington State they are being "exempted" and ignored in official transportation reports.

The 2016 WSDOT report "Two-Lane Rural Highways Safety Performance Functions" is another example of the difference between the rest of the world and Washington State when it comes to transportation policy planning.  Within the 406 pages of the report; pedestrians are mentioned 33 times, bicycles are mentioned 29 times, while motorcycles are mentioned 0 times.  In 406 pages of a report on rural two-lane highway safety, the same sort of roads that 2013 Australian study found such strong motorcycle data involved, the Washington State Dept. of Transportation didn't even mention motorcycles at all.  It
would appear that motorcycles were not even a consideration in safety performance by the WSDOT.  This continuing complete
absence of data for motorcycles in WSDOT reports would seem to substantiate the perception of many in the motorcycling community that WSDOT tracks fatalities among motorcyclists, but does
nothing to consider safety issues specific to motorcycles that have little or not effect on other motor vehicles.  While other countries study the effects of motorcycles impacting stationary objects such as guardrails or concrete 'jersey barriers' and possible mitigation opportunities, WSDOT seems to continue in
report after report to completely ignore motorcycles.  All while including the data for bicycles and pedestrians, but apparently excluding any mention of motorcycles in these reports what-so-ever.  WSDOT has even published a report specifically about bicyclists and pedestrians in Washington State. 

While researchers in other states, and around the world, study the effects of roadway infrastructure during impacts by motorcycles, the effects of "run off" the lane crashes, and other safety issues related to motorcycles, the WSDOT appears to be effectively excluding motorcycles completely in favor of pedestrians and bicyclists.  WSDOT, and some of those in the legislature who oversee Transportation policy do not seem to see motorcycles as a serious and viable mode of transportation.  So apparently, they ignore them.  In an age of increasing congestion and transportation policy failures, perhaps that may have begun to be an inappropriate manner of thought.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Does Washington State's Transportation Agenda Override Truth And Data ?

To push their own agenda, members of several Washington State governmental agencies have; misrepresented the facts, disregarded data, or exempted data that skewed their studies away from their desired result.  What may be most distressing is that this seems to only be a loosely coordinated agenda.  With different agencies using different numbers to discuss the same data. For example, the Washington State Patrol (who reports their data to NHTSA), Washington Dept. of Transportation, and the Washington Dept. of Licensing cannot even agree on the number of motorcycle fatalities each year.  Even though they are all parts of the same state government, their numbers are significantly different.  
As you can see, there is a consistent and significant difference in data between state agencies reporting motorcycle fatalities in Washington State.  As you can see, their numbers only came close to matching once in a ten year period.  How is that possible when they all claim to be reporting on the same factor, yet their data is so completely different as to insure error in reporting and forecasts that bring into question the voracity of the data being presented.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission on its website repeatedly quotes data from 2012-2014.  However if one actually looks at the information being presented, in many cases it simply does not add up.  It claims that; "Only 8 percent of the riders involved in fatalities were not wearing helmets."  Those numbers don't add up.  During the period 2012-2014, 3.6% of riders involved in fatalities were not wearing helmets, not 8%.  In that period, that is a difference of ten (10) riders, a 4.4% error in their information on only that one point.  

The WTSC also proclaims that helmets are 37% effective in preventing motorcycle deaths.  Yet, their source for that piece of data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also states that 81% of helmeted fatalities and 64% of non-helmeted fatalities are due to injuries other than the head.   So basically, in two out of three non-helmeted fatalities, and four out of five helmeted fatalities, the helmet was irrelevant.  This isn't to say they did not provide some measure of protection, but what other piece of motor vehicle equipment would you stand to be mandated to use when it is only effective in a questionable 37% of the time?  I also find it amusing that the concept of automobile occupants being mandated to wear helmets is considered laughable in the legislature.  Even though the Centers for Disease Control have found that an automobile occupant involved in a collision is ten times more likely to go to the ER with a head injury, six times more likely to be hospitalized for a head injury, and four and a half times more likely to die from a head injury than a motorcyclist involved in a collision.  Don't believe me?  Check the 2010 CDC report "Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States". and you'll find the info between pages 30 and 41.  See for yourself, it isn't difficult to find the information.

Perhaps this next excerpt from the WTSC's website is even more telling.  As it places the agencies desire to reach an unattainable goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries within the next 12 years above the wishes of members of the community who actually are affected by this law to the extent that they oppose any measure to amend the helmet bill by blindly disseminating the same incorrect data that I have just demonstrated.  "This is important because there are annual challenges to Washington's helmet laws by advocate wishing the law repealed.  To reach zero fatalities and serious injuries, it is important that this law stay in place."  This should demonstrate that the agencies agenda is being placed placed above the will of the people.

On another issue; that of lane-sharing (or lane-splitting), several agencies in Washington State are clinging tenaciously to 'Target Zero' claiming the practice is dangerous and will cost more lives.  They openly dismiss multiple studies demonstrating the polar opposite to be true.  All without showing any evidence to the contrary other than some deceptively edited video clips showing motorcyclists riding illegally and dangerously getting into collisions.  However the videos are edited to give the impression that both riders were killed.  Which the full clips show is certainly not the case.  In both un-cut clips being shown the riders are shown to get back up on their feet, and relatively unharmed.  Proving the very point that supporters of lane-sharing have been claiming to be true all along.

Another example of Washington State's Transportation Agenda being distorted is the 2011 Washington State Dept. of Transportation study on center line rumble strips.  In this study, the number of fatal motorcycle crashes on newly rumble stripped highway rose from 30% to 53%.  That is a 44% increase in fatalities after rumble stripping.  Yet instead of asking why the number of motorcycle fatalities rose, WADOT's researchers simply decided to 'exclude' motorcycles from the study.  This is the actually explanation from the study itself; "it is clear that they are skewing portions of the CLRS analysis. For that reason, these 35 motorcycle collisions were excluded from the dataset."

So because a sharp rise in motorcycle fatalities "skewed" the dataset, instead of trying to understand why, the motorcycle fatalities were simply 'excluded' from the information that formed the data for the study.  Since the rumble strips were being introduced to have an effect on drowsy and fatigued drivers, the fact that they may have an unintended effect on motorcycle safety seems to have been considered irrelevant.  In the follow-up 2013 study, there is no mention of motorcycles at all.  So it would seem that WADOT is not truly concerned with 'Target Zero' if it applies to motorcyclists.

There is more, but I will let you have fun finding it.  Their actions certainly don't fit the words they provide the legislators.  They don't appear to really consider motorcycles a worthy vehicle to use their roadways.  They just haven't been able to get completely rid of us yet.  

Too many of the legislators still see us as the stereotypical bum on  some cheap death trap of a motorcycle.  I recently had the pleasure of discussing some of the issues we will be working for during the next legislative session with a legislator who wished t get a better 'feel' for motorcyclists.  He had asked to arrange our meeting at a Harley-Davidson dealership.  It was humorous to see the look on his face when he realized the prices on the packed showroom floor.  Most were more expensive then the vintage BMW he drove to the dealership.  It was definitely an eye opener for him.  That is what we need more of, to open the eyes of legislators to who motorcyclists truly are,

Catch you on the road sometime...

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Governmental Prejudice Towards Motorcyclists?

There has long been a line of thought that suggested there is an institutional bias against motorcycles by the government.  I have seen evidence of it while researching and investigating reports and studies over the past few years, and was curious if would be easily found by randomly pulling any one report and carefully looking at it.  What I found when I opened a random report; it happened to be from the Washington State Dept of Health, was disturbing.  There appear to be definite prejudicial comments and statements, that aren't necessarily reinforced by the actual information in the report.  Some of this could be a reliance on a limited number of sources for a wide range of information.  Or it could simply be the bureaucratic mentality in effect.  The mentality that finds it so difficult to understand  why this motorcycle, and the automobile behind it are not simply motor vehicles, equal to each other in all ways.

Look at these two vehicles, and see if you can understand why according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission (WSTC), lane departure (aka leaving the roadway) contributed to 49% of motorcycle fatalities between 2011 and 2015.  Meanwhile the bureaucratic response to prevent motorcycle fatalities is a mandatory helmet law.  Which personally I find rather odd, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data clearly shows that 81% of fatal injuries to helmeted motorcyclists, and 64% of fatal injuries to un-helmeted motorcyclists are to bodily locations other than the head.  So wouldn't a reasonable person agree that a helmet was irrelevant in a majority of all motorcycle fatalities?

Catch you on the road sometime...

Motorcycles As An Integral Mode Of Transportation

Motorcycling is a diverse and adaptable mode of transportation which should play an integral part of the State’s transportation planning, but has largely been ignored by transportation policy planners.  This benign neglect by those agencies and bureaus whose purpose is to plan and maintain an integrated and comprehensive transportation system has left motorcyclists in a vulnerable position, and exposed to various hazards due to the view of those planning transportation policy that motorcycles are merely a dangerous and risky vehicle that must be dealt with only in the sphere of safety policy.  This view does not even consider motorcycles as a viable option in virtually any major transportation policy.  An example of this is the 2014, I-5 JBLM Vicinity Congestion Relief Study done for the Washington State Dept. of Transportation.  In the entire 135 page study, the word motorcycle is not even mentioned once.  In WADOT’s 2015 Corridor Congestion Report, motorcycles are only mentioned once in the 50 pages of the report.  Even then it is simply as part of a list of ‘alternate commute’ methods of drivers over 16. 

 Motorcycles have been so completely relegated to only being a safety concern, that they are virtually non-existent when it comes to being part of a comprehensive transportation plan.  This is not the case everywhere.  In the UK, the National Council of Police Chiefs, Highway England, and the Motorcycle Industry Council have formed a partnership and created a ‘Motorcycle Framework’  (www.motorcycleframework.co.uk)  to help motorcycles become a fully integrated mode of transportation.  It would appear to be making strides in both reduction of congestion, decreasing overall greenhouse gas emissions, and a reduction in highway fatalities.  This ongoing effort is aimed at changing the attitudes of transportation policy planners, decrease the vulnerability of motorcyclists, while reducing motorcycle casualties as well.

The Northamptonshire County Council is a prime example of how motorcycles can be integrated into a comprehensive transportation policy.  On their website, regarding motorcycles they state; “As part of our modal shift strategy Northamptonshire County Council embraces motorcycles and scooters as a sustainable transport mode within the countywide transport programme.  Greater use of motorcycles can bring environmental, congestion and accessibility benefits particularly on journeys made for commuting to places of employment or education."

The inclusion of motorcycles; along with public transportation, light rail, bicycles, and even pedestrian commuting, open up a wide and varied array of options currently apparently not even ‘on the radar’of transportation planners.  Currently one of the key concerns in many urban centers is one of parking.  One of the benefits of publicly promoting the use of motorcycles in commuting is that multiple motorcycles can safely park in the space generally taken up by one car.  By promoting the use of motorcycles for commuting, parking space in urban areas can effectively be increased many fold for little or no cost for parking infrastructure.

By integrating motorcycles more comprehensibly into transportation policy would allow the development of the motorcycle as a viable alternative to the automobile to single occupant commuters.  This would also provide an alternate avenue for users of crowded public transport to vacate seats which could then in turn be filled by drivers unwilling to ride a motorcycle.  This opportunity to set motorcycle safety into a proper context which would unleash the benefits to the public of more comprehensively integrated Transportation Dept./Dept. of Licensing  proposals that would lead the way for the effort to reduce the number of traffic incidents, and reduce rider vulnerability. 

 Think about it.

Catch you on the road sometime…

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Did The Data Really Say That?

Sometimes a person has to really think about the information that is being published in the name of motorcycle "safety".  I am not necessarily disputing the findings, I am concerned about how it is being presented and what is being left out.  If you should just scan over the information as you read it, you may not have noticed certain discrepancies in information released by NHTSA in its annual "motorcycle traffic safety facts" report.  The data is published in a manner to elicit shock and concern in the reader.  However, if you really pay attention, you may realize things aren't as they would first appear.

For example; "In two-vehicle crashes 73 percent of the motorcycles involved in motor vehicle traffic crashes were frontal collisions. Only 7 percent were struck in the rear."  Notice anything about that quotation from the 2014 "motorcycle traffic safety facts" report?  It is incomplete, and in more than one way.  What type of collisions made up the unmentioned 20% of collisions?  Notice how the report states that while 73 percent were "frontal collisions", and only "7 percent were struck in the rear."  The only thing it is clear about is that the front of the motorcycle was the contact point in 73 percent of the collisions.  Although the implication is that 73 percent of motorcycles struck another vehicle in the rear.  But is that what the quote actually shows?

Think about it; if someone pulls a left hand turn in front of you, or suddenly slows or stops in front of you, aren't you going to hit them with the front of your motorcycle?

Here's another quote from that same report; "Motorcycles are more frequently involved in fatal collisions with fixed objects than other vehicles. In 2014 about 25 percent of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with fixed objects, compared to 19 percent for passenger cars, 14 percent for light trucks, and 4 percent for large trucks."

The  key phrase here is 'fatal collisions'.  These stats compare collisions with fixed objects (guardrails, trees, street lamps, bridges, etc.) by various types of enclosed vehicles and motorcycles.  Then seemingly can't understand why motorcyclists would suffer a higher fatality rate than occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or large trucks.  The fact that a motorcyclist doesn't have the benefit of; being inside a metal enclosure, passenger restraints, and air bags is seemingly irrelevant in having a higher fatality rate due to collisions with fixed objects.  impacts that would not result in a fatality in one of those other classes of motor vehicle, could easily be severe enough to be fatal for a motorcyclist.  Like the saying goes; "we don't have crumple zones, we have leathers."

At times it is almost as if the data is just being punched into a pre-formatted document (which in finished form it is), but without someone double checking the figures.  For example, in one paragraph the report states that; "...2,469 (53%) of the 4,694 motorcycles involved in fatal crashes were collisions with
motor vehicles in transport."  Then, just three paragraphs later it states; "In 2014 there were 2,172 two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle."  That's a difference of 297 fatal crashes, in only three paragraphs.  Yet there is no explanation, or even apparent realization that these figures don't match.  One is left to assume that those 297 fatalities were involved in collisions involving multiple vehicles.  But then in the Navy they taught me 'never to assume'.

So when you look at data, don't just skim it.  Stop fairly regularly and go over what you just read.  Does it make sense?  Does it really say what you thought it said?  Do the figures even add up?  Sometimes using authoritative sounding figures can be convincing, but you better make sure they are complete as possible and accurate.  Or someone might just use them to beat you over the head with them.

Catch you on the road sometime..

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


There has been a great deal of debate regarding motorcycles moving forward between lanes of slow or stationary traffic on the freeways of Washington State.  While this is a basic motorcycle maneuver in virtually all the rest of the world, the concept seems quite alien to many drivers and law enforcement in the state.  I am hoping the explanations and information here will help rectify the issue of perceptions that seems to be at the core of this issue.

Imagine for a moment you are riding a motorcycle in slow moving freeway traffic.  There is a vehicle in front of you with space in front of it.  On either side of this vehicle is space enough for you to pass the vehicle in front of you.  Making certain that you are in a low enough gear to provide adequate acceleration if an emergency requires, you make your move and pass the vehicle riding along the dividing white line between the lanes.  After safely passing the vehicle you pull into the open available space.  You have just split the lanes.  Albeit while only passing one vehicle, but you have done it.  By simply keeping yourself alert and ready to respond with either brake or throttle as necessary in an emergency, you can successfully proceed safely through the congested traffic.

At about this point in the conversation, usually one of a two questions are brought up.  Both are related closely enough to simply be a variation of the same question.  What happens if a car should suddenly change lanes in front of a lane sharing motorcyclist, and who is liable for the collision.  This is one of those ‘perceptions’ I had mentioned earlier.  The perception here is; that a motorcyclist who is safely and properly lane sharing is much more likely to be hit by a vehicle changing lanes than one maintaining their position in the flow of traffic.  However, the facts don’t support this perception.  One of the conclusions in Dr. James V. Ouellet’s 2011 study Lane Splitting on California Freeways was that; “Maintaining a normal lane position does nothing to eliminate sudden path encroachment by cars. Motorcyclists are vulnerable to incautious car drivers making sudden, unsignaled lane changes regardless of the motorcycle position in the lane.”  As to liability; while I am not an attorney, I would expect it to depend on the cause of that collision, not a blanket liability placed on one party or the other.  While collisions do happen while lane sharing, nearly thirty years of research and study from around the world show that those collisions are much less frequent than those involving motorcyclist who are not lane sharing.  Even the famous ‘Hurt Report’ (considered by many to be the most in-depth and complete motorcycle accident study of the 20th Century) found that lane sharing was involved in less than 1% of the 900 accidents in the study.  It may help the reader’s understanding to know that Dr. J.V. Ouellet was the co-author of the “Hurt Report”, and has more than forty years in the field of traffic safety research.

This perception of lane sharing being a dangerous activity performed by thrill seekers is totally out of touch with the reality.  While there are those who do perform the technique at high speed differentials to traffic flow, they are by far in the minority.  However, they are also the ones who are the focus of YouTube videos and television news reports.  Meanwhile, as was found in the ‘Hurt Report’, as well as other studies since, nearly 66% of motorcyclists on the California freeways partake in lane splitting, and account for less than 1% of the motorcycle fatalities.  The two studies done by Dr. Rice, of UC Berkeley in 2014 and 2015 continue to support the previous findings.  As do the findings of the 2009 MAIDS (Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study) from Europe. 

Yet the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, some in law enforcement, and others continue to disregard and denigrate these studies in lieu of (and actually perpetuating) the perceptions created by these YouTube videos.  The perception this creates is that of an conscious effort to focus on motorcycles as only a safety related concern and not as a full and integrated facet of transportation policy.  A project manager at the WTSC stated to me that since motorcycles accounted for only 4% of registered vehicles in Washington, they don’t have much of an effect on traffic.  That is the perception shared throughout the state agencies.  Yet, if only one in four motorcycles lane shared, that would take over 70,000 motorcycles out of the states traffic stream.  That wouldn’t have an effect on traffic?

Catch you on the road sometime…