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...

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