Why Motorbikes Should Rightly Ride ON the White Line

Yes, you read it right and we know you don't like it. All the times you’ve cursed motorbike riders for shooting past you when you are...

Yes, you read it right and we know you don't like it. All the times you’ve cursed motorbike riders for shooting past you when you are stuck in slow traffic or filtering to the front when you are stationary at a red light, you actually should be nodding in approval. Here’s why:-

1) It’s safer for the motorbike riders

In California, where it is legal to ride the white-line (or lane-splitting, as they call it in the USA), there is a lower rate of fatal rear-end motorbike crashes, that is, fewer deaths from a motorbike rear-ending another vehicle and even more significantly fewer deaths from a motorbike BEING rear-ended. The force from a rear or front impact is much greater than an impact that comes from a car, say, changing lane and sideswiping the motorbike. When the motorbike moves from the rear or front of the vehicle to the side, they are are actually in a safer zone.

This is backed by another study by Berkeley that looked at over 7,800 motorbike crashes, of which some 1,163 involved riders who were white-lining. Those who were white-lining experienced significantly less injuries, including 45% fewer head injuries and 55% fewer fatalities.

The California Highway Patrol does have guidelines (not rules) that motorbikes which traffic filter (white-line through stagnant or slow traffic to get to the front) should only do so when traffic is 30mph or slower, and not go 10 mph faster than the speed of surrounding traffic, although how a motorbike rider would be able to gauge that is beyond us.

2) It’s better for the environment 

Idling vehicles contribute really unnecessarily to carbon emissions. A 2012 study by a Belgian research firm concluded that replacing 10% of cars with motorbikes would reduce carbon emissions by 6%, not because bikes contribute less nasty emissions (larger bikes are just as bad as cars). The reduction in carbon emissions is due to smoother traffic flow. Oh, we’ve given number 3 away….

3) It makes traffic smoother

When a motorbike sits in traffic, it is another vehicle in the queue – think of when the traffic light turns green: the first vehicle has to accelerate from standstill before the second one follows, and then only the one behind does the same, and so on; until the time when all cars are self-driving and can start moving simultaneously, there will be a few seconds wasted in between each car starting to move again. When motorbikes bunch up at the front of traffic, they accelerate much faster than the first line of cars can shift from N to D.

The same Belgian study found that if 10% of drivers switched to motorbikes and filter through traffic, journey time for the car drivers would reduce by 8 minutes.

So, the next time you want to block the motorbike from filtering through traffic or white-lining, and as much as you hate it, remember that they are actually doing themselves and you and the planet a big favour…

image: Wikipedia


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  1. So in your picture above...how do the pedestrians cross the road when the motorcyclists crowd across the line and onto the pedestrian crossing. How does a motorist change lane when in flowing traffic bikers insist on squeezing through an impossibly skinny space. Automology published a piece some time ago about LANE SPLITTNG as it is generally referred in that piece we came to a very different conclusion.

  2. But in malaysia, if you encourage this systems, more cars staying on overtaking lanethe driving at 110, would want you to overtake from left. I dislike riding between lanes and drivers go more right when I'm behind them in smooth traffic...




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