I think we may actually be better

Why wouldn't you outlaw this?
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this: if I'm ever riding in Minnesota and find myself in a situation where I deem filtering to be appropriate, I'm just going to go ahead and do it. If any drivers shout at me, I will say this: "Actually, it is legal. Check Minnesota Statute 169.974, particularly subdivision 5, clause E. See, the reason I know that is because a lot of people think it's not legal, but, really, it is. I'm sorry to have frightened you, though."

The statute referenced is, of course, the exact one that explicitly forbids filtering ("No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of moving or stationary vehicles headed in the same direction, nor shall any person drive a motorcycle abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane"). But the driver won't know that. 

If I get stopped by a police officer, I will mention living in the UK and explain that I was confused. I will apologise profusely and hopefully he or she let me off with a stern talking to. Or, you know, I'll get hit with a $128 fine (a).

I'll risk it, though (at least until I get fined), because I love me some filtering so much. I've written about filtering in the past, so I won't rehash that argument except to say that I genuinely cannot understand why any motorcyclist would be against such useful facet of riding. Sure, I can understand why a motorcyclist might personally feel a little uncomfortable with the idea -- because he or she has not yet developed their skills to that level. But I can't understand why they would say: "No. There should be a law and we should all line up in orderly fashion, like good little automatons."

And, yet, there are people like that. RideApart last week ran an essay from a person whose argument effectively consisted of, "Ooh, scary. Me no likey." 

Dude, everything is scary. No, really. Every. Thing. Take a moment to think about asteroids, for instance. An asteroid that is only 60 feet across, if it struck the Earth would have the effect of an atomic bomb. If it struck a populated area, instantaneously 70,000 people would die. Poof. Just like that.

This may be the last thing you read.
And want to take a guess at how many such asteroids are floating in our solar system? Oh, at least 25 million. Or, well, the fact is, NASA can't reliably spot anything smaller than 100 feet across, so there are at least 25 million of those asteroids. Smaller yet still-totally-deadly ones? No clue.

Also, there at least 8,000 asteroids that move directly through Earth's orbit each year, roughly 1,000 of which are 1 kilometre across or more! A kilometre-sized rock would fuck Earth up, yo.

Think about that. No, stop, take a moment, and really think about how terrifyingly likely is your instantaneous death. That is scary. Far scarier than the idea of navigating a motorcycle between two stationary or slow-moving vehicles.

As I thought about my response to that RideApart article I thought, too, of an exchange I had with a representative from the Minnesota chapter of ABATE not too long ago. I had written to them to ask what their stance is on filtering and whether they are making any effort to see it legalised in my beloved Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

The short answer is: nope.

In ABATE's reply (b) they said that I was only the second person to have ever raised the issue with them. But I got the feeling that their overall attitude toward filtering was as lacking in enthusiasm as that of  the American Motorcycle Association. And in that reply I was offered this beautiful gem of a quote:
"It is important to remember that the average motorist in Minnesota is not as talented as those in... England. This is fact not opinion (we can't even begin to grasp the concept of a zipper merge at road construction sites). This would make lane splitting very dangerous in Minnesota."

And all of this led to my suddenly asking myself: "Wait. Are British riders better?!"

Maybe I'm just thinking that because I ride and learned to ride in the UK. And certainly there are plenty of exceptions to the rule on both sides of the pond but I think, just maybe, yeah -- they're better over here. 

An actual "road" in Swindon
The UK has roads that in some cases were designed almost 2,000 years ago, when the Romans were here. Look, here's a map of Roman roads, and here's a map of UK motorways. Note that the motorways are in exactly the same places as the Roman roads were. And that's just layout. In some parts of the UK, the actual width of the road has not changed, despite the fact the modes of transportation have (for an example of narrow roads, check out this guy riding in northern Scotland). And on all UK roads, maintenance is notoriously appalling. The street where I live, for example, looks as though it hasn't been taken care of since the Nazis bombed it.

These narrow, poorly maintained roads are used by an overcrowded population. Southern England is the most densely populated area in Europe. And across the UK we have squeezed twice the population of Canada into a space the size of Oregon. We are shoulder-to-shoulder all up in this island and that tends to create short tempers. British drivers are some of the most road-ragey people I have ever experienced and they are extremely aggressive in their driving. 

Watch this video -- look at all the things that are swirling all around him, coming at him from every direction. But he is so used to it that his only concern is being annoyed by the behaviour of a rent-a-cop (c). That's how we roll, yo. Many years ago, I was driving an American through Cardiff and she started crying because of sensory overload -- she was convinced we were going to die, and I had been taking it easy.

Meanwhile, on top of our narrow, poorly maintained and overcrowded roads, and alongside our multitudes of angry, inattentive, aggressive, selfish and usually distracted drivers we have the joy of British weather. It is always cold. It is always wet. It is always blowing a gale. If we held to the standards of some of the American riders I've encountered, our "riding season" would consist of approximately one day.

The best way to commute.
I suspect that all of these things are reasons that motorcycling faces so many challenges in the UK. Many people simply prefer the all-weather shelter of an automobile. But that's a truth that serves as a sort of filter: there is a natural weeding-out process to motorcycling in Her Majesty's United Kingdom. And those tough enough stupid enough to put up with all the chaos and climatological misery display a dedication that I think, on the whole, results in their being better motorcyclists.

As an American it pains me to admit that, but I think it may be true.

__________

(a) Yeesh, Minnesota. When did your fines get so expensive? I can remember when dicking around only set me back $15.

(b) Which was very much appreciated by the way. I am pretty critical of ABATE and the AMA because I feel that they are too hung up on the issue of helmets and fail to focus on issues that are of greater actual benefit to riders. But I appreciate the efforts they make overall to promote riding.

(c) OK, yeah, PCSOs are not rent-a-cops, but you get my point.

Comments

  1. Maybe you confused ABATE when you asked about "filtering" and not about lane-splitting? Perhaps you've been in England a bit too long. ;-)

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  2. I agree with you about many motorcycle groups in North America being overly focused on the right to not wear a helmet. Where are our special parking spaces? Why do we not get a discount for reducing congestion? Why can't we use carpool lanes?

    Groups like ABATE and others need to do more to help motorcyclists get the right laws passed that will help us ride more effectively.

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  3. In Oregon it seems if it doesn't have to do with helmet laws ABATE isn't interested in it. I too would rather see them focusing on laws that would help for the good of motorcycling.

    Maybe, just maybe they aren't interesting in lane splitting or filtering as their fully dressed out cruisers are too wide to filter.

    ReplyDelete

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