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Why whitelining won’t work in Minnesota or Texas

Whitelining is legal in California

Whitelining is legal in California

I’ve been doing some traveling lately, and I’ve noticed some interesting differences between drivers in Minnesota, Texas and California. As much as I love my home state, I have to admit California has better drivers.

We were sitting in traffic on “The 5” about 40 miles north of San Diego. The morning fog was beginning to dissipate. I glanced into the rearview mirror and saw a motorcyclist coming up from behind us, riding quite confidently between the lanes.

The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) advocates lane-splitting as a way to promote motorcycle safety. A 2014 California study showed that riding the white line prevented motorcyclists from being rear-ended in heavy traffic. If you’ve ever been in southern California, you know that freeways are clogged morning, noon and night. The ribbons of headlights and taillights stretch for miles.

Lane-splitting is legal in California. It’s verboten in Texas and Minnesota. It’s easy to see why.

In California, car and truck drivers tend to stay in their lanes whether they’re moving at freeway speed or at a stand-still. Texans and Minnesotans, on the other hand, are enthusiastic lane-changers. They change lanes often and don’t bother to signal their intentions. In freeway backups, it’s not uncommon to see a Minnesotan wrench his steering wheel left or right and stick his nose into the next lane . . . right into the would-be path of a whitelining motorcyclist.

Texans and Minnesotans also like to “park” in the far left lane, which should be reserved for faster-moving traffic. This causes other drivers to pass them on the right. On our way south through San Antonio, we observed several “bats out of hell” come up behind us, cut across three lanes of traffic from the right and zig-zag back the other way at speeds far above the posted limit (which, I will admit, we were not observing, either, but these guys were smoking!). The crazy driving, in fact, began shortly after we crossed the Oklahoma-Texas border. There’s no hope for a lane-splitter there!

The AMA’s rationale for lane-splitting makes sense. But it can’t be done safely in the Lone Star or North Star states.

Keep the shiny side up!

Splitting the lanes

Ralph and I just spent a week in southern California, which has to be — weather-wise — motorcycle heaven, especially when you get away from stinky, exhaust fume-ridden I-5 (“The 5”, as it’s called locally). Getting off the  freeway allows you to follow the coast, drive along citrus orchards and make you feel like you own the world.

Fresh ocean breezes notwithstanding, California has a law that scares the hell out of me. The Golden State allows motorcyclists to “split” the traffic lanes.  Maybe it’s because I’m still relatively new to motorcyclng, but I find it unnerving to have a biker come up from behind me, swerve to the white line between the lanes of stopped or slow-moving vehciles and zip to the head of the line. I worry about their safety, especially when traffic moves a little faster. It would be so easy to get a little too close, bounce off a  car  and end up on the pavement. Whitelining is allowed in Texas, too, and in England, where motorcyclists sneak up on you from the left. In Minnesota, the freeways have designated motorcycle lanes, for which I am grateful.

I’ll be doing some “splitting” of a different kind this weekend.  I’ll be at the Fury Motorcycle open house tomorrow morning from 10:00-1:00, promoting Ride Minnesota. Then I’ll move up to East Bethel for the open house at Northway Sports from 2:00-4:00. Yesterday afternoon, I heard back-to-back commercials for both on KQRS. Let’s hope the weather is better than predicted!