Justin Bieber, the pop music “teen heartthrob,” made headlines again for reckless behavior. This time his shenanigans almost led to the demise of an elderly woman with a walker who was simply strolling down the sidewalk in Los Angeles. What was Bieber’s offense? Riding his Can-Am Spyder motorcycle on the sidewalk. Why? To avoid traffic. Um… it’s one thing to try to ride a bicycle or motorcycle on the sidewalk, but a three-wheeler? Come on Biebs!
Not only is it illegal to ride your motorcycle on the sidewalk, but also it is illegal to park your motorcycle on the sidewalk. Some cities don’t even allow anyone to ride or park a pedal bicycle on sidewalks, let alone a motor bike. In many cases, bicycles are required to ride in the street and follow the same traffic laws to which motor vehicle riders must adhere.
Even though it would seem that bicycle riders would be safer riding on the sidewalk, particularly on busy roads, the fact of the matter is that it can be more dangerous. In addition to needing to be watchful for pedestrians – hitting them or them hitting you – it’s also harder to avoid potential hazards encountered along the walkway or cars pulling out of driveways. So, you can imagine the hazards facing motorcycles on sidewalks.
For motorcycles that are able to travel at much higher speeds and are harder to control at slow speeds, it would make sense that sidewalks should be off limits. In Bieber’s case, he was trying to avoid traffic. Many motorcyclists avoid congestions by splitting lanes.
While this practice isn’t outlawed in California and California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles no longer issue guidelines on how to safely lane split. Many drivers consider lane-splitting to be dangerous. According to the California Office for Traffic Safety survey, 75% say it’s unsafe, almost 50% thought it was illegal, 75% said they disapprove and 7% admitted they had swerved to block a motorcycle trying to lane-split.
On the other glove, some riders claim lane-splitting is safer than contending with congested traffic. As reported by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, traffic jams have caused 25% of accidents due to motorcycles being hit from behind. In addition to avoiding accidents that often result during traffic jams, motorcyclist also claim splitting lanes is like adding an additional lane of traffic. This frees up space allowing for traffic to flow more freely. Also, we all know how hot it can get on a motorcycle when in standstill traffic. The heat can be unbearable, and the only relief is by keeping the bike moving to increase the airflow.
Don’t join the “Beliebers” bandwagon by riding on the sidewalk during traffic jams, let alone parking on it. Whether or not you decide to lane-split is a personal decision. In any case, riders beware. A California rider recently died when his handlebars hit another vehicle while lane-splitting. Consider limiting lane-splitting in traffic that is either stopped or in which go no more than 10mph faster… and keep your eyes open for people on cell phones who may cross the yellow lines.