By Dennis Dumapias
Really, I should say to all motorists, but while lanesharing motorcyclists are prevalent here in California, not all states have to deal with lanesharing – and never more present within California than congested regions like the good ol’ San Francisco Bay Area during the commute week.
I know. You as a motorist who click-stumbled upon this blog probably thinks, “oh, here we go, another plea from a rider to move over,” but actually, no. What I am hoping to do is give my fellow four-wheel commuters a break by telling you that you don’t have to.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Here’s the thing.
By all means, if you feel like moving over for us, go right ahead. But please know that you don’t have to move over excessively to the point that you’re partially leaving your lane. Even if you’re in the number one lane on the freeway and all you’re doing is partially moving to the shoulder, please don’t. It’s been awhile since I opened a DMV handbook, but if I recall correctly, you’re not actually supposed to cross that solid yellow line unless it’s an emergency. And no – motorcyclists exercising a privilege does not qualify as an emergency.
Never mind whatever the handbook says about crossing the shoulder, it’s always a bad idea running your vehicles’ tires through there where all the road debris eventually gets collected, especially when you don’t need to. That’s how punctures happen. And some of you actually move your entire car out of your lane and into the shoulder! (cringes) I honestly feel a little bit of guilt for every car that does this to let me pass, because if they get home and realize they have a puncture or two…. there’s their good deed punished.
I also think this kind gesture impedes the flow of traffic.
For the motorists behind you and me, you moving out of your lane can be perceived by those following as you swerving to avoid something on the road. Feet hover over brake pedals with some brake lamps even actuating, and the ripple effect of your good deed serves to slow the flow of traffic behind us as the other motorists react cautiously to your well-intended act.
I know, I know. You absolutely mean well when you do this. There is no mistaking the altruistic notion behind your intention when you turn that steering wheel to make way for us. It is unmistakably a good deed, that’s why I really don’t want you to ever be punished for it.
There’s Plenty of Room
Believe me, there was plenty of room in between.
I took a measuring tape to my commuter motorcycle. It is less than 3 feet wide between its outermost points, which are its side mirrors. I did a quick online search and found that the standard width for highway lanes is a minimum of 12 feet, whereas the California Vehicle Code’s rule is that the total outside width of any vehicle shall not exceed 8.5 feet. A vehicle that is actually 8.5 feet wide driving center of a 12 feet lane leaves about 1.75 feet of the lane clear on either side of the vehicle. If another vehicle of the same width was driving in the adjacent lane, that leaves an actual gap of 3.5 feet wide between the two vehicles for my 3 feet wide motorcycle to pass through.
Of course, not all motorcycles are only 3 feet wide. There may be some that are slightly wider, but probably not another six inches wider. But there are also narrower motorcycles, just as there are vehicles narrower than 8.5 feet in width. The point is, there is plenty of room for us motorcyclists to pass through you motorists without you having to do anything else other than what you are supposed to – stay center of your lane.
But I get it. You feel like moving. Not only is it a kind gesture, but it also telegraphs to us motorcyclists that you see us. And keeping an eye out for us is all we really ask of you guys.
But please, if you must move, stay within your lane.
I promise you that you are absolutely in no obligation to move over for us. There is plenty of room for everyone and should circumstances restrict the available space for us to pass you, we – the motorcyclists – will be the one to figure it out.
Generally speaking, the person attempting to pass has the responsibility to do so in a safe manner, not the person being passed.
By all means, stay in the center of your lane.
We’ll be out of your way in a few seconds.