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New Lane Splitting Hazard -- the Merging Squid


bvaughan

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had a pucker moment last evening coming up the 405 splitting HOV/no.1 lanes when a squid in bermuda shorts nearly t-boned me with a spastic no-look merge move from the no.2 lane through no. 1 into the HOV lane in stop and go traffic. i was watching him as i came up on him. he goosed it in no. 2, cut left into no. 1, hit the brakes and wobbled so he wouldn't hit the car in front, put his feet down, goosed it again, and started to cut left without looking. across a double double yellow of course.

 

guess i'm not the only one who in his eagerness to get through 4 or 5 lanes of stop and go into the relative freedom of the HOV lane needs to remind himself to check his six with each lane change watching not just for the cagers but also for the lane splitters who are already there. and when i'm splitting i shouldn't assume that the cagers are the only ones on autopilot.

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russell_bynum

Yep.

 

All of that is complicated by the fact that, even if he had been looking, it can be VERY difficult to spot a splitting bike.

 

We always say that you should ride like you're invisible. When you're splitting, that's pretty much your only option for survival.

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I was coming back to Chicago from Mn. today and I watched a squid try to pass a SUV in a toll booth lane. Lucky he wasn't killed. Squids are bad for the sport.

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We always say that you should ride like you're invisible. When you're splitting, that's pretty much your only option for survival.

 

Russell, unless I'm just having a "T. Day blond moment", I don't understand your comment above.

 

Invisible? Only option for survival?

 

Don't you want to be seen to increase your chance for survival?

 

Since I don't lane split, please indulge me.

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russell_bynum
We always say that you should ride like you're invisible. When you're splitting, that's pretty much your only option for survival.

 

Russell, unless I'm just having a "T. Day blond moment", I don't understand your comment above.

 

Invisible? Only option for survival?

 

Don't you want to be seen to increase your chance for survival?

 

Since I don't lane split, please indulge me.

 

What I meant was that riding like you're invisible is the only option for survival while you're splitting.

 

But since you asked...here's my basic philosophy on this. I formed this opinion through several years of every day commuting on the bike with lots and lots of lane splitting.

 

First of all, it's really hard for a cager to spot a splitting bike. The closure rates are just not what they're expecting, and you're not in a place that they're expecting. Even if they are riders and know to look for splitting bikes, it's still really difficult.

 

So, understanding that most people aren't going to see you is a good plan.

 

Now...as for intentionally being invisible...I started out trying to be as visible as possible. I got a set of PIAA 1100 lights on an EZ-Mount bracket and ran them on all the time. Some people noticed. Some of the people who noticed had positive reactions...and moved over. Some (very few) people reacted negatively...moving over to block me. Many of the people saw me, were startled and had random reactions...usually a random jerk of the wheel that put them lord knows where.

 

One day my PIAA relay burned out. I went 2 weeks without the extra lights. What I discovered was that it didn't really change the amount of people who saw me and reacted positively and slightly less people reacted negatively. But FAR fewer people had that spastic reaction.

 

So I basically decided that since most people weren't going to see me anyway, and a large percentage of the people who do see me are not going to have a positive reaction, I was actually better off intentionally trying to be invisible.

 

Note: That's just for splitting. In town with 2-way traffic, intersections, etc I feel different about this. You should still assume that nobody sees you, but there is benefit to trying to be make it easier for people to see you.

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Even if they are riders and know to look for splitting bikes, it's still really difficult.

 

Amen. I was just in San Francisco for two weeks for work and was driving. When I got there, I kept reminding myself to check for bikes splitting, and still had a couple come up next to me before I spotted them. I did double and triple check before changing lanes as a result.

 

And that was when I was making a conscious effort to be aware, since I don't normally see splitters at home.

 

So, add in the normal clueless tourist or business traveler who won't even know that splitting happens and you will really have folks to whom you might as well be invisible.

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"Invisible? Only option for survival? Don't you want to be seen to increase your chance for survival?"

 

Yes and Yes ...

 

BE SEEN: I haven't put money into conspicuity except for the reflective tape on my cases (thought about one of those surplus KMart blue lights, that would be cool lmao.gif) ... but I do try to be obvious. I'll occasionally weave a little ... I tap the brakes three or four times ... I never ride in a cage's blind spot.

 

BELIEVE YOU ARE INVISIBLE: Don't ever trust the cage. If the guy pulling out ahead of you on the right is looking right at you ... don't assume he sees you - cover your brake - either accelerate or decelerate to increase the distance between you and the cage, and have an exit strategy. In suburban traffic, I sometimes like to partner up with a BIG cage that will keep turners at bay.

 

My worst close calls have been in instances when I believed a cager ... most recently a guy stopped with a left blinker on, waiting for traffic to clear - then changing his mind and whipping into the parking lot to right just as I was passing him on the right. You ARE invisible, blue light or not.

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I split lanes for probably over 50% of my motorcycle mileage (40,000 miles in the last 3 1/2 years). For two years my commute was from Riverside, CA to UCLA which is 75 miles of some of the worst rush-hour traffic on the planet (yes, I'm biased!).

 

I am FAR more concerned about bikes when I am changing lanes than cars. I know roughly what cars are going to do and after tens of thousands of miles in slow and go traffic you begin to get a feel for when a freeway becomes 'unsettled' and cars start making moves.

 

But bikes are VERY unpredictable. Some peopel split lanes, some dont. Some riders switch lanes a lot, others just split the 1-2 lane all the time. But bikes nearly NEVER check their 6 when merging to split a lane. Its just so rare that there is another bike splittign the same lane you are, I guess.

 

So when I see a motorcycle on a crowded freeway, I give him lots of room and take very diligent care when passing him - usually 2-3 lanes away from him. I watch for motorcycles getting on the freeway just in front of me, knowing that they are coming over to the carpool lane or the 1-2 split and most likely have no idea I am there.

 

As to *invisiblility*, I have a somewhat different take. Wehn I was doiing my UCLA commute, I put a high-beam modulator on my FZ-1 and counted cars that moved over for me during the 1 1/2 hour commute (yes, even having your life contantly threatened gets boring after enough miles! tongue.gif ). Before the modulator was installed, I averaged 12-13 cars that would pull over and give me extra room in the morning commute. After I installed the modulator it went up to between 30-40 cars that moved over. Given that there is probably an even distribution of cars that will move over if they see you, I assume that my visibility increased by about 3 X.

 

For splitting lanes during rush-hour traffic on SoCal freeways visibility works.

 

That being said, headlights, running lights, etc dont seem to make NEARLY the difference that a high-beam headlight modulator makes.

 

Not to mention the occasional phenomenon of the asshat in the ancient pickuptruck that thinks he needs to pull onto the left shoulder at 80mph to let you by, kicking all sort of crap and crud into your windshield and nearly losing control while you hastily pass him at 100mph hoping you live through his kindness!!!

 

JT

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I had so many negative reactions to my modulator that I'd never run one again. Road Raging drivers will ALWAYS assume that you are sitting behind them with your thumb on the brights switch, signalling that you want to pass. I've had people get out of their vehicles at traffic lights to threaten me, and I've had vehicles intentionally try to run me off the road after passing with my modulator on. Yes, it definitely caused more people to move over, but the ill will it generated was way more than I would tolerate.

 

I agree with bounce's post 100%. I wouldn't change a thing in it. Assume that you are absolutely invisible and ride accordingly, no matter what high-viz accoutrements you may be using.

 

That said, after years of lane splitting the length of the San Francisco peninsula during rush hour, I've got to say that my commute down the length of Wilshire to Santa Monica on a bicycle is easily the most dangerous thing I've ever done on a commute. Lane splitting on a motorcycle is a walk in the park by comparison. My morning commute is downhill, so I run basically the same speed as traffic, but not quite fast enough to run out in the lane without going into full sprint mode, so I have to save that for passing delivery trucks and double parkers. Cars pass me while travelling in excess of 20mph and then immediately turn right into my path at least 5 times EVERY DAY. Doors open into my path while I'm travelling in excess of 25mph pretty frequently. The buses cause all kinds of mayhem when they stop in my path. And some of the steepest sections also have the longest lights, meaning that I am ripping past stopped cars in the small gap between lanes or between parked cars and the lane at fairly high speeds, which can be pretty nervewracking, especially when I spot a pedestrian about to step out into my path. The only survival strategy is incredibly aggressive cycling - I ride like I rode when working as a courier in London, including a constant stream of shouting at folks too oblivious to notice my presence without an audible warning. The funny thing is that not only do I travel down wilshire as fast as the cars - the lights make up any time I might lose by my small speed disadvantage, but I consistently travel just as fast as the cars on my way back UP wilshire, too, as traffic is much worse during afternoon rush hour than it is in the morning. I consistently pass cars all the way home, and they rarely pass me back. I like to think all those car drivers are sitting in their cages thinking "that bicycle is actually moving faster than I am, maybe I should try that" but in reality, if they notice me at all, they are probably just grousing that they'll have the inconvenience of passing me again should the traffic ever let up. It never does, of course. This is LA.

 

Oh, and just a note for those folks who may be inclined to criticize green regulation - I've been commuting on bicycles since I was 6 years old, and the difference in air quality when cycling through a traffic jam today compared to 20 or 30 years ago is just astounding. I can ride right through stop and go traffic and never feel like I'm being choked out. That wasn't true at all when I was younger. And I absolutely love the natural gas and electric buses. They are such a vast improvement over the sooty diesels that I still wind up behind on occasion. I don't care if catalytic converters have any impact on the environment, cause they sure as hell have an impact on my ability to breathe on my bike, and that's enough for me (says the guy who put an aftermarket non-cat full system on his sport bike blush.gif )

 

--sam

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I had so many negative reactions to my modulator that I'd never run one again. Road Raging drivers will ALWAYS assume that you are sitting behind them with your thumb on the brights switch, signalling that you want to pass.

 

Really??? Wow - you must put off some incredibly negative vibes, brother! tongue.gif

 

In the two years I ran a modulator I *never* had a single bad comment, yell, fist, one-finger-salute, swerve (except to get out of my way)...

 

That being said, I never ran them unless I was actively splitting lanes except for the occasional blip to raise my visibility for oncomeing left-hand turners or side street lurkers. I know that they are annoying when you are just riding normally. But when I turned them on its becasue I *wanted* the jack-hole in front of me to MTFO so I could get by. That went for motorcycles as well. Its amazing how many people splitting lanes assume that they are alone on the freeway, and there is nothing so annoying in stop-and-go traffic on a southern california freeway as having to bump over a couple of lanes to pass some idiot 2-wheeler splitting the 1-2 when you want by.

 

I stand by my expereince of headlight modulators: Yes, they are annoying, thats the point, but if used judiciously (like only when actively lane splitting or when you see someone on a side street about to pull out) they significantly (3x in my informal survey) increase the number of people who see you. Period.

 

Now let me give the standard disclaimer that seems to be mandatory for some people: Having safety equipment on your bike like ABS, traction control, headlight modulators, helmets, side-curtain airbags, etc does not excuse you from riding to save your ass.

dopeslap.gif

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Really??? Wow - you must put off some incredibly negative vibes, brother! tongue.gif

 

You know, there's some truth to that. People tend to assume the worst about me, whether helmeted or not. Can't say I understand why, as I think I'm a pretty nice guy, and in none of the cases was I riding particularly aggressively, other than to be lane splitting. In one case, I was merely splitting past stopped cars at a traffic light and the pizza delivery driver at the front actually got out of his car and came around to physically threaten me. In another case, while trying to split past a pickup truck on the freeway in Marin (I had a passenger and was barely going faster than traffic around me), the driver actively attempted to run me off the road and shouted death threats from his window, even after I took both hands off the bars to demonstrate that I wasn't manually controlling the flashing light. That's the incident that caused me to remove the modulator.

 

--sam

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RoadWarrior68

I hardly doing lane splitting unless I have too, such in a very...very... slow moving traffic < 10 mph.

But then again I live in Sacramento area where the traffic is not so bad as in the SF bay area or So Cal.

 

If the HOV lane is totally split like in So Cal may be it's a little bit different. On a recent trip to So Cal on my cage i can see how much easier to do the lane splitting in So Cal since it has double yellow lines, and the stretch are long enough from one opening to the other.

Although it doesn't totally stop people cutting those over, it's way much better.

 

Having said that I still won't lane split in So Cal in those double lines if the traffic moving > 40 mph. You never really can tell when a cager will swerve in front of you intentionally/unintentionally. Now we also got new problem w/ this squid that zig zagging on a high speed (yes even on a heavy traffic).

 

The other day on Hwy 50, I almost got hit by a squid doing in & out traffic at around 75mph while the rest of the traffic moving about 40 mph. I was on my own lane when he's coming from 2 lanes across (he was doing a lane split there too).

Coming into my lane for half second check and lane split again. I never seen his head turning left nor right to check the traffic around him.

 

That's why I like country side ride better, although there's a chance that a deer will merge into yr lane, but that's another problem. tongue.gif

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I ride my 2004 R1150RT in the day time I run all my lights. I replaced both the low beam and high beam with expensive Piaa lights and added a pair of Piaa running lights below my fairing and run my fog lights as well. I also added the signal minder that lets me run my turn signals as running lights and people see me coming from a long ways away. I have had cars start to pull out in front of me and then stop and give me the deer in the headlights look as I passed them, so I know they are effective. I honestly believe the more light you throw out there the better chance they will see you.

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You be telling the truth! My RT-P makes folks think but I'd love the running light to be on too. Lane splitting sure helps to get to work on time! wave.gif

And yes it's safe but not for the wussy or faint of heart!

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