Motorcycle Riders...Confrontations With Cars..Etc

I have been watching a plethora of motorcycle videos that proclaim to show how stupid drivers of cars they interact with are. Many of them, I tend to agree with the rider, whether they get brushed by the car, initiate a “pull over” scenario, whatever.

But, (and I have never ridden a bike), I tend to think that some of these guys routinely break the speed limit then get pissed at people that either don’t see them in time, or that deliberately try to slow them down by blocking them. I think all of these factors are in play.

What say you, motorcyclists? I look for you on the road, and if you do some crazy shit (sport bikes, never Harleys, etc) I just try to get out of the way and hope you don’t die.

What’s the Dope?

I’m not sure what you’re asking. Bikes are smaller and typically accelerate and brake faster, and are more maneuverable. And we’re much harder to see. As such, it behooves us to be aware that we may startle drivers if we’re quicker on them than the typical flow of traffic. We may surprise the other driver — e.g., when we’re lane splitting, or passing and zig-zagging through traffic.

I love watching those motorcycle videos.

Half of the videos are of motorcyclists lane-splitting / filtering at pretty high speeds, and then getting upset when something happens.
Since I have never ridden a motorcycle, I would like to know if that is standard practice–if you feel you are a responsible motorcyclist, do the plethora of lane-splitting/filtering videos look like proper safe operation or are they causing their own problems?

Thing is, nobody is going to watch a video of a motorcyclist sedately riding along, obeying all traffic laws.

It depends on what you mean by high speeds. And it depends on what videos you refer to. I lane split up to about 25-30 MPH. When traffic flows above that speed, there are gaps in front of and behind cars where another car in the adjacent lane can suddenly move into — too dangerous to be lanesplitting then. But many do it, although some riders in Southern California lane split at 60-70 or more.

Lane splitting can be done safely. And when motorcyclists split lanes, the result is less traffic congestion, which is good for all of us on the road.

I’m not sure what you are asking either.

As a rider I lane split at low speeds, but consider it one of the more dangerous things I do when riding. In my riding heyday, going to and from work in mid city freeway Los Angeles, my lane splitting took place in 5-to-10 mph traffic. When traffic is moving that slow I would be doing 10 to 15 mph and that’s why I was lane splitting. Slow speed and traffic density is probably why I never had any close calls during those years.

David Booth (an editor for Cycle Canada) in a recent editorial addressed the road rage type interactions between cars and motorcycles on YouTube and elsewhere. Basically it boiled down to something like (paraphrasing) “car drivers have an incredible amount of power in any altercation; their car.”

He cites a video from the UK, I believe, where 2 riders pass a car safely, and the driver takes umbrage and rams/sideswipes one of them. The riders confront the driver and ask “what the hell?” and essentially get nowhere with the guy.

David’s advice on interacting with enraged drivers is (again, paraphrasing) “apologize, apologize like your life depends on it. Apologize even if you were 100% in the right and the driver should have no reason for anger.”

I tried to find the video referenced above but Googling “Youtube car rams motorcycle” brings up way too many depressing videos to wade through to find the correct one.

I had an experience with a deplorable in a pickup truck myself. Story is too complicated and boring to type out, but suffice to say it was a learning experience. I totally didn’t follow David’s advice (it was long before the editorial was written), and the fact that I was in the right would be small solace to my family if I was spread across the highway.

the vast majority of helmet cam videos I’ve seen are of idiot young guys on sport bikes who cause more problems than they’re victim of.

only one state allows filtering (California) and only at low speeds. Everywhere else it’s illegal, like the moronic squids who blasted between me and the car in the next lane at 100+ mph. I’d have no sympathy if they put themselves in a ditch with a broken neck.

I don’t live in CA, so lane-splitting is not on my menu. I enjoy riding in a sporting fashion at times, but I tend not to do so when cars are around. Even when riding sedately with traffic though, drivers do plenty of dumb stuff. Probably the biggest problem is drivers changing lanes without checking their blind spot: they look in their side mirror, and figure they’re good if they don’t see half of someone else’s car staring back at them, they’re good to go - not realizing that a motorcycle may be next to them, and not visible in their mirror. As a rider, the safe policy is “don’t linger in people’s blind spots,” but you still have to move through their blind spots if you’re going to pass them, and some drivers seem to have a gift for shitty timing, choosing to change lanes just as you’re going by. You watch for this stuff like a hawk, cover the brake lever with your fingers and cover the horn button with your thumb. Laying on the horn and holding your ground is a bad idea: my policy is horn+brake if someone starts to move over, and about half the time they continue moving over in spite of the horn right in their ear - either they’re deaf, or they give zero fucks.

I generally don’t have a problem with cars turning in front of me. I ride a big sport-touring bike with extra lighting, wear high-viz gear, and when I see cars poised to cross my path I slalom within my lane to grab their attention.

TL,DR: as a rider, there are things you can do to avert dumb mistakes by other drivers, but you always need to be ready to evade, because there are some dumb mistakes that other drivers will make no matter what you do.

Ah yes, the “paralysis/death penalty for the traffic violation” guy. Every motorcycle thread has one.

I own a few motorcycles. Here’s my take on it.

Lane splitting is illegal in most states. Ironically, it’s legal in California, where it is probably one of the most dangerous area in the U.S. to lane split. Many bikers will disagree with me, but my personal opinion is that lane splitting is just asking for trouble. You’re riding on a part of the road where drivers aren’t looking for you. They are looking for cars, and if the cars around you are all stopped, they aren’t looking for another car to come zipping up in between because a car won’t fit there. So they won’t notice a bike that is lane splitting between a bunch of slower or stopped cars. Sooner or later someone changes lanes, doesn’t see the biker zipping up between lanes, and WHAM. Happens all the time and there are numerous youtube videos to prove it.

We tend to call idiots who drive too fast squids (it’s not a compliment), especially if they aren’t wearing proper gear. There are plenty of squids on youtube, and you can make a valid point that it’s the squid videos that people watch, since the video of me riding my Harley to work would just be boring as all heck. And many times, squids do cause their own problems.

That said, even us non-squid riders have to be very careful about cars. Car drivers look for other cars around them. They don’t look for bikes. Their brain naturally filters out bikes as something that’s not a car, and therefore isn’t important to them while driving. I’ve had people look directly at me and then pull out in front of me or cut me off. Even making eye contact isn’t enough. As a biker, you just have to assume that all of the cars on the road are out to get you, and plan accordingly.

This is really an issue for bikers. One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is a car driver pulling out in front of a bike when the biker has the right of way, simply because the car driver just didn’t notice the bike. I have to be on guard constantly for stuff like this.

Another thing - if a car skids, it just skids, and that’s it. If a bike skids, we don’t have four wheels to keep us stable. If we break traction, there’s a good chance we’re going down. The worst is what’s called a high side. This is basically where the bike starts to slide, but then the wheels find just enough traction to grab, and the momentum of the bike makes it flip over the wheels, launching the rider into the air.

Here’s a video of a high side if my description isn’t clear:

The same thing in a car would have just been some skid marks on the road and that’s it.

This is important because if say someone brake checks another car, assuming the other car doesn’t run into their back end, the worst that generally happens is that the car leaves some skid marks on the road. Brake check a motorcycle though, and the bike can skid and the rider can get thrown off, facing possible serious injury or death.

If you slam on the brakes on a bike you can also end up going over the handlebars, which again is something that doesn’t happen on a car.

If something makes your front tire skip, like hitting a pothole or a tar snake, this also can be very bad for a biker, but would not even be an issue for a car. We have to be much more aware of the road surface than a car does.

So yeah, a bike accelerates faster than a car and is more maneuverable than a car, but it’s a lot easier for us to end up hitting the pavement.

Overall, yes, cars can be a big problem, and there are a lot of idiots out there. You have to be much more alert on a bike than you do while driving a car.

The interesting thing is that this alertness kinda becomes second nature and you don’t think about it much, and you retain that higher level of alertness even when driving a car.

Think there might be a connection?

I will split hairs with a technicality, but in this case it is important. Lane splitting is not legal in California. Technically, in California, it is not expressly illegal.

There’s an important difference there. Cops can cite you if you are lane splitting, for a number of reasons:

  • violating the Basic Speed Law — driving too fast for conditions so as to be unsafe
  • failure to keep your vehicle centered in the lane (when lane splitting, you’re not in any lane)
  • passing on the right
  • weaving

And probably other infractions. Other states have laws expressly forbidding lane splitting, like neighboring Nevada.

It is still unclear — what are you asking?

Personally I think riders that do stupid things make it worse for all of us. It pisses off cagers and then when they see a rider obeying all the laws the cager doesn’t think “that is how all riders should behave”, but more like “crap another idiot rider”

I would not lane split even if it were legal here. I ride a big cruiser so not nearly as much room between cars as a sport bike, but also as said, you are doing something that drivers are not expecting, so it increases your odds of getting hurt.

I really don’t understand riders that get so pissed off at a cager that they chase them or kick their mirrors or anything agressive. I am of the mind above, be super appologetic as a pissed off driver can ruin your life.

A car pulling out in front of me was my greatest fear. Now, it has become getting rear ended. I have not had anything like this happen on the bike, but I was hit hard in my SUV by another SUV because the guy was paying too much attention to his GPS. Had I been on my bike, it would have messed me up badly and possibly even ended in death. For that reason, I am becoming more inclined to just ride in the countryside away from 4 wheeled vehicles.

My main tennant is even a small car will win against my bike, so I have to understand that and keep my emotions in check any time I am on my bike.

Many riders in the congested San Francisco Bay Area do lane split. In stop-and-go traffic, I see many cars move over in their lane to give a lane-splitting motorcycle more room to get by.

Lane splitting is common here, and car drivers who move over like that are nice to see!

From Wikipedia:

It may decrease one’s odds of getting hurt (not necessarily in your case with the big cruiser).

It may depend greatly on the area of the country (or world) and how drivers react, but I have seen enough drivers move to block riders doing it in GA, that whether legal or not, makes it much more unsafe in my opinion.

Agree. If that’s how GA drivers react then I would not do it there.

Here near San Francisco things are different. While many motorcyclists choose not to lane split because they don’t feel safe, many do. Lane splitting can be done safely. I currently ride an R1200RT so it’s not small and narrow like a sport bike is. In my 200,000 miles of riding I’ve never had an accident, and I lane split often.

Knocking on wood as I type that.