The Province Reports on Lane Filtering

LFBC published an op-ed column in The Province newspaper expounding the virtues of lane filtering. The link is available here and the text follows: 

Due to the rise in rear-end collisions resulting in injury, B.C. needs to institute the same lane-filtering laws implemented by Australian and European governments, allowing motorcyclists and scooter riders to occupy the space between lanes of slow-moving (25 km/h or less), or stopped traffic, at a speed only marginally faster than traffic is moving.

According to ICBC statistics, distracted driving now poses a greater risk to fellow road-users than drunk driving, with 19 more fatalities reported from distracted driving than drunk driving in 2015, according to the most recent statistics.

Further, according to an ICBC report, distracted driving had been credited for massive increases in rear-end collisions — so many, in fact, that ICBC has looked to hike rates to fund the 2,000 to 4,000 additional injury claims stemming from this increase.

Unfortunately, the situation remains unchanged, as distracted-driving rates continue to climb even in the face of heavier fines. In short, motorists are still using their phones when they drive and, as a result, they’re crashing into each other more often.

One of the most at-risk groups that is falling victim to this rise in rear-end collisions is motorcyclists. In 2015, more than 1,500 motorcyclists were injured in accidents and 32 were killed.

Often, the injuries mimic those of a struck pedestrian, with traumatic brain injuries, spinal-cord injuries and broken pelvises being not uncommon. More severe rear-end collisions, such as those perpetrated by distracted drivers, can easily prove deadly for motorcyclists who end up pinned between the car behind and the car ahead.

Even in the face of heavier fines, motorists are still using their phones when they drive and, as a result, they’re crashing into each other more often

That’s not a comfortable thought, nor is it a comfortable position to be in for B.C. riders — sitting at the end of a line of cars watching your mirrors and praying that the 1,500- or 2,000-kilogram vehicle bearing down on you is being driven by someone who is actually watching the road and not typing out a text message.

In the event that the approaching vehicle doesn’t slow down, motorcyclists are instructed to lane-filter in order to avoid the accident by quickly moving out of the “kill zone” in favour of the relative safety of the space between stopped lanes ahead.

As traffic congestion grows worldwide and accident patterns are better understood, lane-filtering has been legalized in numerous jurisdictions with the expected results: Fewer motorcyclists are injured or killed and congestion is eased.

In most European countries the practice is decades-old and the transportation networks in places like Denmark and Britain — places Vancouver’s municipal government continues to look to for inspiration on transportation policy — rely heavily on the use of lane-filtering motorcycles and scooters to decrease congestion and increase rider safety.

Likewise, lane-filtering laws have swept Australia over the course of the past two years, after a lengthy road-going trial resulted in less traffic congestion and not a single motorcycle accident. It’s coming to North America, too, as Montana, Washington state and Oregon have all introduced laws looking to legalize lane-filtering.

A study conducted by UC Berkeley in 2015 found that motorcyclists that didn’t lane-filter were twice as likely to get rear-ended.

Further, the study found that motorcyclists involved in accidents while lane-filtering were less likely to suffer severe injuries than those that did not. Lane-filtering motorcyclists “were notably less likely to suffer head injury (9.1 per cent versus 16.5 per cent), torso injury (18.6 per cent vs. 27.3 per cent) or fatal injury (1.4 per cent vs. 3.1 per cent) than other motorcyclists.”

In a city that perennially ranks among the most-congested in the world, the practice of lane-filtering could be a literal life-saver. As traffic congestion increases, so too does the chance for rear-end collisions. Add to this the increasing numbers of distracted drivers and you have a lethal cocktail that will end up killing and maiming motorcyclists this summer unless something is done.

The easiest and fastest way to keep those motorcyclists alive? Legalize lane-filtering.

Daniel Fritter is head of Lane Filter B.C. and a member of the B.C. Coalition of Motorcyclists. He has 14 years of experience working as an automotive journalist, writing about cars and transportation in addition to working as an independent magazine publisher.

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  • Perry Edwards
    commented 2019-03-26 11:04:17 -0700
    California drivers are used to seeing riders “lane splitting”; notably the CHP bikes. My concern here in BC is that an intensive public awareness & education campaign would be necessary. I can see an angry driver stuck in traffic edging over or opening his door to ensure that #%}^* biker doesn’t get ahead of him.
  • Sam Coyne
    commented 2018-05-25 17:42:54 -0700
    One of the major factors most drivers don’t consider is that while they sit in traffic in there air conditioned vehicles.Motorcycle divers are exspoed to the risk of heat stroke.Study’s have shown that heat stroke can occur at temperatures above 45 degree Celsius, a motorcycle engine emits 100-160 degrees Celsius.With out air flow the rider is literally cooking.So the next time you see a motorcycle rider filter past you don’t get mad thinking they are trying to get in front of you.Realize that they are just trying to stay alive aside of all the other environmental and traffic congestion reduction benefits.Cars alone share with bicycles so I believe that motorcycle should be aloud to have the same rite.