Riding in heavy traffic, and loving it! - Wrist Twisters
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post #1 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 12:05 AM Thread Starter
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Riding in heavy traffic, and loving it!

Two weeks ago the orthopedist said my broken leg was sufficiently healed to return to work, so it was back to the salt mines for me. Ah well -- I was getting used to having the whole day to do as I wished, but life goes on.

At least I'm commuting 105 miles a day again (When is the last time you heard that as a positive?), and am having a ball doing it! The feeling from dealing with heavy traffic as effortlessly as the 919 with lanesplitter bars is capable of has to be, at least for me, the pinnacle of riding! This may sound a trifle strange coming from someone who so thoroughly revels in tortuous asphalt, but the two are so completely different as to defy comparison past the obvious commonality of man and machine, and our symbosis.

I'm convinced it's the incessant variety and intensely dynamic nature of it that is addictive, but not in an adrenaline surge sort of way -- quite the contrary: there is a zen aspect to moving through traffic that requires a detachment from the immediate ... for at least part of my brain. Instincts will take care of what is directly in front of me with only minor additions of conscious attention to abet accuracy and smoothness, but the bulk of my awareness is toward the organism that is any group of cars, with ripples and eddies; crosscurrents; twitches and tremors; and just a soupçon of unpredictability that gives it spice.

Lane splitting is, of course, an integral part of the traffic experience, and requires a shift in my attention from the predominant awareness of traffic in general to a closer in subconscious focus on the 15 cars ahead in the lanes to each side of me, and the next lane over for its effect on cars on my right. The bulk of my conscious awareness, maybe 30% as compared to 5 to 10% when traffic is moving faster, is toward the four cars just ahead of me, and there is where things get difficult to describe. I have, for want of a better term, received messages from drivers as clearly as if they were talking in my ear, occasionally words, but more commonly a feeling of an earnest of intent to do something that I will have to deal with, particularly left turners. How much is the result of playing the "what if?" game for nigh on 40 years, and how much is something deeper I cannot say, but I've come to know how to sense all inputs and avoid situations before they become situations. As evidence of the effectiveness of this, I have not had to apply the brakes hard, much less panic stop, in over 20 years despite nearly daily exposure to the worst traffic L.A. can throw at me. Make no mistake, I've had to make some very quick maneuvers usually accompanied by judicious amounts of throttle (When in doubt, gas it!), but they are usually non events.
The foregoing is for those who can split lanes, and may I offer sympathy to those who cannot legally do so. Splitting is one of the best teachers of deadly accurate control and the finer points of reading traffic.

Everything I've said up to this point represents an ideal that happens quite often, but being human means you are not always on top of your game, and it can bite if you don't catch the warning signs and take more care.

The problem with learning this is there is no way I can think of to teach it other than describing it in as much detail as possible to make others aware that it is possible, but in the final analysis it takes lots of exposure and having all possible moves necessary to control the motorcycle so ingrained that even in a desperate situation no conscious thought about control is required, freeing up brain space for a more important task: first avoiding an accident, then eventually avoiding the necessity of avoidance.

Another factor I've noticed recently is that traffic has gotten more, well, civilized. It's hard to describe exactly, but he number of cars that move over to make room for me has increased by quite a bit, and I was at a loss for an explanation until it occurred to me that I don't see cell phones plastered to the sides of driver's faces since the "No hands" cell phone law went into effect July first. Now there is a great piece of legislation!

One of these days I'm going to video an average commute, edit out the droning pulls in the carpool lane (at 80 to 85 mph), and post a highlight reel. You'd have puppies!

Rob

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On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
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post #2 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 12:33 AM
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nice write up Rob. I'm glad to hear the hands free phone law is working down there, it's been pointless up here. Everyday 4 out 5 still yakin on the phone while weaving all over the street, not signaling while turning, etc.


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post #3 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 05:25 AM
 
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As usual, a great write up from the master of zen riding.

My morning ride is the greatest part of the work day; the return ride is a close second. Splitting lanes has become effortless after the three track days.
And yes, it is fun trying to "out-think" the average driver.

I have also noticed the increased awareness of drivers to two wheeled traffic.
I partly contribute that to the fact that gas prices have forced people to start ridng their bikes or purchase a bike to ride. There are a lot more motorcycles now than three years ago when I got the 919.

I also have thought about shooting a video clip of my commute. Just have to find a mic for the camera; tired of listening to wind noise.

Stay safe and have fun
Mike

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post #4 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 05:36 AM
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I'd love to see a video of a lane-splitting commute. Being in a state where it's illegal and I'll likely never have the chance to do it, it would be fascinating to me to see experienced riders like you guys stitching through traffic!

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post #5 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 06:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robtharalson View Post
Splitting is one of the best teachers of deadly accurate control and the finer points of reading traffic.
This very fact should be reason enough for splitting to be legal in all 50 states!

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Originally Posted by Sokali View Post
As usual, a great write up from the master of zen riding.
"The average human uses 10% of their brain. Lane splitters use 11%.

Rob uses at least 25..."

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post #6 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 07:58 AM
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The zen of flow. yes. rare for me, but it happens. Very nice Rob.

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post #7 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 08:55 AM
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Holy Rider

I did not know about a broken leg, all I remember was a mention of needing some paint. Your "Title" is spot on !

-Mark-
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post #8 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 09:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robtharalson View Post

One of these days I'm going to video an average commute, edit out the droning pulls in the carpool lane (at 80 to 85 mph), and post a highlight reel. You'd have puppies!

Rob
Do we need to take up a fund for the camera gear or just beg to see it???

I'm good with either.

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post #9 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 10:43 AM
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Glad to hear you're back to work and the leg is doing well. Unfortunately, down here in San Diego, people are still yakking on their cells without a headset. Haven't noticed much difference at all.


Oh, as always, great writing, I never get tired of reading your posts.

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post #10 of 58 Old 08-28-2008, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ideajones View Post
I did not know about a broken leg, all I remember was a mention of needing some paint. Your "Title" is spot on !
Fortunately, the broken leg had nothing to do with my 919 -- the paint is for a minor drop on a group ride.

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Originally Posted by ajcombs View Post
Do we need to take up a fund for the camera gear or just beg to see it???

I'm good with either.
Xrmikey loaned me his camera / recorder setup, all I need to do is get the camera head mounted and hook up a remote microphone. With a 4 day weekend to play with it may be ready to go Tuesday. I'll let you know.

BTW, I got your e-mail about flying the flag on 9-11, and if you noticed my post total (911) it seems someone is trying to tell me something! I have flown the flag every September 11th since, but what I would like to see less of is the car window flags littering the roads. Fly the flag, but do it properly.

Rob

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On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
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post #11 of 58 Old 08-29-2008, 03:39 PM
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rob -

i think i might have seen you on monday evening - i was traveling south on the 405 near lax, and i saw a yellow streak blast by going north with a hand stuck out waving as i went by... since you're commuting to lb i figured the 405 would be your route...

...j919

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post #12 of 58 Old 08-29-2008, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
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It probably was me. I do recall seeing a dark colored something with high mounted cans going the other way and wondering if it was a 919. It's good to know it was.

Rob

If it has already been done, it is safe to assume it is possible to do it.
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post #13 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 01:02 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken View Post
I'd love to see a video of a lane-splitting commute. Being in a state where it's illegal and I'll likely never have the chance to do it, it would be fascinating to me to see experienced riders like you guys stitching through traffic!
OK. I know Rob won't mind if I post yesterday's morning commute.
I need him to evaluate it anyways.

Rob, just let me know if you see any problems that I need to work on.

Friday's commute was not a typical one for me. My workday usually starts between 6 and 7 am. This clip was taken at around 8:30.

I have some clips of the afternoon commute; if anyone is interested, just post up. BTW The afternoon commute was "on-the-clock". I was heading to an ISP in Wholely-wierd for after hours work.

The left hand turn at 0:50 is a problem spot for drivers when it rains.

I've had two minor cage accidents at the junction at 8:10 while switching lanes.

Sorry, turn down the volume and put on your favorite music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IeS4INE9pM

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post #14 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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Mike:
Very good video. It's what I describe as "broken field" splitting: higher speeds and lots of cars in one lane with gaps in the adjacent lane -- much more likely to have the car suddenly move over into the gap without noticing what is coming up behind them, requiring a sudden swerve on the part of the rider. Commonly, I do what you see Mike doing: always steer into the clear lane even if it's only clear for 1 1/2 car lengths to give some space cushion and put you initially travelling diagonally across the lane away from the car, enabling less dramatic evasive maneuvering if it should suddenly move into your lane. The trick then is to smoothly steer back into the lane divider you originally occupied without losing too much momentum in the process. This is where accurate control inputs are particularly essential -- an error of a coulpe inches can put you into the side of a car, which you will bounce off of into the side of another car sometimes only partially connected to your bike, and you can imagine the consequences of that series of events. All of which are 100% your fault.

I am sure you also noticed two instances of a large gap opening up in front to let a vehicle in, always accompanied with a wave indicating your intention to let them in, and checking your mirrors in case the car behind you doesn't happen to notice what's going on. It's just basic D.R. (driver relations), and an integral part of the traffic dynamic.

Mike, I see no major problems with your splitting, just minor smoothness issues which will work themselves out with experience. I will admit, however, that this is the first time I've seen a video of splitting, so I'll have to record one of my commutes to compare and get back to you. Nicely done.

Thank you!

Rob

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On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
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post #15 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 08:03 PM
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Now...This guy knows how to get through traffic!


[youtube]hOKBW-KANno&feature[/youtube]

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post #16 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xrmikey View Post
Now...This guy knows how to get through traffic!


[youtube]hOKBW-KANno&feature[/youtube]
That guys is a MANIAC!

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post #17 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 10:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xrmikey View Post
Now...This guy knows how to get through traffic!


[youtube]hOKBW-KANno&feature[/youtube]
Dude, I didn't know you went riding during your vacation in Europe?

Here's a couple more from 4:30 pm Friday, the worst traffic day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YEZ5sWetvk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv_ycbBx9d4

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post #18 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by hasbeenracer View Post
That guys is a MANIAC!
You're too kind. Insane is closer to it, and the next video featuring him will probably be pretty, well, graphic. If you know what I mean.

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!! Or anywhere else for that matter.

The problem is after that anything I post will look downright boring. Such is life.

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post #19 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 10:29 PM
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sokali

out of curiosity what kind of time difference are you making by doing the splitting vs driving your cage?

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post #20 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 10:38 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajcombs View Post
sokali

out of curiosity what kind of time difference are you making by doing the splitting vs driving your cage?

Took me around a half hour to get from the LAX area to the jobsite in front of the Chinese Theatre (home of the wannabe comic heroes and a tourist trap) on Hollywood Blvd.

In a cage, probably 75 to 90 minutes of hell on earth.

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post #21 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 10:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sokali View Post
Took me around a half hour to get from the LAX area to the jobsite in front of the Chinese Theatre (home of the wannabe comic heroes and a tourist trap) on Hollywood Blvd.

In a cage, probably 75 to 90 minutes of hell on earth.
not familiar at all with and area outside of my house total miles about 20??

And wow are you exaggerating a little???

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post #22 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 10:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ajcombs View Post
not familiar at all with and area outside of my house total miles about 20??

And wow are you exaggerating a little???
Total miles 24.43 and eta of 33 according to yahoo maps.

Exaggerating about the 75 to 90 minutes on a Friday at 4:30 pm?

I'm not the only SoCal rider here, ask around.

BTW I edited out the 90 mph carpool lane section; regular lanes were averaging between 20 and 45 mph.

Hope you enjoyed the videos.


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post #23 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sokali View Post
Total miles 24.43 and eta of 33 according to yahoo maps.

Exaggerating about the 75 to 90 minutes on a Friday at 4:30 pm?

I'm not the only SoCal rider here, ask around.

BTW I edited out the 90 mph carpool lane section; regular lanes were averaging between 20 and 45 mph.

Hope you enjoyed the videos.

i wasn't saying you were exaggerating just wow it makes that kind of difference!! Thats all!!

90 mph was everyone else in the carpool lane doing that or you just speedin


and yeah enjoyed it alot I can't wait to see Rob's!! Even if it will be tame compared to the insane dudes!! I'm shocked he didn't kill a few pedestrians.

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post #24 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 11:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajcombs View Post
i wasn't saying you were exaggerating just wow it makes that kind of difference!! Thats all!!

90 mph was everyone else in the carpool lane doing that or you just speedin


and yeah enjoyed it alot I can't wait to see Rob's!! Even if it will be tame compared to the insane dudes!! I'm shocked he didn't kill a few pedestrians.
No worries.

It makes a huge difference; enough to make me turn down a company truck with gas card.

I usually go about 10 mph faster than traffic; LEO's will let that slide if you're wearing the proper safety gear.

BTW Traffic in the carpool lanes is very light.

Yeah, I can't wait to see Rob's either; I might learn a thing or two about zen riding.

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post #25 of 58 Old 08-30-2008, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Sokali View Post
No worries.

It makes a huge difference; enough to make me turn down a company truck with gas card.

OK that's it there is no law in NC saying that lane splitting is illegal so i'm gonna write a letter and show the powers to be you guys' movies and say see its perfectly safe when done properly and figure out how to delete insane guys from Youtube cause i don't want them to know how i will really be JK

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post #26 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 07:41 AM
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Yes, have to agree with rob, that guy is completely insane. Did you see the one pedestrian go from a walk to a run to get out of the way? Doorknob.

Just to give Mike a little backup. My office is exactly 15 miles from my house, 12 miles is freeway. Its a 1/2hr commute at minimum, usually 45 mins and sometimes can be as long as 1 hour. For 15 miles? Ridiculous.

Rob, please go ahead and post a commute video. It will be very interesting to see your talent and experience at work in LA traffic.

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post #27 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 07:57 AM
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Firstly, Big ups to Rob and Sokali for doing this. It's been educational for me as a rider AND as a truck driver to see it from the riders perspective. Reps coming.

Questions

When the traffic backs up and slows, what are the odds of a forgetful motorist opening a door ? Whose fault?

If rider errs, and scratches a beemer (car) what does insurance company do ?

What other states allow l/s ?

Sokali: In your newest vids, no1 specifically, what was the deal with the BMW at 2:38 and the Grand Marquis at 6:20 ?

Also, I see time lost, however small, due to 4 wheelers who aren't expecting an m/c to be so thoughtful. What are your comments about that.

Rob: looking forward to your vid to see the "relaxed" version of lane splitting so I'll have 2 extremes adn a middle ground to compare. Assuming Sokali falls in the middle using the term "aggressive" as a framework.

There is still a part of me that thinks l/s is a bad idea. But. Done sensibly with the right traffic reading skills, it could be as benign as a pot of gold.

Thanks again guys.

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post #28 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 08:49 AM
 
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Lemonhead,

So you know, I always help trucks make lane changes and such even when in a cage. My brother used to be an owner/operator so I know how tough it is driving around in traffic.

Answers:

Chances of opening doors is slim on the freeway; no reason to. But, when moving traffic slows down abruptly, you have to look out for greedy drivers making sudden lane changes without signaling to gain a few "positions". I usually wait a couple of seconds before proceeding.

I assume the bike would be at fault.

I'm also curious as to which states don't allow lanesplitting.

At 2:38, if you're talking about the one that is trying to slide under the big rig, probably wants to make a right lane change or busy on the cell.

At 6:20, the left lane was probably moving .5 second quicker.

As to time lost to confused drivers, sometimes they don't see the go-ahead wave from the rider. The time can easily be made up. Also, it's not a race, it's a marathon.

Other things that I usually do and explains the hesitation during the videos: when I come up to a situation that does not look "right", I'll wait a second to analyze it before proceeding, and I always slow down and do a head check before splitting the lanes furthest to the left. That's where most riders split lanes, so I make sure there's no riders approaching. I've had riders jump in front of me without looking. And that brings up another point, be on the lookout when you see a rider get on the freeway and start working his way to the left.

Hope this helps
Mike

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post #29 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 09:08 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemonhead View Post
When the traffic backs up and slows, what are the odds of a forgetful motorist opening a door ? Whose fault?
Opening your door without checking clearance is illegal in CA, so the driver (and / or their passenger) is liable for all consequences.

Quote:
If rider errs, and scratches a beemer (car) what does insurance company do ?
It's the same as any other accident. In this case the rider would be responsible for repairs.
Quote:
Also, I see time lost, however small, due to 4 wheelers who aren't expecting an m/c to be so thoughtful. What are your comments about that.
It's very situational: sometimes I'll wave them over, then if they don't move in a timely fashion i'll go by, but more commonly I'll pull into the far side of the lane they are trying to move into, get their attention and wave them to move over into "my" lane. Once they get the idea they usually move over quickly and almost always wave appreciatively. It's good D.R., and doesn't really cost much time.
Quote:
There is still a part of me that thinks l/s is a bad idea. But. Done sensibly with the right traffic reading skills, it could be as benign as a pot of gold.

Thanks again guys.
I should add here that the most hazardous situation while splitting is when approaching another motorcycle -- we are, as a class, an unpredictable lot and some of the closest shaves I've had were when splitting past a M.C. that suddenly moves over to the line for whatever reason without checking his mirrors. It is never benign -- you can never let your guard down.

Rob

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post #30 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 09:30 AM
 
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Sorry for the thread-jack, Rob.

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post #31 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 11:25 AM
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AMA website has riding laws broken down by state here for those that were asking

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post #32 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 01:24 PM
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Thanks ajcombs. What the heck does not referenced mean ?

Mi esposa thinks the splitting is an ethical no-no because it puts others at risk.

Y'alls thoughts ?

Sokali, I assumed you were just as giving to big trucks as you were cagers. We appreciate the thoughtfulness. (How do we get the teamwork message through to cagers?)

I also assumed the pauses were to get a better "read" on traffic. Your riding did not look overly aggressive to me.

Rob, I know it's never benign, per se, I'm just not seeing it at the devil I once did. Thanks to you guys. Truly, this thread rocks.

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post #33 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 02:38 PM
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Mi esposa thinks the splitting is an ethical no-no because it puts others at risk.

Y'alls thoughts ?
Tell her to sit in SO CAL traffic for a week. I think she'll change her tune.

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post #34 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks ajcombs. What the heck does not referenced mean ?
Not referenced boils down to it's up to the LEO to decide if your riding between cars constitutes an infraction of some other law, such as the basic speed law or reckless driving. It also means lane splitting is not specifically prohibited. As far as I know California is the only heavily populated state that does not specifically prohibit splitting.
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Mi esposa thinks the splitting is an ethical no-no because it puts others at risk.

Y'alls thoughts ?
There is minimal risk to car drivers other than their overracting to the sudden appearance of a motorcycle and doing something stupid trying to get out of the way, which is usually completely unnecessary. The only common ethical problem stems from causing paint or sheetmetal damage and leaving the scene without exchanging insurance information, which is not only illegal but also very unethical.
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Rob, I know it's never benign, per se, I'm just not seeing it at the devil I once did. Thanks to you guys. Truly, this thread rocks.
I understand. education is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Rob

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On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
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post #35 of 58 Old 08-31-2008, 05:05 PM
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Quote:
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Thanks ajcombs. What the heck does not referenced mean ?

Mi esposa thinks the splitting is an ethical no-no because it puts others at risk.

Y'alls thoughts ? Thanks to you guys. Truly, this thread rocks.


No problem! I really don't know what it means when the law doesn't reference it but my friend the Assistant DA says that since its not referenced as being legal, depending the cops mood he could always write a reckless driving ticket, so I'm not gonna do it unless someone proves otherwise!!

As far as how I feel about doing it if i could get away with it oh yeah!! Putting others at risk, i just see i'm the only one at risk cause against a car i don't think id make it.

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post #36 of 58 Old 09-02-2008, 10:17 AM Thread Starter
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Spent a part of the weekend pressing the lapels on the camera mount and had it ready for today's commute -- and the traffic was so light the video is BORING! Well, except for a cage that somehow managed to run off the side of Malibu Canyon road and caused a major looky loo tie up.

Needless to say I'll try again tonight -- I'm certain a particular stretch of the 405 will be slow. Perhaps I should say almost certain. If it's clear on the way home (very rare) I'm seriously considering leaving the camera mounted permanently just to be sure there's nothing to video.

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post #37 of 58 Old 09-02-2008, 12:26 PM
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Been to Cali a few times and watched people lane splitting. Always seemed to me it would be better to carve out a small lane for bikes only to the far left and let em have at it. Glad you guys love traffic.

"Towards the end of the vid, it looks like she may have had a bafflectomy." - MarylandMike
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post #38 of 58 Old 09-02-2008, 02:33 PM Thread Starter
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Been to Cali a few times and watched people lane splitting. Always seemed to me it would be better to carve out a small lane for bikes only to the far left and let em have at it. Glad you guys love traffic.
If it's all the same to anybody, Id rather deal with cars than other bikes on the freeway: if there was a motorcycle only lane it would be popular with the squidly 'busa crowd and I'd avoid it like the plague!

This is my first attempt at uploading a video, so here goes. Turn the volume down.
http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_edi...sq%3D%26dm%3D1
It actually worked! Cool. Well, sort of cool.
I'm working on getting rid of the hash on the bottom of the screen, but the recorder's manual reads like it was poorly translated from Martian!

Unfortunately, the commute this morning was very clear, so I'll try again as soon as I get the picture cleaned up and get a remote low gain microphone. Stay tuned.

Rob

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On the other hand, if it has not been done never assume it is impossible to do it.
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post #39 of 58 Old 09-02-2008, 03:10 PM
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Rob, I couldn't access your video.
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post #40 of 58 Old 09-02-2008, 03:21 PM
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Same here. What's the word title ?

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