We’re about to spend $305 billion on highways and roads that we don’t need. That $305 billion over the next 5 years is part of the recently passed federal transportation bill. A lot of that money is related to highways and road expansions. None of that is related to motorcycles. The bill has things for rail projects, ferries, logging roads, the Export-Import bank, and even a damn crop subsidy. But God forbid we encourage motorcycle use!
As a reasonable counterpoint, I’ll outline a few areas our government can encourage motorcycle use, rather than just throwing money at their golf buddies for new highways and urban sprawl. Motorcycles and scooters have been proven to reduce congestion. Normally about 1% of commuting traffic in the U.S. is motorcycles. If that number is raised to 10%, congestion would drop by 40%. If 25% of commuting traffic were motorbikes, congestion would be gone entirely. GONE. What a Brave New World that would be!
Allow Lane Splitting
I’ll jump right in with the most controversial of the items; lane-splitting or filtering. I find it absolutely baffling that it’s common practice in much of the world and California, but not the other 49 states? Why not? I’ve never heard a true cohesive answer why that’s not the case.
The first time I personally saw how effective lane splitting was in France on the ride from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Hotel Rhetia. Motorbikes and scooters split in tight traffic like absolute pros. I thought it was bold for them to do that, but no one else thought anything of it. I didn’t ride motorcycles at the time, and didn’t fully understand it. Now I do.
I’ll make the bold, avant-garde suggestion for the other 49 states to allow lane splitting in practice, if not law. This allows the rest of the states to come into line with what is daily practice in California.
Think of it this way, as laws are currently written, you can smoke approximately ALL of the pot in Colorado, but you cant legally split lanes in a highway traffic jam. Who’s the real outlaw now?
In some places motorbikes have reduced tolls and fees. In backwater, podunk places like Dallas, bikes pay the same toll fees that cars do. Does anyone else find this ludicrous?
I’ll make the modest proposal that if you’re on a motorbike, tolls should be a thing of the past. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Feel free to use the tollways at your heart’s content. The single occupancy folks in Tahoes can pick up the slack. So can the drivers of Dust Metallic Toyota minivans; their lives are already pretty much over anyway.
Does anyone remember the Cash For Clunkers program? If your memory is a bit hazy, it was meant to stimulate the economy and get older, “more-polluting” cars off the road in favor of newer ones. It was a total boondoggle of a project the U.S government threw $3 billion dollars at. Let that sink in. Roughly $3 billion to trade your old car in towards a newer model. In the past few years purchasing an electric vehicle could net you up to $7,500 in tax credits. If we can do all this for helping the environment for cars, why not take the next step?
I propose a similar tax credit or rebate strategy for newly purchased motorcycles. If you buy a new motorcycle, and use it for transportation purposes, you get a credit. If you buy an electric motorcycle, like the ones Zero produces, or the vaporware that is the Harley LiveWire, you get an additional tax credit.
Subsidized Training Courses
Some states already subsidize basic and advanced MSF courses. That’s all well and good. What about advanced rider courses, such as California Superbike School? It’s a serious school for serious riders and carried a serious price. The 2 day school this coming August at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin is roughly $3,750. That’s whole American dollars, not pesos or baht. I checked. I also asked about coupons and they laughed at me via email.
Imagine a world where the government actually wants to make riders safer and better. In that world, Big Brother has graduated courses for riders trying to improve, or has vouchers for the expensive private schools like CSS or Jason Pridmore’s Star School. What a wonderful world it would be.
Cities LOVE to charge for parking. They love to write parking tickets for motorbikes clearly parked inside the line, but have out of state plates so you write them a ticket anyways. (I’m looking at YOU Chicago).
The enlightened people running Austin, Texas decided that motorcycle parking downtown would be free. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless them. I was very confused the first time I rode my motorcycle down to Austin and was trying to figure out the meter. The locals were amused and told me it was free. They didn’t tell me to “get a shave, hippie,” because it’s Austin. And Austin is weird.
I propose that all urban areas make motorcycle parking free. This encourages people to commute on their bikes to work, since most businesses are located in or near city centers. This in turn helps reduce congestion during peak hours.
I had free downtown motorcycle parking while I worked in Renaissance Tower in Dallas. I hopped on the Honda Shadow for about 10 minutes down 75, then pulled into an underground parking garage with dedicated motorcycle parking. Free parking. I then took the elevators up to our offices to work. The surface parking lots for our building were $6 a day. The other option was riding the flaming dumpster fire that is the DART.
How do you think the government can encourage motorcycle use? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.