Hudson Valley Motorcyclists Breaking Law They Say is ‘Dumb’
Motorcyclists throughout the Hudson Valley are blatantly ignoring the law and angering drivers who say they're putting everyone's lives at risk.
Automobiles and motorcycles have been figuring out how to share the same roadways for decades. For the most part, drivers of both vehicles are simply doing their best to keep each other safe. But recently the illegal behavior of some motorcyclists has been angering drivers. Bikers say they're just doing what they need to in order to keep themselves alive.
I was stopped in traffic at a light on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie last week when I suddenly heard a loud noise on my left. Before I could turn around, I saw something approaching out of the corner of my eye. It was a motorcyclist zooming between both lanes of stopped traffic to get to the front of the line at the light. As they approached the red light, the biker looked both ways and then zoomed right through the intersection.
Drivers were throwing their hands in the air and looking around to see if anyone else just noticed what happened. Sadly, this isn't the first time I've seen this and from what Hudson Valley bikers say, it's something they won't stop doing.
The practice of sneaking up to the front of the line at a red light on a motorcycle is called "lane splitting" and it's a hotly debated topic in the biker world. Some states, such as California, have made lane splitting legal to the delight of motorcycle riders and the dismay of many drivers. The practice in New York, however, is still very much against the law.
Whenever I see someone weaving through cars on their motorcycle I can't help but think of how dangerous it is. On busy roads like Route 9, cars can be very unpredictable. It's not uncommon for drivers to quickly change lanes or begin to jockey for position while waiting for a light. Having a motorcycle sneak up behind you seems like a recipe for disaster.
Motorcyclists claim that lane splitting is necessary to keep themselves safe. We spoke with many bikers who say they worry about getting hit from behind at lights. They insist that they'll continue to break the law in order to "protect themselves." Many of the bikers we talked to said they'd rather be at the front of the line than at the end where a distracted driver can rear-end them.
California officials say that lane splitting is necessary to help keep motorcycles from overheating on hot days. Traffic in and around many areas in California can get backed up for miles. Idling your motorcycle for such a long time in 100-plus-degree heat just isn't practical.
Whether or not lane splitting is actually safer for motorcyclists is still up for debate. There haven't been many studies on the subject, but most of the data we do have doesn't really show that the practice has reduced motorcycle injuries at all. The confusion on the road and anger that other motorists feel when a motorcyclist weaves through traffic can also lead to road rage incidents, which some say negates any positive effects that lane splitting may have on safety.
Many drivers have told us that they hate the idea of motorcyclists traveling so closely between two stopped lanes of traffic, especially on New York roadways that tend to be tighter in many congested areas. Roads like Route 211 and Route 9 have complicated turn arrows and lights that can quickly transform a line of stopped traffic into a fast-moving race to the intersection, putting an unsuspecting motorcyclist in the middle of a potentially deadly situation.
There is a push by motorcycle activists to make lane splitting legal in New York, but no legislation is currently being proposed to change the current law. In the meantime, many of the motorcyclists we've talked to say they will continue to push their way to the front of the line despite the fact that it's illegal.
We want to know what you think. Should motorcyclists be allowed to jump to the front of the line at red lights or does the idea seem too dangerous? You can let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page or by sending us a text on our app.