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Maybe the problem is all those cars...

While Japan fumbles with piecemeal half-measures toward allowing bikers to carry passengers on major expressways, Britain has learned that it makes sense to actually encourage bikes on major roads, with passengers or not.

Motorcycles are now allowed to use the "high-occupancy vehicle" (i.e., carpool) lanes on Britain's M1 motorway during rush hours, regardless of whether the rider is carrying a passenger. And a recently-enacted £5 "congestion" charge applies to cars, but not to motorcycles, entering central London.

The result so far? More bikes on the road -- and fewer traffic accidents.

Makes sense to me. We bikers are more attentive to what's going on around us (even if some of us occasionally stick cell phones in our helmets.) We have to be, or we'll get killed.

When I was in Vietnam, where many people can't afford cars, I saw dozens of scooters and small bikes jostling and swarming along the main streets like schools of fish -- but I never saw any of them in a traffic accident.

Car drivers sit back in a comfy seat, crank up the radio (or, God forbid, in more and more cars these days, the television), and zone out in climate-controlled bliss while their massive vehicles hurtle down the road. With a plethora of airbags surrounding them and three-point seatbelts holding them in place, they can afford to be careless.

Cheers to the Brits for recognizing who the real safe motorists are.


Sharon said...

Allowing motorcyclists to use the carpool lanes is a good idea, especially on Britian's motorways. I lived there while in college and the stop-and-go nature of their traffic makes it really tough for bikers to do longer-haul trips. Plus, bikes are more fuel efficient than cars: reward people who choose to use them for their commutes rather than cars.

I wonder if London Mayor Ken Levingstone levies the congestion charge (applied to cars traveling on central London roads during the week) on motorcyclists? It wouldn't surprise me: he doesn't seem to think outside of the "Lefty Box".

Slightly OT: As a person who commutes by bus & train, I am a pedestrian 95& of the time. It amazes me how many things motorists do besides simply pay attention to the road. It seems especially bad among the under 30 crowd, who have been talking on cell phones since they were little kids. I honestly think they have no idea how distracting mobiles are: after all, they seem to make turns into pedestrian crossing lanes while yapping on the phone, and seem really surprised when they nearly run someone over. I understnad that driving in a major city is a drag (I live in Chicago and nothing moves very quickly), but that doesn't mean you should be texting your girlfriends with the latest gossip while tooling down Michigan Avenue!

fasteddie said...

hey japbiker, are you able to text message and ride at the same time?

Big Ben said...

Bikes have been allowed in the carpool lanes in Washington State for several years now. I hope this trend continues to spread.

fasteddie, you may think you're joking, but I've seen kids on scooters texting here in Japan. Doesn't scare me as much as the truck drivers I've seen doing it though--they don't even glance at the road.



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