Back-Seat Driver

Back-seat Driver: Motorcycle lane-splitters are slowing down

Motorcycling season has revved up, and so has the safety pitch from state officials: Drivers, keep your head on a swivel. Nearly 16 percent of roadway deaths in the state involve motorcycles.

Motorcycle deaths in California have declined in the last three years after rising alarmingly in the first decade of the 2000s. One reason, state officials say, is that the number of young guys buying speed bikes has leveled off. The state also is doing a better job of promoting training programs. And car drivers are becoming a little more attuned to the presence of motorcycles.

Motorcyclists also may be backing off on a controversial maneuver – lane-splitting – in which a motorcyclist cuts between two cars in adjacent lanes.

The CHP came out last year with a set of guidelines that affirm the move’s legality, but only in certain circumstances. Motorcyclists can ride between two cars if there is room, the CHP said, but must do it at no more than 10 mph faster than the vehicles they are passing. Also, the CHP told motorcyclists not to lane-split when the surrounding cars are going 30 mph or faster. That basically means motorcyclists can’t lane-split at regular freeway speeds.

A new survey of motorcyclists suggests some motorcyclists are listening. Chris Cochran of the state Office of Traffic Safety said motorcyclists previously reported they split lanes at 15 to 20 mph faster that the cars around. Preliminary new results indicate those motorcyclists report they are now splitting more in the 5 to 10 mph range.

Are certain personality types not a good fit for motorcycles? The Motorcycle Safety Foundation poses an interesting question, and suggestion, for people thinking about riding a motorcycle: “Are you a higher risk-taker than others you know? If you tend to need a thrill while driving a car and have aggressive or risky tendencies (following too closely, turning without signaling, talking on a cellphone, getting angry at other drivers, etc.), motorcycling may not be for you.”

No cars on K Street

Decades ago, the city kicked cars off K Street and turned it into a pedestrian mall. That didn’t work out. The mall was a ghost town at night. Last year, the city reopened the blocks between Eighth and 12th streets, realizing that cars on the street meant people and eyes and activity, and that helps promote commerce.

Now, however, the city is kicking cars off the street again, although only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. The area around the Crest Theatre, K-Bar, Pizza Rock, Dive Bar and District 30 has become too busy with taxis pulling up, people milling about, and cars inching by. The street scene needed to be tamed, police and downtown leaders said. Taxi stands are now around the corner on 10th Street.

Said city spokeswoman Linda Tucker: “We’re a victim of our own success.”