Thursday, July 19, 2007

Motorscooters a "new menace"

Australia's Yahoo!Xtra is carrying a story about how Australian drivers consider motorscooter drivers to be a "new menace" on city streets. Australian insurance company AAMI reports that scooters have sold 20% higher this year than last and motorcycle sales have increased 36%. That likely means lots of new riders. According to the news story:
"The research also showed 78 per cent of NSW car drivers in the survey said they had seen motorcyclists breaking the law and taking unnecessary risks on the roads."

and we can guess where most of the problems occur:
"Quoting figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, AAMI said almost half of the 120,827 scooters and motorcycles registered in NSW last year are located in Sydney."

I'm inclined to believe the reports. I've been to some scooter rallies where newbie riders and their inability to keep a straight line, nonexistent turn signals and general lack of etiquette have almost ruined my rally experience.

We all know that in a car vs. scooter altercation, the scooter always comes out worse. So, how can Sydney work to create a more amicable balance between scooter riders and cars? Since I have never been to Australia, let alone ridden there I can speak definitively, but it is likely due to education. In the US, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Scooter School" is a good start. It is only offered in a few locations and doesn't qualify for insurance discounts, but it makes a difference in getting scooter riders in road-worthy shape.

Another point that I think helps in traffic is (and I know I'll hear arguments about this) allowing lane splitting. I think lane splitting enables motorcycles and scooters that ability to improve traffic flow by allowing them to get through traffic quicker. That being said, I only lane split when traffic is at a stop or 5mph or less. I think it is too dangerous at higher speeds, and it can actually cause problems for car drivers who get surprised by a motorcycle zooming past them. But, when done right, lane splitting can lets riders take advantage of space between cars that is not used and allows them to bypass traffic. I have no idea what Australia's rules are on lane splitting, but if it is allowed, and cars/scooter drivers are given education about how it works then traffic and compliance could improve.

What do you think?

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