Thursday, September 06, 2012

Take away the incentive

How is it that the more resources there are available to us, the harder it is for us to share them? We have plenty of road, yet drivers and motorcyclists are squabbling over what turf is rightfully "theirs".

On our roads, motorcyclists will squeeze between lanes, raising the ire of drivers. Drivers hate such behaviour because motorbikes unpredictably appear from blind spots -- even after checking. Bikers are fast, less visible and aggressive, or they are slow and hog lanes. Either way, they can't win against drivers who feel that the roads are more legitimately theirs.

Let's agree on one thing, at least. Everyone wants to get to their destination safely and in one piece. Speed is a secondary issue. Speed is a function of what the individual road user perceives as "safe". Slow users are careful. They want longer reaction times to unpredictable events. Fast users are avoiding "being there" when something bad occurs on the road. Everybody is searching for some space where they can exist while minimizing the possibility of having to share the same space at the same time, which -- according to the laws of physics -- can often result in a fatal merger.

As a driver, I say we take away the incentive for bikers to squeeze between us. The reason why they feel it is safer between us than behind us is because we give them less space behind us than between us. Whenever we see a biker in front of us, we speed up and force the biker over to one side so we can get past. Admit it, that's what we do -- presumably because we pay more road tax or ERP; or because four wheels are better than two; or something.

Once we realize that our behaviour influences the actions of others, we empower ourselves to do something about the situation instead of waiting forever for someone else to change their behaviour. What am I suggesting? Fellow drivers, for Pete's sake, give bikers the same respect and minimum safety distance as you would for another car on the road. To keep bikes off the sides of the road, give them a safer option and they'll take it.

Bikers will also take advantage of stop lights and jams to weave between us and get to the head of the queue, and that's annoying, but because of their relative size, that's their prerogative. It also helps shorten the queue a bit, so let them do what they do best and we keep our cool about it, can?

But bikers also have to realize that they are too vulnerable to stay on the rightmost (fast) lane for too long. So, if they agree to keep off the right lane unless they are making a right turn or if they absolutely have to overtake a slowpoke on the left lane (in which case they should do it quickly and get back off to the left asap) I think there'll be a much safer traffic flow for everyone.

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