In heavy commuter traffic, motorcycles may soon be allowed to use bike lanes at a reduced speed to free up traffic in Victoria.
State transport authority VicRoads is actually considering this sensible move as part of a raft of suggestions from its online cycling survey.
The usual response to traffic problems is to build bigger and more expensive infrastructure and/or reduce speed limits. However, there are other methods that can be employed and thinking outside the box about road rules is an important part.
Anything that makes it easier for motorcycles to get around the constraints of current road rules will not only help riders, but also drivers. Apart from allowing riders to use bike lanes (and specially constructed bike paths for that matter), other examples would be lane filtering, motorcycle footpath parking and allowing riders to turn left (or right in right-hand-drive countries) on red. Victoria has footpath parking, but the government has rejected lane filtering (although the Opposition supports it).
The VicRoads reforms are part of a move to make the state more bike-friendly, that is, for cyclists. While the bike lane-sharing idea might seem a present for motorcycle riders, it will actually help all traffic.
It is a sensible use of sometimes expensive extra infrastructure or part of a road which is often lying idle or underused. Bike lanes and bike paths are used more frequently on weekends for recreation than in peak hour for commuting. Allowing motorcycle riders to use these underused lanes at a slow speed in peak hours makes a lot of sense.
The same goes with bus lanes. Why shouldn’t motorcycles be able to use them as well? They do in some states, but not others, yet they are often underused.
Cyclists may scream shock and horror at allowing motorcycles on their bike ways, but motorcycle riders wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) use them all the time; only when the roads are blocked by heavy traffic.
Some of the other bicycle ideas from the VicRoads survey also have merit for all road users such as allowing cyclists to ride on all footpaths so long as they give way too pedestrians. Anything that gets bicycles off the road is a good idea.
Bicycles really shouldn’t be on the roads because of the speed differential with the rest of the traffic. How many times have you seen traffic backed up because they can’t get past a slow-moving cyclist?