The United States is spending billions on highways, railways, and roads to, ostensibly make it easier for Americans to get around. Even with all that spending, our infrastructure is nowhere near where it needs to be. But there’s another cheap solution that could ease traffic, parking, and wear on infrastructure: motorcycles. This country has yet to embrace mass-adoption of motorcycles, but the right incentives might change that.
Motorcycles and scooters have been proven to reduce congestion. As it stands today, less than 1 percent of commuting traffic in the U.S. is done on motorcycles. If that were raised to 10 percent, research says congestion would drop by 40 percent. If 25 percent of commuting traffic were motorbikes, apparently congestion could be gone entirely. Gone! Imagine how much safer, more productive and less miserable we’d all be then.
There’s no way in hell that every American currently commuting by car would switch to a bike, but if a decent amount more could be encouraged to do so, everything could move a lot faster for everyone. And enough people just might make the switch for the incentives.
Allow Motorcycle Filtering
I find it absolutely baffling that filtering (aka lanesplitting) is common practice in much of the world and California, but not the other 49 U.S. states. I’ve never heard a true cohesive answer as to why not.
The first time I personally saw how effective filtering was, I was on a trip to Paris, France in 2005. Our group was taking a cab from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Hotel Rhetia. Motorbikes and scooters split in tight traffic like absolute pros. To me, it seemed pretty bold for them to wedge through, but no one else thought anything of it. I didn’t ride motorcycles at the time and didn’t fully understand it. Now I do.
I’ll make the bold, avant-garde suggestion for the other 49 states to allow filtering in practice and law, primarily for the reason I mentioned a few lines ago: less vehicles in lanes means less time between your home and your office. Legal acceptance of lane-splitting will also beget mass awareness and improve safety.
Bikes fit between cars. Let them!
In some places, motorbikes have reduced tolls and fees. In backwater, podunk places like Dallas, bikes pay the same toll fees that larger and heavier cars do. Does anyone else find this ludicrous?
I’ll make the modest proposal tolls should be a thing of the past for motorcycles and scooters. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Feel free to use the tollways to your heart’s content. The single occupancy folks in Tahoes can pick up the slack. So can the drivers of Dust Metallic Toyota minivans, their lives are already pretty much over anyway. (Send me your angry “I love my minivan” tweets here.)
You may argue that if riders don’t pay tolls, that’s fewer dollars for road repairs and construction. But if we ease congestion, in theory we won’t need as many repairs to begin with.
Does anyone remember the Cash For Clunkers program? It was meant to stimulate the economy and get older, “more-polluting” cars off the road in favor of newer ones. It was a total boondoggle of a project the U.S government threw $3 billion dollars at.
Let that sink in. Roughly $3 billion to trade your old car in towards a newer model. In the past few years purchasing an electric vehicle could net you up to $7,500 in tax credits. If we can do all this for helping the environment for cars, why not take the next step?
I propose a similar tax credit or rebate strategy for newly purchased motorcycles. If you buy a new motorcycle, and use it for transportation purposes, you get a credit. If you buy an electric motorcycle, like the ones Zero produces, or the Harley LiveWire vaporware, you get an additional tax credit. Hell, we could even roll in discounts or tax breaks on gear, so everyone’s riding safely too.
Subsidized Training Courses
Some states already subsidize basic and advanced MSF courses. That’s all well and good, but about advanced rider courses, such as California Superbike School, or Yamaha Champions Riding School? Serious schools for serious riders with serious prices. The two-day Superbike School this past August at Circuit of the Americas in Austin was roughly $3,750. That’s whole American dollars, not pesos or baht. I checked. I also asked about discounts and they laughed at me via email.
Imagine a world where the government actually wants to make riders safer and more skilled. In that world, Big Brother has graduated courses for riders trying to improve or has vouchers for the expensive private schools like CSS or Jason Pridmore’s Star School. Not only would this encourage new people to ride, but it raises the baseline skills of the people riding.
Cities love to charge for parking. They love to write parking tickets for motorbikes clearly parked inside the line but have Texas plates, so you write them a ticket anyways. I’m looking at you, Chicago.
The enlightened people running Austin decided motorcycle parking downtown would be free. May the deity of your choice bless them. I was very confused the first time I rode my motorcycle down to Austin and was trying to figure out the meter. The locals were amused and told me it was free. They didn’t tell me to “get a shave, hippie,” because it’s Austin. And Austin is weird.
I propose that all urban areas make motorcycle parking free. This encourages people to commute on their motorbikes to work since many businesses are located in or near city centers. This, in turn, helps reduce congestion during peak hours. Fewer cars taking up space is a win for everyone.
I had free downtown motorcycle parking while I worked in Renaissance Tower in Dallas. I hopped on the Honda Shadow for about 10 minutes down 75, then pulled into an underground parking garage with dedicated motorcycle parking. Free parking. I then took the elevators up to our offices to work. The surface parking lots for our building were $6 a day. The other option was riding the flaming dumpster fire that is the DART.
It’s true that in the U.S., motorcycles will probably never enjoy the proliferation they have in some other countries. Part of it is cultural, part of it is cost, and a big part is the fact that not enough people know how easy it is to fit a cupholder on a handlebar. There’s the safety aspect of it, too.
But as far as making everyone’s experience on the highway better: a little bit more biking would go a long way. More motorcycles translates to less congestion, fuel usage and road wear. Bikes are already a lot cheaper to operate than cars, but a few more incentives might get more people onto the things.
The point is, we can figure out more creative solutions to America’s infrastructure woes than just building more roads and tollways to accomodate ever-growing traffic congestion. This seems like an obvious one.