Limited Speed Motorcycles on the Highway Shoulder

Limited Speed MotorcycleI applaud the green attitude of those people who ride a limited speed motorcycle (LSM) for their trips on BC highways. Surely their carbon footprint is a lot lighter than my own. That and their wallet will be heavier as these motorcycles are economical to buy, license and operate.

I also cringe when I see them on higher speed highways traveling at 70 km/h or less. Will they be at significant risk riding among other traffic moving at 90 km/h and faster? Drivers today seldom have patience for anyone driving at the speed limit much less those driving more slowly.

Some LSM riders appear to have decided that they should drive on the shoulder of the highway rather than in the lanes with the rest of the traffic. This practice may feel safer for them but it is not legal. They must take a position in the lane as any other motorcycle rider would.

What is the difference between an LSM and an electric bicycle? They sometimes look much the same but the electric bicycle is required to be used as nearly as is practical to the right edge of the highway, which includes the shoulder. They also travel significantly slower, having a maximum speed of 32 km/h on level ground.

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So is this just another case of the "Law" missing the point on common sense and safety for these riders, or is it just outdated needs a second  more rational look at these machines ?

Sort of like kids in elementary school being forced by "Law" to ride their bikes on the roadways, with their backs to the traffic, instead of on sidewalks on their way to / from school.

When we moved to Nanaimo, and our kids went to Hammond Bay School, there was not even a shoulder on one side of Hammond Bay Road, and at the speed cars, gravel trucks, buses, etc., roared past, I told my kids to ride on the sidewalk side of the road: both directions, on the sidewalk, and I would pay any fines.

Now, 20 years later, hardly any kids are allowed to either walk or bike to that school.

That's an interesting question, and one that I was wondering about myself as I wrote this.

Should these drivers be restricted to streets with a speed limit of 70 km/h or less? They did that with low speed vehicles when they were approved for use on our highways this year. To me this keeps the speed differential down and I would expect it to reduce the probability of a collision.

I did search but was unable to find any research related to this, but I will keep it in mind in case I do come across any.

Bicycles are legally creeping onto our sidewalks in some places. Just like on the side of the road, if the traffic shared, we won't have a problem with it.

Ultimately, the problem is us. We don't seem to want to think of anyone else when we drive, and if you can't stay with the pack or stay out of the way you are in trouble.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

I agree it's an issue of drivers having no patience for other road users. As someone who grew up in Europe, where as a cyclist I shared the road with the other traffic (not the sidewalk or a special lane, though of course no motorways or other such places) I find the North American attitude towards other road users to be very short sighted. I was thinking the other day how impatient drivers are when one is driving along at the posted MAXIMUM speed limit and in some cases they will make an inappropriate gesture to someone who is at the speed limit. It is a maximum speed after all and not a minimum - what are the official thoughts on acceptable speeds? I read of a person being ticketed for going too slow a couple of winters ago, they were doing 70 in a 90 zone, and yes it was icy. This interested me since every car handles differently in snow & ice and this seemed a little harsh. Interesting subject. Thanks.

That's always an interesting question, especially since our speedometers are not as precise as they might be right out of the factory. Does an officer leave a little room to cover inaccuracy? How much room is a little room, and how long does it take before the drivers expect to drive at the "new limit" which is the posted limit plus that little bit of room?

I've had people tell me that they weren't speeding, that they were only doing the 10 over that is allowed.

Slow driving is something that I've always found difficult, to explain to the speeders that is. They seem to think that no one should be below the posted limit and if they are, they shouldn't be on the road. I always took the view that I had to apply the same tolerance under the speed limit that I did enforcing speed over the limit.

The MVA actually permits slow driving when it is necessary to be safe, but it does not permit speeding under any circumstances.

You didn't touch on the one most infuriating characteristic found in more and more LSM or motorized bicycle (avec pedals) riders these days. Riding on the sidewalks and in crosswalks. In the Kelowna area I see this almost daily. It is bad enough that you have non-motorized cyclists whooshing in and around you through cross-walks, with little warning or reaction time because they are moving so much faster than a pedestrian. Now the motorized cycles and LSMs can commonly come out from behind other vehicles or semi-obstructed views driving on the sidewalk or through cross-walks.

It infuriates me to no end. Where do these people get off thinking they can ride their motorized vehicles on the sidewalk or through cross-walks. Typically I would suggest the rider shouldn't even be riding one because almost without exception they are very low-skilled riders and they appear to be scared out of their wits anyways. There really needs to be some licensing for both of these vehicle types.

Another one, the riders of LSMs using bicycle helmets.

I know this is a common complaint however where are the police because I have no problem seeing these people almost daily and sometimes several per day in my limited time (typically less than 1/2 hour per day) driving the roads.

In actual fact I think that some of the people I have seen wearing bicycle helmets were possibly riding scooters and not even LSMs. The motorized bicycles I have seen, I usually identify by looking for the pedals because they have to still have pedals. And they typically are a little bit leaner (read scrawny) looking, not as much bulk, just like a heavy duty bicycle frame.

But the driving on sidewalks and using crosswalks for all the scooters, LSMs and motorized bicycles in Kelowna has almost become common place. Typically the riders are one of two types, a young woman (18 - 23 years) or a middle-age to older woman (35 - 60 years). Without licencing for most of these vehicles in place what do you do to the riders? Yeah, you can give them a fine but you have no other recourse because most of them (49cc and under) don't even require licenses.

I remember one occasion very clearly, I was sitting in the right turn lane on a red light (Harvey (#97) and Spall, if you know it), across the crosswalk come a big scooter (a larger sized scooter, definitely well over 50cc) with a man driving and a woman riding with him. They rode across the crosswalk towards me, turned onto the median between the right turn lane and the through traffic lanes, then pushed the crosswalk button to cross the other roadway. When the light changed I watched as they rode through the crosswalk across that second roadway as well. I was so tempted to tell the guy off when I was sitting there, they had pushed the crosswalk button and were also sitting there waiting. Tell him what a frightened little child he must be since he was afraid to ride on the road with the big boys. Ask him if he needed training wheels also? I often think that I should have, he was only 8 feet away and I had my window rolled down most of the way already.

That's what a response would be considered. I feel the same way now and again, but I really don't think that it would do much good and could end up getting me into trouble for it. Then what?

Riding a bicycle, I stay to the inside of the white line, as a) I was taught that I need to follow the rules and responsibilities of vehicles, and they are not allowed to use the shoulder, and b) because it gives me somewhere to go when drivers do not, and c) because you are not to cross solid white lines (even though the majority of drivers do not know or pretend not to). I do not pass on the right, especially in heavy trafic, waiting my turn, and work hard to maintain high visibility. However, on occassion, there are cycle logos on the shoulder indicating it is a bike lane. This gives others the impression that the shoulder is always a bike lane. I prefer to take bike lanes where possible, but, as in the case of some areas (Maple Ridge) I am not going to zigzag through backroads, parks, and travel numerous additional kilometers when the direct route exists. The ambiguity continues to a) perpetuate the lack of clarity in the rules themselves, and b) encourage numerous differing behaviours that confuse drivers. Bikes are using the road, bike lanes, sidewalks, going against the flow of traffic, etc. Biking in Denmark this year was an eye opener. There where cyclists make up 50% of road users, they observe the rules off the road, stick to the marked bike lanes, stay off sidewalks, stop at stop sighs and lights, and work with drivers and pedestrians, as opposed to against them. Who is supposed to enforce bike rules and behaviour? Where are they? Also, when I get passed on the shoulder by motorcycles (big ones), where is the enforcement for that?

As someone who has ridden motorcycles for 64 yrs. I'd like to comment.  Riding below the "normal traffic speed" is dangerous and riding subtantially below is akin to being suicidal.  In recent times, this has become much more so due to the high percentage of distracted drivers (texting) out there.

I'va always found that two practises were safest:

First - Keep Right Except to Pass.  This has been in the MVA since I can remember and, while it's been modified by Todd Stone recently, it is still akin to common courtesy.  It's too bad that our law enforcement officers don't enforce it.

Second - Your safest speed is 5 to 8 kph above the traffic flow speed regardless of the posted limit.  Yes, I know that will rankle your sensibilities Drivesmart, but it is a fact.  It keeps the tailgaters away and my personal safety is paramount.

Riding a machine that is topped out at or below the normal traffic speed is just plain dangerous.  My current bike will top out at 185 kph but I don't ride anywhere near that speed.  But it has the capability of powering out of a tight spot if hard braking isn't an option.  A motorcyclist who wants to survive ALWAYS has an escape route, believe me.

A large part of the problem with these LSM vehicles is that many do not require license plates and their riders do not have Class 6 licenses which means they have no training. Many are totally oblivious to the rules of the road as evidenced by riding on shoulders, sidewalks, etc.

On the subject of helmets, there is a lot of misconception. First, a helmet is NOT your saving grace even though our nanny laws say you have to wear one. (BTW - I've always worn one even before the law said I had to.)  I've seen far too many riders with a $1,000 helmet wearing jeans, a T-shirt and flip-flops. A come-off is painful .... Furthermore, a helmet is very good at preventing head injuries if you're sliding down the pavement with your noggin bouncing along.  BUT if you put your head into something solid, like a car bumper or a piece of concrete, even the best helmet on the market can only protect you up to about a 13 kph impact.

Personally, I think that these LSM are exceedingly dangerous in today's traffic.

I look forward to reading any reputable citation that you would care to provide showing that driving just over the normal speed of traffic around you is the safest choice. 

DriveSmart, my comments about riding just a bit faster are based upon personal experience and no, I cannot give you a "reputable citation".  Distracted and/or impaired drivers are a motorcyclist's greatest danger but the tailgater ranks right up there too.

A motorcycle is quite manouverable but it is also less stable than 4 or more wheels.  It will stop very quickly and because most have manual transmissions, they will slow without showing brake lights. I've many times looked in my mirrors to see nothing but a grill ... even on a multi-lane road where I'm keeping right. All it takes is a slight bump to put me down and possibly be run over.

In such a case, I have few choices.  One is to accelerate past the vehicle ahead and hope that "moron" doesn't follow. Another is to slow even more and hope that "moron" will pass without clipping me ... but why should I trust him/her? 

The best place to have an unreliable driver is either in front of you where you can keep your distance or far enough behind that your "escape route" is still an option.   

Outrageous has done the work for us and has posted that reputable citation that I was after.

Prefacing your initial comment with "my experience has shown" is acceptable too. At least the reader has some idea of where the assertion comes from rather than seeming to have been pulled out of thin air. I'm not condemning you for not doing either, but going just that little bit further gives us all a bit better basis for a follow up response.

"there is an unmistakable indication that low-speed  drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents than relatively  high-speed drivers."

That's exactly the type of thing that I was after. An assertion carries far more weight when backed up with evidence.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

I feel like printing a copy of that and taping it on my office wall. cool

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

Yes, thanks Outrageous.  I had no idea that such a study had been done.  For reasons stated, it just felt right.