Why lane-splitting is dumb, according to Kenzie

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Back in a previous life, I was the editor of the Toronto Star’s Wheels section, which was the largest automotive publication in Canada, if not North America. Its star was — and still is — Jim Kenzie, and few people are as great an authority on cars as Jim.

Unfortunately, Jim hates bikes. He thinks they’re foolish and dangerous, and he’s fond of saying that two wheels on the ground is two wheels too few. To each their own. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion.

Jim’s also well-known as a commentator on Motoring TV, and his Kenzie’s Korner rant has been running for years at the end of the show. But now he’s come out against lane-splitting, thanks to hearing some comments made by Jacob Black, editor of autos.ca, who is a keen rider. Watch it above and see if you agree with his stand.

“One thing that everybody agrees on is that riding a motorcycle is something like 25-30 times more dangerous than driving in a passenger car,” says Kenzie, and uses the University of California Berkeley study to back up his claims.

This is all well and good, but Jim’s a respected voice and politicians listen to him. It’s one more misinformed strike against repealing an uninformed Canadian law that we can do without. I’d much rather politicians read this, and also read the 2012 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S.

So let us know in the comments what you think of Jim’s stand, and I’ll make sure he sees what we have to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

61 COMMENTS

  1. Jeezus, is Kenzie still around? I saw him once comment on the poor future of electric cars because he bought a laptop with a bad battery. All a person has to do is look at the yearly advancements in electronics and cars in general, and he would see the future is very bright for electric cars. He said that on national TV. I was so embarrassed for him. An old fart stuck in his ways.

  2. Wow!
    I live in Australia, I ride a motorcycle and I Lane filter. I don’t Lane Filter when it isn’t safe to do so and I Lane Filter through stopped traffic under 30kph (20mph).
    I don’t Lane filter if traffic is moving faster than 30kph (20mph), when traffic starts going over 30kph (20mph) I merge into traffic. As it states in my countries motorcycle road rules.
    Most drivers move just a little left or right of the centre line to “Leave a gap” for a motorcycle to go through.
    We have undercover police motorcycles here, they catch drivers on their mobile phones and other offenses. I recall a motorist deliberately blocking a motorcyclist from doing a legal action, unfortunately for him it was a undercover police motorcycle.
    He was heavily fined for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, opening a car door to block or injure a motorcycle would also attract heavy fines or worse.
    There are do’s and don’ts road rules for Lane Filtering, there are idiot motorcyclist as there are idiot motorists. It just depends on which you want to be, an idiot or not a idiot.

  3. Bicycles have been lane splitting legally for years in Canada! And car drivers are used to it! Motorcycles are very similar vehicles at safe speeds, in slow traffic and it reduces congestion. If we accept it for bicycles why not motorcycles? It just makes sense! Of course the risks of inattentive car drivers and “door prizes” are always possible ?

    • I just watched an episode of Motoring TV where Kenzie derided Motorcyclists, mentioned the increase in deaths in Ontario and encouraged people not to ride.He failed to mention anything about lack of attention on the part of car drivers contributing to deaths.He told an anecdote about one rider weaving in and out of traffic and crashing.A totally biased view based on his personal opinion.Motoring is more than cars and I have no respect for this guy anymore.I will not watch this show again.Pompous little ass.

  4. If Jim likes studies, maybe he should read this one. Its that Brussels study that concluded that if 10% of commuters switch to motorcycles, traffic congestion would be improved by 40%. Wow, more people riding motorcycles is actually better for car drivers as well. I wonder how he could argue against that!

    http://www.tmleuven.com/project/motorcyclesandcommuting/20110921_Motorfietsen_eindrapport_Eng.pdf

    Personally I stopped reading Kenzie when he, who as always supported wagons over SUVs, said the 2009 Forester was better then its predecessor even though it became a 4 1/2″ taller SUV and they stopped offering a manual transmission on the turbo in Canada. With that piece of hypocrisy, I just assumed he was another journalist selling out to the industry, and no longer credible.

    • Forgot to mention the key point – that this congestion improvement was because motorcycles filtered once traffic slowed down, and therefore weren’t part of the congestion equation.

  5. Why bother with Jim, even as an “auto enthusiast” the man loves VW diesel engines…’nough said.

    For the rest of us who have tried it and seen it work throughout the world where it’s allowed, it’s just plain stoopid to debate this with someone who’s too scared or unskilled to even know what two wheels are all about.

  6. Well, he’s an auto journalist. His opinion on lane splitting is, as far as I’m concerned, akin the pope’s opinion about sex. If you’re not participating in the sport, don’t assume you can judge..

  7. And with all the knowledge and experience that Mr.Kenzie has with this Motoring TV, this is what he came up with?? There are real facts out there, he who searches finds… But if you are against motorcyclists in general then why “waste” the time?
    Mr. Kenzie, thanks for nothing ??

  8. Kenzie raises curmudgeonlyness to a whole new level – why ?
    For the same reason other TV ‘personalities’ do, ratings.
    Ignore him, he will find something else to rage against or , if we’re really lucky just go away.

    This whole argument is specious. Lanesplitting/filtering/whatever is illegal, change the law or shut up.

  9. I used to turn the television off every time that guy came on with his inane “Kenzie’s Crap”, and now I see him on CMG? About the only thing that guy does is say such stupid things that people might start talking about it….
    hey…

  10. Can someone please help me understand why this interview is even posted on CMG? Lane splitting is illegal so OF COURSE car drivers won’t like it – especially if they have a declared dislike of motorcycles to begin with. First we get the “Dirty Biker” reporter to appeal to the lowest common denominator of rider and now this. Editor ‘Arris will be rolling in his grave.

  11. Riding in Europe, where people understand it and expect it, I’ve seen it work very well. That said, in two years living in California, I witnessed one fatality and one case of serious injury due to lane-splitting. Myself, I won’t do it in North America.

  12. Here’s a new tactic I’m using: Most of the world has lane splitting and they’re fine at it. Are you saying that most of the world are better riders and drivers than you?

    After all the science proves lane splitting is safe and environmentally friendly, but is being ignored. So I thought I’d try attacking national pride as a tactic.

  13. “at the top of a pretty long list of crazy things that motorcycle drivers do” – and with that comment, his opinion is irrelevant to me. As for the subject of lane splitting/filtering, it is applicable to congested traffic flow below 30 mph and not recommended that rider exceed a difference of 10 mph with traffic. Within those parameters, you would think it could work here in Canada, BUT cagers in Ont. can’t even comprehend the ‘zipper merge’ !

  14. And now that I’ve watched this segment.. Jim Kenzie doesn’t seem to know that the rest of the world does this, and does it rather safely. Perhaps rather than voicing his ill-informed opinion, he should just get on a plane.

  15. My understanding is that the law in California stipulates that you cannot lane split at a speed greater than 10mph faster than the surrounding traffic. Also lane splitting is discouraged when the traffic speed is in excess of 30 mph. This is reflected in Jim’s quoted study which showed that lane splitting becomes less safe with speed. What we should be looking at here is an effective means of improving traffic flow, not a mandate to ride irresponsibly. It’s all well and good for Jim to have his rant but I seldom see him offer any constructive solutions.

  16. Ferris Bueller’s sister (a driver) explains her hatred for her brother, who filters, to Charlie Sheen:

    FBS- In a nutshell, I hate my brother
    How’s that?

    CS- That’s cool Did you
    blow him away or something?

    FBS- No, not yet.
    He was filtering through traffic. When I went home to check, some guy was there. The cops picked me up for making a phoney call

    CS- What do you care
    if your brother filters?

    FBS- Everybody else has to wait in line. Why should he get to filter?

    CS- You could filter.

    FBS- I’d get hurt.

    CS- Yes!
    You’re pissed off because he filters
    and doesn’t get hurt, is that it?

    FBS- Basically.

    CS- Basically; Your problem is you.

    FBS- Excuse me?

    CS- Worry about yourself,
    not about what your brother does.

  17. If you insist on calling it lane splitting you don’t get how it works. It is called filtering. It has been common practice in many countries for decades. There is no evidence that filtering or lane sharing causes accidents. Unless you call some cage driver dropping his cell phone into his latte because he was surprised by the motorcyle or bicycle filtering by an accident. The same mentality that cage drivers use to park in the passing lane is also the mentality that is against anyone getting through traffic faster than they do. I was taught how to filter safely by a CHP motor officer. The dumb one is the writer that doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  18. While I believe lane splitting at highway speeds is a little crazy, the ability to do it in heavy traffic (slow moving) is something I’d appreciate. There’s nothing like being on the DVP at rush hour in 30+ degree temps to make your head feel like a roasting turkey. To slowly ride between cars basically going nowhere fast makes perfect sense and reduces my chances of being rear ended by the bored, distracted driver on his phone

  19. I ride…and wouldnt even consider lane splitting, unless there is an imminent asteroid strike in the works and I am evacuating like hell on wheels. Boils down to trust…I just dont trust cagers to be that attentive to my safety.

    • And as a motorcyclist at the time of this Imminent asteroid strike your going to attempt filtering at most probably higher speeds, cause you’ll wanna get out as fast as possible?? And as all others in cars and SUV’s are doing the same??
      As I always say…..
      “If you can’t then don’t, we’re all safer in the end”

  20. No-one asked you to filter, Mr. Kenzie. In fact, since you hate bikes, you’ll likely never have to make that choice. That means that the adverse effect to you is probably close to zero. Thanks for your opinion though.

    • Could it be some sort of ego thing about someone on a bike passing in front of him while he has to stay put waiting in traffic or maybe fear that a biker scratch or dent is fancy car ?

  21. Legal or not riders are doing it in Toronto and it sucks! Our roads are not designed for this . The space between cars is tight. Riders are driving too fast and car drivers are caught unprepared. Any driver in My City can attest to seeing many distracted drivers on the phone, chatting with passengers or just not paying attention. How can we start lane splitting when most drivers don’t even know the left lane is for Emergency vehicles and passing!

    • Your argument that the space is too tight is totally negated by the multitude of riders filtering safely on narrower European roads. You make a good case for improving driver training though and I agree fully with that.

    • I agree except the space issue and as Ian mentioned our roads tend to be narrow compared to the wide roads you have in Canada but it`s normal that you tink that as you are used to them ,In the UK we even pass cars in the same lane but then they are used to it and it`s not an issue.. I was shocked here to see how nervous car drivers get when they encounter another car in a street, they tend to think there is not enough space while there is while we have 60 mph roads that are narrower than this.If all Canadians could come and drive to Europe for a while they would appreciate how wide their roads are here.In short you are quite lucky with the width of your roads.Beside that a lot of education would be needed implement filtering here and mainly due to cagers inattention and their disdain of having someone pass in front of them.

    • Wrong. Our roads are actually wider than what most countries have that do allow lane splitting.

      What we don’t have are drivers with necks that turn, and that sucks.

      Lane splitting is not dumb. It is safer than sitting in traffic. Argue if you want, but check the stats before you waste your time.

    • Dave Sadrik Cole I never said it was dumb. After seeing it in practice I can tell you drivers here are not prepared for it. I get the safety aspect as being protected from the rear, but all it takes is for one car to move slightly to the left or right and it rider down. I’m taking this issue to heart as I ride as well and am tiring to see light but man I just don’t think the average Toronto driver is prepared for it.

      • Drivers are not prepared for it.. absolutely true. This is why if/when we do this, we filter at a low speed (say 30kph) in dead stopped traffic or near to it. Only way people get used to it is a multitude of riders doing it right and doing it respectfully. It’s not technically legal in Europe either, as it happens.

    • How many 1000’s died when Canada changed to driving on the right? Drivers learn new laws all the time. If they saw police motorcycles filtering when legal and appropriate they would soon be used to it. Reckless driving laws cover poor filtering practise. IIRC in California if you filtered about 10-15 mph faster than heavy traffic (typically heavy traffic is 40 mph or slower) no one except road rage asshats even noticed. Go bombing through a traffic jam at 50 mph and you got a big ticket… Usually from a motor cop that is better at filtering than you. One of the reasons to ride instead of drive is to reduce congestion. Using HOV lanes helps as does filtering. Every bike that filters by is one less car in the traffic jam. It makes sense for everyone.

    • Kenzie, ever ride a motorcycle, if not, thanks for your opinion and stick to stuff you know, like your lawn boy. For the rest of us, there is no reason to stop what works elsewhere. We make claims to want to save the planet, use less fossil fuels. What we should outlaw is one person in a four seat car during rush hour. Lane sharing as it is called in California works when done safely. It would work here too. Yes some rides do it dangerously and take chances but so do cagers on cell phones… In traffic when eveything stops what is the big deal if bikes go to the front…. Oh right it pisses off cagers… We should also reduce prices to register motocycles if we are really serious about reducing traffic and carbon emissions…..

  22. So he knocks one study because it’s too old. Looks up another study that shows its safer, but only slightly safer. So that’s not good enough for him. It’s any improvement on safety a good thing??? I’ve watched Jim growing up my whole life, I find it VERY ODD that a car show that I can never recall seeing a motorcycle tested on show weigh into the POLITICAL waters. But I guess that’s why he weighed in on something he has no business commenting on, for political favor. At any rate, he never explained with any STATS and FACTS that he seems so fond of as to why lane splitting is dumb. Rather he seemed to present his argument to be such, an in the end it came down to his opinion, with no stat or fact to back up his own argument.

  23. If the 30 million people can accept lane filtering so can the 30 million in Canada. It however will take an extensive public education plan. Don’t forget it’s not lane splitting at speed, it’s slow speed stop and go.

  24. Jim’s hate-on for things two wheeled is well known and any comments that he makes with respect to motorcycles must first be viewed through that lens.

    There is, however, a problem with much of the debate in favour of it; it comes from California, where it has been legal for decades. Many California drivers are familiar with it and prepared for motorcyclists to do it. Speaking from a purely anecdotal point of view, however, it would also appear that many Californians are also not aware that it’s legal to lane split (or rather not illegal, as there are no specific statutes which prohibit it).

    Should lane splitting become legal, in the Provinces of Canada, there would be an inevitable period of familiarization and adjustment. During this period I suspect that the casualties would be rather high; at least higher than current.

    So, to put it simply, I would wait 2-5 years in order for passenger vehicle drivers to become familiar with the concept, before I would do it myself.

    At this point it’s hard enough to convince politicians that allowing motorcycles in the HOV lanes is a reasonable thing. I’ve tried.

    • I filter to the front of the line when needed. One day it will buy me a ticket, but I do it carefully to limit my risk.

      I don’t need a hater to tell me that the ban is for ‘the greater good’.

      Thankfully it’s a moot point out here on PEI.

      Oh, Kenzie? I have a personal success rate of 100% accident and injury free while filtering.

    • Lane-splitting is the wrong term. It should be formalized as Filtering, as its a benefit to all traffic if fewer spaces are consumed by small vehicles. Remove the negative connotation of taking something away from other drivers.

      And in my opinion, Filtering should only be done at slow overall speeds – ie when traffic is slower than 50 Kph and then bikes should be no more than 20 Kph faster. Highway shoulders should be open to bikes as well. Many times I’ve ridden past crawling DVP traffic on a hot day. Just keep the speed differential reasonable, and nobody gets hurt.

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