By Carol Bogart

Here’s an arcane little thing you may not know: A grassroots motorists association, the National Motorists Association (, dedicates the entire month of June to freeway driving etiquette. It calls this “Lane Courtesy Month.”

Not that being courteous to drivers in other lanes is a bad thing. Especially dim-witted drivers who may be prone to making mistakes, such as swiftly moving into your lane without signaling, or, worse, not looking and oops! Imagine that! The side of your car is in the way!

Mike, my son, is again raising the specter of trading his Jeep for a motorcycle. Each time he broaches the subject, I remind him how a motorcycle wouldn’t really lend itself to transporting his hockey bag or snowboard.

I already know it’s pointless to point out how even the most skilled motorcyclists (which he insists he is, having had a dirt bike when we had our farm) are no match for potentially lethal weapons known as cars.

Any time I seem ready to recount the story of the Oakland motorcycle cop who, while splitting freeway lanes, had a clear-death encounter with a semi some years back, Mike’s eyes start to glaze.

It’s not that I don’t understand the allure.

I myself had a Honda 50 when I was in college. Bought it with my own money earned waitressing at the local Big Boy hamburger joint the summer after I graduated from high school.

My mother reluctantly accepted the purchase, convinced I couldn’t get into too much trouble because I would never be able to go very fast.

Well, when full-sized vehicles frequently do 75-80 in 65-mph zones, if you’re on a not-much-bigger than a moped, doing 50 (IF you’ve got a tailwind) has hazards. Such as being blown right off the road when a semi passes.

Even so, I was more than a little irked when Ohio invoked its mandatory helmet law — loving, as I did, the feel of the wind on my face and in my hair.

A year or so ago, while interviewing a top scientist at Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Cal. — a top-secret facility charged with “safeguarding the nation’s nuclear stockpile” and improving the atomic bomb — he told me he commutes back and forth from San Jose on HIS MOTORCYCLE!

This world-class physicist! This over-50 genius-type guy!


Californians appear to be split in their views on whether splitting lanes is legal when traffic is stopped or slow. Most say: legal but stupid. “Slow or stopped,” it would seem, is open to interpretation. In a published poll, several recalled motorcyclists splitting lanes and scaring the hell out of them when traffic was moving briskly.

A few, though, said they frequently check their rearview mirrors and make extra room when they see a motorcycle coming. California law requires slower-moving vehicles to move over for faster moving traffic. If you’ve ever been stuck behind a dump truck laboring to traverse an incline, you know how infuriating that is. Going too slow, though, doesn’t seem to result in tickets.

All I know is, until someone guarantees me that all drivers, fast or slow, drunk or sober, smart or stupid will yield to the son I love when they see him splitting lanes on his motorcycle (with no certainty, in my mind, that he’ll wait until traffic is stopped or slow) — he’d best think about setting up a savings account marked “motorcycle.”

Carol Bogart blogs at Contact her at

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