Common Tread

There is no such thing as the fast lane

Jan 24, 2017

Doug Demuro of Oversteer recently posted an article featuring a video I’m going to repost here. Watch it and pass it along.

This video rationally explains the negative consequences of left-lane driving more eloquently (but perhaps less perilously) than splitting a rolling roadblock right down the middle. (If you're the type who just has to elbow your way through, I get it. Maintain eye contact the whole time to assert your dominance.)

You can help fix this problem, believe it or not. All we need to do is change one phrase in our vocabulary.

This behavior causes my diastolic number to hit triple digits. Just thinking about it right here at my desk is causing me to turn my molars into powdered calcium. I cannot abide waiting around behind some bobo in the left lane who cannot see my flashing generator-powered-so-it-flickers-but-it's-not-actually-a-modulating headlight blinking away in the rearview mirror.

Through some miracle of God in heaven, this blissfully oblivious soul also can’t hear the bike with straight pipes about the length of a Subway sandwich bellowing behind his Subaru Impreza. Nope. He’s halfway through a taco (Supreme, not Baja) and a phone call to Mom. (“How are the potted plants? I can’t hear you, there’s a motorcycle on the road here somewhere. Hang on.”) “This shit has got to end eventually,” I remind myself. Finally, blissfully, a hole opens up, I grab third gear, zip up the road, and repeat the process whenever the next driver in close proximity to me gets matched on Tinder.

Motorcyclists are just as guilty of this irrationally stupid way of using the highway. I was recently on a press launch (led by non-Americans) who kept trying to lead a group in the left lane. We were going slowly. People passed us on the right. I alternated between “Oh my God did I forget to wear pants” levels of mortification and “Get out of my ‘Murka” levels of rage at our “guides,” a term I am using about as accurately as Polaris’ description of the Slingshot as a motorcycle. News flash, fellas: a group of (mostly) old fart bike writers on (completely) old fart bikes, unfamiliar with the area and traveling through rain are not left-lane material. I couldn’t even move over individually, because I would have had my lone bike slowing yet another lane of traffic.

A few months ago, before I started researching this article, I found out from the internet that not every one of these left-lane lovers is simply a distracted moron. Instead, some are very pointedly focused morons, actually intent upon slowing down others in the name of safety. I’m not going to rant on about how backing down 25 mph in a hurry on my bike with one brake is not really helping me not hit another car. Nor will I point out that breaking one law (driving in the left lane) to enforce another (speeding) is a net loss for society as a whole. (I actually did point it out by indicating I wouldn’t point it out. That’s one of the perks of being an irrepressible asshole.)

Remember that change I told you you could effect? Let's do it. Examine our colloquial usage of the term “fast lane.” This is a problematic term. It's not a fast lane. It’s a passing lane. This simple shift in word choice will help hammer home the idea that the left lane is for passing. In other words, drivers should be in it briefly. Get in, and get the hell out. I don't care if you're doing 110. Some guy behind you might be cooking along at 114, and he is late to work. George Carlin used to have a bit where he’d remark, “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” I like to think George was politely telling all of us to make that observation from the middle lane.

This shift in language is critical because the two terms are subtly different at their core. “Fast” exists upon a spectrum. We are motorcyclists. “Fast” to us is a hell of a lot quicker than it is to the left-lane camper beating a 1991 Dodge Colt for all it’s worth. “Passing,” however, is binary. You are either passing another vehicle, or you ain't. The change in nomenclature might be enough to help the dingbats.

Shift your words. Shift your lanes.