Aussie motorbikers call to use cycle lanes

But cyclists and Government against proposal

Motorcyclists membership and lobbying group Motorcycling Australia has called for a trial allowing motorbikes in cycle lanes as, in their belief, it may stem the rising rate of biker crashes and deaths over the past few years. But cycling groups and the Government have opposed the idea, saying it would endanger cyclists.

Motorcycling Australia manager Dan Rotman said motorcyclists and scooter riders were "vulnerable" and restrictions on using bike lanes should be lifted.

"While injury trends for bicycle riders and car occupants are in decline, riders of powered two-wheelers remain highly vulnerable, and part of the solution could be extending the use of bicycle lanes in selected locations," said Rotman. "Bicycle and PTW (powered two wheel) riders have a lot in common – a similar exposure to risk, size and footprint – and much of the new bicycle lane infrastructure could safely and easily accommodate both groups."

The call has lead to vociferous opposition from cyclists. Bicycle Queensland manager Ben Wilson said the speed differential between bicycles and motorcycles "knocks this on the head" and that cyclists would clearly be in danger.

Wilson said bike lanes are built specifically to accommodate bicycles and so are often just 1.2 metres wide - including the gutter so that "Any overtaking would be extremely dangerous, and likely to increase collisions."

Further opposition to the call came from the Australian Government. Transport Minister Rachel Nolan said the Government had taken great strides in improving safety for motorcyclists and people on bicycles. "We have no intention of undermining that work by letting motorbikes and cyclists share designated bike lanes," she said.

The debate has been particularly intense in relatively populous states with relatively high bike and motorbike use - such as Victoria. Here Cycling Victoria's Harry Barber reinforced the view that the two modes of transport are fundamentally different.

"Power, weight, speed, size, noise - it's not a goer. Motorcyclists are certainly vulnerable ... but just as you don't put motorbikes on the train lines you don't put motorbikes in the bike lanes," he said.

Cycling Victoria are similarly not in favour of low-powered motor-scooters using cycle lanes. However, David Purchase from the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce says scooters should have access to bike lanes but higher powered motorcycles should not. "We've been campaigning for years to have scooters allowed to use bike lanes. We think it's all about road safety," he said.

According to Australia's Transport Accident Commission, 42 per cent of all 2008 motorcycle fatalities in Victoria occurred on roads which were signposted at 100kph or more - roads which rarely feature bicycle lanes.

The Victoria state government won't be supporting any proposals to introduce powered two wheelers into bike lanes....

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