A friend just got back from a visit to California - specifically the Sacramento area.
(He hand-carves and paints these awesome wooden duck decoys. There was a convention of like-minded folks down there; he reports that he entered his ducks in six categories and won five. He also sold several ducks, which I'm sure financed his trip, and enables him to buy another log to start more ducks. But I digress.)
He expressed some consternation about "lane splitting" on the freeway.
In case you're not familiar, "lane splitting" is the term for motorcyclists (legally) riding down the striped line in between traffic lanes on the freeway. It's a common practice down there. I s'pose the locals get used to it, but to us foreigners it's quite disconcerting.
As a motorcyclist, I've got mixed emotions about the practice.
On the one hand, it seems like you would be exposing yourself to hazards that you wouldn't otherwise have - cars abruptly changing lanes in your path, disgruntled motorists deliberately trying to block your progress, cell-phone yappers who don't notice you, etc.
But on the other hand, when there are six lanes of standstill "parking lot" traffic, and it's legal to ride between those lanes, I can understand the attraction.
I'd probably do it under such circumstances... very cautiously. (I don't think you'd see me out there going 75 in between lanes, when everybody else is going 60.)
So... what does any of that have to do with bicycling?
I see a form of "lane splitting" going on these days, involving bike lanes.
In this era of $4+ gas, it seems there are many folks who are too lazy to ride a bike, but they've resigned themselves to some form of scooter or moped or powered bicycle. And I see them taking to the BICYCLE lanes regularly, when it's convenient to do so. (And sidewalks, too, sometimes.)
Some are probably afraid to ride in traffic. And I bet many of them don't have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license.
A lady at the office bought this little electric-powered scooter thingie. I was looking it over - it has a "power" setting and a "distance" setting. I asked her about that. When it's in the "distance" setting, it tops out at about 15mph. The power setting allows for quicker acceleration AND 20mph. She said, "That seems VERY fast to me - I like the distance setting." Maybe she's gotten used to it now, and 20mph doesn't seem so daredevil. But in either of those settings... where do you operate such a vehicle? Hard to imagine it would be legal OR SAFE on a 35mph street. But it hardly seems appropriate to be driving motorized vehicles in the bike lane or along the shoulder of the road, either.
Of course, the local constabulary is happy to look the other way. Ignorance is bliss for them. Their official policy seems to be "bike violations are not priority violations," and I'm sure that would extend to bike lane violations, as well.
But to my BICYCLE-riding friends, BE CAREFUL! (Of course, cars have routinely used bike lanes as turn lanes, when it's convenient for them.)
(Some good info about MOTORCYCLE lane-splitting can be found HERE. The photo is also from that website.)