On Ramps and the Dummy Lane

Last week on Tuesday’s Tip we talked about the safety hazzards of approaching an off ramp on the highway. This week we follow up with the dreaded on ramp hazzard.

Lane selection is a key element in safe motorcycling; especially on the highway. The middle lane offers the most escape options but often times you are going to find yourself on a two lane expressway. When traveling the two lane expressway you have to choose between the hammer lane and the merge lane. In the hammer lane some jerk is going to come up on you like there is no tomorrow. Technically the left lane is for passing only and you shouldn’t be cruising in it. It feels uncomfortable for some people to travel in this lane. In the slow lane, or the merge lane, you have people getting on and off the highway. One of our most experienced Road Captains calls this the “Dummy Lane” due to the hazzard of merging traffic. You have to decide for yourself which is the worse of two evils.

It’s quite obvious a vehicle could come charging down the on ramp and merge at the least opportune time. I hope you are all checking the on ramp as you pass to make sure no one is coming. Better yet I hope you aren’t in the right hand lane when passing the on ramp (assuming the on ramps are on the right).

When leading a large group lane selection becomes even more important as multiple lives are at stake. The larger the group, the longer it takes to clear the off and on ramps. No one may be coming down the on ramp as the lead riders in the group are passing, but by the time the end of your pack is passing… a car may have entered the ramp. The left lane may be the better place to be if there are only two lanes. If you are leading a group in the slow lane and you see a car merging you have four options:

  1. Slow down so the car enters in front of you.
  2. Speed up so the whole pack can clear the car before it merges.
  3. Change lanes to avoid the car.
  4. If options one through three are not available, then pray that your group is versatile enough to create space for the car to slide in.

I have seen some nice folks in cars ride up the shoulder of the road rather than break up the pack. I have also pulled out of formation to shift to the left lane and then pulled back into the pack after clearing a car trying to merge. It is times like these when communication devices like CB radio really help out in managing a group ride.

Dan, aka Irondad, brought up the overpass issue last week. Due to going under an overpass or some other obstruction such as tree’s you will not have a clear view of the on ramp. In these cases I often times change over to the middle or hammer lane knowing that there is an on ramp that I can not see. After passing the on ramp and checking to see if the right lane is clear I return to the right lane if that is where I was. I have done this riding with two bikes and riding with twenty bikes. It’s the safe thing to do. You don’t know what could be coming down that on ramp.