Shooting The Gap: An Unorthodox Solution

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer
shooting the gap an unorthodox solution

As I slipped the clutch and rolled on the throttle, the big GSXR1100 bucked and growled like a wild beast between my knees. I took the little wiggle and the bucking in stride and cracked the throttle even wider to shift the bike’s weight onto the rear tire. The bike responded instantly, the sound of its anger pouring out the back as a prolonged shriek of pure rage. The toll plaza fell quickly away as I hit third gear and leaned into the gentle, sweeping left hander that would bring me up onto the Yokohama-Yokosuka Expressway and there, in the final few meters before the merge, I drove the tachometer towards redline and shot past a pair of slow moving cars before shifting into the higher gears and settling onto the highway ahead of them.

The road was wide and smooth and the south bound traffic moved quickly along above the posted speed limit. I ran along slightly faster than the traffic and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun on what was an otherwise cool October day. I was here, where I wanted to be, atop what had been for one brief shining moment a bike that had been on the very sharpest part of the cutting edge of technology. Fifteen years on that time was well past, but the bike’s power and attitude remained and I felt every intoxicating bit of it through the steady thrum of the engine. The power lurked there, under my right hand, waiting – demanding – to be put down onto the street and I was in the right mood to indulge it.

Ahead was my chance, two cars rumbling along side by side in a painfully protracted pass, neither willing to do what it took to clear the lane of travel for the faster vehicles stacking up behind them. I checked my six in the rearview mirror, rolled onto the white line that divided the two lanes of the freeway, dropped two gears and opened the throttle. The bike shot forward into the gap and in an instant I was out ahead of the traffic accelerating away in brazen display of sheer power. It was glorious.

Right about now, those of you who have never thrown a leg over a bike are thinking I am nuts. I’m not going to disagree with that. There was a time I didn’t have much at stake and I was willing to push right to the edge, but the truth is lane splitting, even at high speeds on the freeway, isn’t a big deal. Bikes can go all sorts of places that cars can’t and understanding that is more important than most people realize. Besides allowing you to act like Top Gun on some Japanese freeway, it can actually keep you safe when the shit hits the fan. What’s more, it’s a skill that you can use in your car.

To most of us, our place on the road is inviolate and the lines on the road might as well be two feet tall and made out of granite. Safe inside in our metal boxes, we are secure in our right to a place on the road and our confidence in the rules, and the fact that the vast majority of people will obey those rules almost all the time, means that we don’t have to think about things like exit strategies. Beginning motorcyclists need to snap out of this mentality in a big hurry if they are going to enjoy a long, injury free career in the saddle. Because bikes are smaller than cars they are often overlooked by drivers and having someone merge into their place on the road is a common occurrence. Without a steel crash cage to protect their soft flesh, a rider’s inviolate legal right to a place on the road the same as any car offers scant real-world protection and so the best answer is often to flee from trouble.

A good rider constantly scans the road for trouble and takes special note of possible escape routes. A beginner often thinks in terms of where a car can fit and so exit routes tend to be few and far between. More experienced riders think in broader terms and soon any space you can reasonably expect to fit into becomes a possible egress. The space between cars running the same direction is surprisingly wide as is, believe it or not, the space on the yellow line between opposite lanes of traffic. Motorcyclists can also go onto sidewalks, up paths and even into spaces between parked cars if necessary. If shoving your bike through some small rat hole stops you from getting squished like a bug then, when the situation calls for it, do what it takes to live.

The bike I really learned to lane split on – my CBR250R

As a driver, you should be thinking along similar lines. If you can’t stop to avoid a collision, you should seek to avoid it by going around it. Cars are bigger than bikes, of course, but they don’t require an entire lane worth of space in an emergency. They can, if the situation is right, run between cars, go up the shoulder, into a median or up onto a sidewalk as long as there are no pedestrians. No place is off limits in an emergency so long as you aren’t putting anyone else’s life in danger. So maybe you have to rebuild someone’s fence or reseed a lawn, but the cost pales in comparison to extensive repairs and a lengthy hospital stay.

Not everyone can be Top Gun, but all of us should be ready to act when our lives are at stake. Understanding that there are other options outside the norm is a trick that every driver needs to add to their bag. Sometimes the unorthodox solution is the best one, and knowing that it is there waiting to be used might just save your life one day. I’m not asking you to split lanes on your way home tonight, but just think about the possibility. Criticize my antics that sunny October day now if you like, but remember them because one day they might just save your life.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Aug 22, 2013

    I finally watched that vid. What a miserable ride. At that point you might as well be in a car. Sure the bike is faster but it's nowhere near as much fun as the open road.

    • Thomas Kreutzer Thomas Kreutzer on Aug 23, 2013

      Almost all driving in Japan is a tedious chore, especially in the urban areas. Unless you are willing to spend he yen it takes to get up on the expressway or live way out in the sticks, you are stuck grinding it out bumper to bumper, stoplight to stoplights everywhere you go. Splitting lanes adds a lot of fun to the equation - think of it as "urban trials riding" something that takes some thought and skill. It can be a lot of fun and fairly safe if you do it right.

  • -Nate -Nate on Aug 23, 2013

    I'm enjoying the many differing points of view here . One overlooked one is the tiny little ' Tiddler ' Motos enjoyed almost everywhere else _but_ America ~ 125 C.C. and smaller Motocyles . I still ride these along with my full size Motos and love them ~ mostly vintage Honda 90s . I find them here & there , left over from the 1960's and early 1970's , resurrect them , title & tag them , ride a while then re sell and begin anew . Lane splitting in dense traffic on a Tiddler is easy , fun and yes , safe as slow / stopped traffic isn't usually out to kill you . Several here have mentioned they didn't think cage drivers deliberately cut you off , they're dead wrong it has happened to me many times and no , I'm not one of those @$$hats who blatts past you @ 4 X the speed of the traffic . Americans are simply poorly trained to drive ~ that's a fact , jack no matter how good you think you are , most are poor drivers indeed . -Nate

  • Ajla I think a few of you guys need to try meditation or counseling or something.
  • SCE to AUX Historically, the Land Cruiser sold ~3000 units annually in the US for its last 15 years, so the answer is no.
  • Theflyersfan Oh boy - the sequential manual transmission. Otherwise known as "Your 16 year old driving stick the first time is smoother" transmission. I know automakers were trying new things out around this time and seeing what would stick (hint: the dual clutches won out), but even in testing, the Toyota engineers should have said いいえ、ジャンクです。(No. It's a piece of junk.) Is this seller going to get $8500? Doubt it. Way too much interior work is needed and it just looks worn out in there. St. Petersburg - salt air year round can do some wonders under the cover as well. But the exterior still looks good which makes me thing it was garage kept. So, for $8,500 - no chance. But for maybe $5,500 to $6,000 and the buyer doesn't mind some extra work to clean up the interior, maybe a decent top down sun down fun car. Just hope the transmission holds up.
  • Dukeisduke Only if there's a significant price difference between it and the Lexus GX. Otherwise, no. If they do bring it over, they'll have to ditch that ugly grille.
  • Theflyersfan Chris here just gave me a big old dose of nightmare fuel with this. Let me explain... This past Saturday, driving home after doing some furniture shopping. I-64 Westbound is closed for extensive repairs in my part of Louisville so I had to take surface streets home. No problem as it's basically a straight shot from said furniture store to my domicile. Now, I had that recent spinal fusion surgery in my neck complete with four screws, some plates, artificial bone, and the chance that things might not have healed correctly so things are a bit tender and sore still. Driving home in a part of the area named St. Matthews when I pass a Walgreens. Barreling out of this Walgreens and totally ignoring the stop sign, and situational awareness of ANYTHING around him is a truck, very similar to the one shown above. Same color even. It's a four lane road - main drag through town. I'm in the inside lane and this 7,000 pound monstrosity is suddenly feet from turning an MX-5 into shrapnel. Top is down, had my wits, quickly downshift and manage to do a wild u-turn like move into the oncoming traffic lanes but avoided the hit. The neck, however, didn't like the strain and trauma and sent parts of my body into fits of limited sensations and pain. The truck driver, realizing what he's done suddenly stops. My top is down, windows are down, and we make eye contact as I pull alongside the person I have suddenly wished death on inside a flaming pit. And if I repeat the sentences of what was yelled at that jack***es face, I'll be on insta-ban here in milliseconds. He yells over, "Man, I'm sorry...I didn't see ya!" Well, ***face, learn what a stop sign means and scan the scene first. And get something that you can see over and in front instead of the blind spots that hide everyone under the age of 14 in front of the truck. So, I'm all for forcing these overdone, oversized, overfed, overstyled, guzzling, tiny-genital compensating redneck wannabe road monsters taken out back and put to rest and we return to normalcy. Made it home hurting like hell and tests were done today to check for further injury. And that Mazda can turn and spin on a dime... Try that move in that Sierra AT4XBZQZW8! whatever.