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How Motorcycles Could Eradicate Traffic

Swapping cars for bikes drastically reduces traffic and emissions, according to a new study.

By Claire_Martin Feb 16, 2012 12:43PM
The Ducati Diavel. Photo by Ducati.We know that motorcycles get far better gas mileage than passenger cars and trucks, so it follows that if motorcycles replaced cars on the roads, gas consumption would decrease. But traffic would also drop significantly -- a revelation that comes courtesy of a new study by a Belgian transportation-research firm. 

Researchers used computer-modeling software to analyze a stretch of highway between the Belgian cities of Leuven and Brussels, pulling from rush-hour traffic statistics during a typical workday last May. They found that if 10 percent of cars were replaced by motorcycles, drivers' commuting times would decrease by 40 percent and emissions would drop by 6 percent. (The latter is a combination of the fact that motorcycles inherently have lower emissions and that emission rates drop as a vehicle's speed increases -- which it is wont to do when traffic lightens or dissipates.) 

Moreover, when the results were extrapolated to Belgium's other highways, the time savings for all vehicles was 15,000 hours per day. And when 25 percent of cars were swapped out for motorcycles, traffic was eliminated entirely.

The explanation for the traffic cure is simple enough. "When there is little traffic on the road, it can be expected that motorcycles will take up as much space on the road as cars," researchers wrote. "However, when the road becomes busier, and the speed of the traffic flow falls, motorcycles take up less space. Some motorcycles keep less distance from the vehicle in front or ride between two lanes." And when car traffic stops altogether, motorcycles keep moving thanks to lane splitting -- the practice of steering between rows of cars lined up in traffic lanes, which is legal in many parts of the world.

Since the study incorporated only statistics on Belgium's primary roads, its main commuter thoroughfares, there are limits to what researchers can do to predict further-reaching traffic reductions. But they speculate that secondary roads would experience a similar traffic boon: "Based on a number of partial reflections, it can be expected that the time benefit is of the same order of magnitude as that of the primary road network," they wrote, though they added that "additional research is needed to substantiate this statement."
95Comments
Feb 17, 2012 11:25AM
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Accidents go down when there are less cagers to talk on their cell phones and run us over. 
Feb 22, 2012 4:04AM
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Brillent...Do you get paid for this kind of crap? I'm 60 years old, I spent 22 years on two wheels, rode in all kinds of weather from 104 degrees to eight below...Most people can't handle 4 wheels today, I'd hate to see them try and deal with two....
Feb 18, 2012 1:55PM
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SDinLA you don't ride do you?   You find me this many bikes that are carbd these days.  My bike is a 1700, has a cat, and gets between 40-55mpg depending on my mood.  A lot of the savings on a motorcycle also comes from the fact they use much less raw materials to build so you save on the work it takes to mine and refine those materials as well.  

Most motorcycle accidents are because people don't see them.  If there were a lot more on the road people would be used to seeing them and looking out for them.  Another good bit of accidents are caused by rider mistakes, either a lack of skill or overconfidence in their ability.  Which is still a lack of skill.   And its not always the cages fault.  What Ive seen is that a single rider on a bike is the most dangerous.  They take more chances dodging through traffic. A group will normally try to stay together and is much more predictable. Either way always watch out for ANY traffic not just motorcycles.

Feb 22, 2012 6:23AM
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I;ve ridden a bike for 11 Years As to less traffic when stopped 2 bikers who know each other may also stop together in the same lane. Once when traffic was stopped due to an accident 2 of us asked DPS if we could push the bikes on the sidewalk. He said just don't start and ride them. Traffic is not the only advantage. You actually can park 4 bikes in the same space as 1 car and the blocked out areas at the end of parking lanes to create the diagonal are perfect for 1 or 2 bikes. Less land paved over for parking lots means more grass in cities.Subnormal doesn't know that a four stoke bike engine works exactly like your car engine. 4 strokes are all the street bikes you see and must pass the same pollution controls as your cars. They must meet the standards of the state they are sold in.
Feb 16, 2012 5:49PM
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Love it, Lets get Seattle Washington to realize this and change the "lane-splitting" Law!!  vote yes!
Feb 22, 2012 12:12AM
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I fully agree riding a motorcycle is great not to mention economical. I bought my last bike a yr ago and will be riding it daily soon , it does cut down on fuel usage and emissions as well.  I'm a 65 yr old female and last spring a lady close to my age almost hit me , why ? She wasn't paying attention to anything except where she was going. I could have been driving a tank , she wouldn't have seen me either. Please remind everyone to watch out for motorcycles, bicycles, children and animals.
Feb 22, 2012 6:39AM
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David I live and shop on my motorcycle. I don't own a car and I do just fine with a duffle and a backpack and some bungie cords. DEJ the study was done in Belgium where motorcyles are an important transpotation in streets laid out in the middle ages narrow and twisting. SquareJaw I'm retired and I still ride. I've ridden in Houston,Chicago, Kansas City I've ridden US 77, US 59,I-55 and I 90-94 on a 250 honda rebel I've ridden I 80, US 71 I-29 US 59 rush hour Houston and US 77 on a 600 honda shadow. I've never had a problem and I'm 64 and a woman.
Feb 22, 2012 6:05AM
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I own 3 scooters and do 95% of my driving with them. The big advantage is I save $100.00 a week on gas.  An added benefit is that I also give the government less tax revenue.
Feb 22, 2012 5:18AM
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Did my part to reduce traffic, rode my motorcycle to work this morning! 
Feb 22, 2012 7:35AM
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I've been riding motorcycles for two decades now I'm a 5 star factory trained motorcycle mechanic. I put sniffers up motorcycle and automobile exhaust pipes to check and maintain emissions at the highest standards available. 1 honda civic puts out about three times the amount of harmful emissions than even the most powerful of sport bikes out there, due to the volume of exhaust being emitted and the little bikes like scooters and such put out even less emissions due to volume of gases and their efficiency of one gallon of gas x 60 miles plus do the math you rubes and as to safety there are 98% less lethal motorcycle crashes in the US than there are lethal car crashes. You should also know that there are about double the amount or more DUI's handed out to car drivers than motorcyclists. So all you gas guzzling DUI culprits can suckit
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