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  • February 28, 2013
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Bob Stokstad
  • 71 Comments

Splitting Headache

“Are you one of those guys that zips past me in stopped traffic?”

“That looks so dangerous! Aren’t you scared?”

“One of these days, I’m just going to open my door…”

California motorcyclists hear stuff like this a lot, as it seems that many California motorists have a real problem with motorcyclists lane-splitting.

Sucks to be them. Not only can they not bypass stopped and slowed traffic—and spare themselves hundreds of hours a year stuck in the endless jams that snarl California roadways—they can’t stop us from doing it. After all, despite the fact that we’re in America, where if ‘what I’m doing isn’t affecting you, so mind your own business’ is supposedly a way of life, we still like to punish those who are having fun we can’t (or won’t) have, whether it’s assault rifles, heroin, barbecuing spotted owls or riding on two wheels (or one wheel). Unlike some of those other activates, lane-splitting* is legal in California.

“Lane Splitting” is the commonly used term for riding a motorcycle or scooter between two lanes of slow or stopped traffic. It’s not a legal term—it appears nowhere in the California Vehicle Code (CVC), nor do terms like “white lining,” “lane sharing,” “Botts Dotting” or “Moto Oreo-ing.”** Motorcyclists have probably been doing it since there were two cars and a motorcycle, and in most countries, it’s not just tolerated—it’s expected.

Here in the USA, that’s another story. Only in California is it both legally and culturally tolerated. But why? That would take a legal historian to determine, but the California Highway Patrol (CHP) energetically denies it ever maintained the position that it permitted lane-splitting so air-cooled motorcycles wouldn’t overheat in traffic jams. The CHP also states it has never come out either for or against lane-splitting. My guess is since most of California never gets too hot or too cold to ride in, and it’s constantly jammed somewhere, there are always riders lane-splitting, and they’re hard to catch. Rather than try to enforce the unenforceable, the CHP focuses on behavior that’s actually dangerous. How states like Texas and Florida banned it is actually more mysterious to me.***

Why do we lane-split? And should we be doing it? We do it because…well, because we can. The space is there, we can do it safely, and the benefits are manifold. Besides the obvious joy that comes with leaving traffic slowdowns and jams in our dust, we also expose ourselves to less risk, argues Livermore P.D. officer and motorcycle safety advocate John Hurd. “The worst feeling in the world is being a sitting duck, (exposed to cars approaching stopped traffic from behind). If you get rear-ended in a car, it’s not the end of the world, but on a motorcycle, you’re the crumple zone, so the ability to choose lane position is important.”

While there are few (if any) studies on lane-splitting itself, crash data from major reports—the aged “Hurt” report from the USA, the European Union’s MAIDS study and other, smaller studies done in Europe, England and Australia—show lane-splitting either slightly reduces or slightly increases the crash rate—or it’s a wash. Even when studies show a significant portion of motorcyclists were involved in crashes while lane-splitting, it’s not clear that the act of riding between cars—and not some other factor, like excessive speed or road conditions—wasn’t the cause. An in-depth study of lane-splitting crashes by U.C. Berkeley should be completed this year—and you can expect a slew of bills regulating it to appear in the California legislature.

So: it’s safe, but is it truly legal? You could say it’s not illegal, but why? Isn’t that the same as saying something is legal? There are millions of activities not expressly prohibited by the CVC or other state law, and yet nobody says French kissing is in a “grey area,” or feeding Mallomars to your dog is “technically legal.” California trusts our Thin Blue Line to decide what behaviors are safe and what aren’t. Hurd told me he uses a trinity of VC sections—Unsafe Speed (22350), Following too Closely (21703) and use of Laned Roadways (21658)—to cite riders he deems are lane-splitting in a dangerous manner.

Uh-oh: subjectivity. Governments and other large organizations don’t like the ambiguity of leaving it up to guys like Hurd—he’s been riding since he was six years old, and to a veteran Bay Area rider, cruising in between stopped cars at 15-20 mph may seem safe. But to somebody who hasn’t ridden—or spends more time riding in lightly trafficked areas—that may seem the height of recklessness.

That’s why the members of the California Office of Traffic Safety’s (OTS) Mission-12 Safety Committee, a group of motorcyclists, law-enforcement officers, safety experts, government employees and other stakeholders, developed a set of guidelines for lane-splitting (among other safety initiatives). The guidelines were developed over many months of meetings, both in the large committee and subcommittees. A number of Bay Area riders, including Hurd and Bay Area Rider’s Forum (BARF) owner Bud Kobza contributed, and see the posting of these guidelines on the CHP and OTS websites as a major victory.

The guidelines do several things. First, they inform other road users that “lane splitting in a safe and prudent manner is not illegal in the state of California,” and also tell drivers to not try to block motorcyclists from doing it. That’s important—according to a U.C. study, almost half of California’s drivers either think lane-splitting is illegal or don’t know the law, and many of them even turn vigilante, attempting to block riders. The guidelines also tell riders what they “should” do when lane-splitting: keep the speed differential under 10 mph, stay between lanes one and two, be respectful and reasonable. I wish they also could tell people to stay in the center of their lanes and not drift right or left. Oh, and maybe do something about those giant truck mirrors.

Posting the guidelines was big news—websites, T.V. news stations and radio programs were buzzing the week I wrote this. It ran on newspaper front pages. Judging by the comments from readers, viewers and listeners, lane-splitting does not make motorcycling popular in the public eye. When asked by the U.C. surveyors, car drivers, by a very wide margin, disapprove of the practice. When asked why, the two largest numbers of responses are either that they think it’s dangerous (which it isn’t) or that it’s scary (WTF? You’re in a car). Hey, we live in a facts-optional society, but ignorant and silly people vote, too; should we fear for our lane-splitting privileges?

“If somebody wanted to outlaw it, it would take a long time,” Hurd told me. Passing laws is a long process, with many roadblocks—committees, lobbyists, political parties and grumpy governors. To get a law passed you need strong support from the public as well as government and other large organizations, and though there have been bills like this in the past, right now, Hurd tells me that “nobody wants to start that process…not OTS, AMA, DMV or CHP.” If they do crop up, ABATE’s California chapter has already crushed two and is ready for more, and AMA spokesperson Peter terHorst said that that organization will “work with established clubs and groups in that area” to defend motorcycle rights. As you may know, a bill to restrict lane splitting was just recently introduced, and subsequently withdrawn, in the California legislature.

As secure as lane-splitting is in California, it’s just as unlikely to spread beyond our Golden borders. It’s explicitly banned in most states, and states that lack laws prohibiting it are culturally intolerant, though motorcyclists report doing it in places like Texas and Chicago. There’s just no way politicians will sign on to something that looks so dangerous to the uninformed, and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation doesn’t help, either—that industry-funded organ doesn’t believe you can maintain a safe space cushion while lane-splitting , so obviously won’t support the practice.

The AMA does not support legalizing lane-splitting, though it isn’t against it, either: “While the AMA does not actively advocate for lane-sharing at the state level, we approve of the concept (saves gas and less wear and tear, says terHorst) and commend California for issuing reasonable lane-sharing guidelines.” But as the huge majority of the Ohio-based AMA’s membership don’t do it—and probably never will—the issue has a very low priority. ABATE is another matter, and is trying to legalize it in other states—both Texas’ and Oregon’s legislatures have seen bills—but efforts have so far been for naught.

Lane-splitting is an important part of the lives of California motorcyclists, many of whom commute 20,000 or more miles a year, much of it in beige-and-silver canyons of slow-moving cars, minivans and SUVs. Some of us (this reporter included) fear the guidelines could lead to more aggressive enforcement, or even a slippery slope to ever-tightening regulation until it’s effectively outlawed. How do we keep it legal? Read the guidelines, be a good ambassador (wave to drivers who pull over, eschew noisy exhausts and keep the speeds down!) educate your friends and family and get politically active. Maybe someday we’ll be in the checkout line and hear:

“I sure am jealous you guys get where you’re going quickly and safely! Maybe I’ll learn to ride too.”

Resources:

ABATE of California: abate17.org

AMA:800-AMA-JOIN, americanmotorcyclist.com

* I say “lane-splitting” because that’s what I—and everybody I know—has called it for the last 20 years. Some motorcyclists argue we should say “lane-sharing” because it sounds friendlier, or because that’s a more technically accurate term, and some get into this weird technical argument about how lane-sharing and lane-splitting are really two different things according to some unnamed authority, but I am not one to encourage twisting of the English language for political purposes.

** Okay, I made the last two up.

***Yes, I know you think people in Texas and Florida are crazier than in California and will run you over if you try it, which is why it’s illegal in those states, but we have our share of aggressive crazies here, too. I also found no news stories on the Web (road-raging aside) reporting a lane-splitting rider was purposefully run off the road or otherwise interfered with by vengeful drivers.

71 Comments

  1. Paul Mitchell says:

    Here in Euroland lane splitting is called , motorcycle riding !!! what the heck is the point of riding a motorbike in traffic if you cannot lane split ? The whole point of a motorcycle is that you can go where cars cannot . But you have to ride like you are invisible , assume that car drivers always want to run you down and kill you , that is the only way to survive on a motorcycle , and lets be honest here …it is also part of the thrill and joy of riding .

    • MGNorge says:

      Interesting viewpoint but I hardly ever go where cars don’t, we all go the same places, it’s just that I choose to think I have more fun than they do!
      Not living where we get miles of backups I pretty much can most of the time travel at my own pace and even relatively to myself with a twist of the throttle. The thought of running between cars on any road seems like a death wish to me. Why would I wedge myself between two hard objects at any speed and expect them to always do as I hoped? There’s no need here so end of discussion for me.

  2. Dave says:

    I wouldn’t lane split in NJ you wont here of any lane splitting accidents here cause dead men tell no tales. There are so many fat moms on cell phones and texting fools add to that @ 3oclock in the morning rt 80 has more traffic on it than some rush hours in many other states and it comes down to when it will happen not if.

    • mr_dirtrider says:

      If that is the case I wouldn’t ride without lane splitting. I wouldn’t want that fat mom on her cell phone directly behind me. I split in California for 20 years and as the traffic got worse and more dangerous, I split more not less.

      • HotDog says:

        I am not worthy of “Lane Splitting”, in fact it scares the hell out of me. It’s probabaly a good thing for those involved but I’ve witnessed too many distracted, angry and out of control drivers, for me feel comfortable. My bikes’ seat would have permanent pinch marks if I attempted it. I ride in a part of the country where I’ve ridden for over an hour and never seen another car. Our idea of “Lane Splitting” in Dakota, is when a rancher is hurding cattle on the hiway and we’re splitting Bossy and her cow pies. At least you LA boys don’t have to put up with slippery “exhaust”.

  3. Crusty Kris says:

    If they stopped lane splitting in California I would quit riding and buy a Porsche 911 to do my commute. Sitting behind a cage in traffic is way more dangerous than sitting between two cages.

  4. todd says:

    If I had to stop lane splitting I’d have to buy a car and add to the congestion and gas consumption. After that, I’d quit my job because the 30 or 50 mile commute that was fine on a bike turns into an intolerable 2+ hour pain in the a$$.

    -todd

  5. falcodoug says:

    Lane splitting? Yes every day, to and from work. Riding on the street 36 years now with one wreck last year, cager turning left in front of me in an intersection. I was going 25 mph in a single lane, not lane splitting. Be careful, know where you are in traffic, think that everyone wants to kill you, be kind, wave at drivers, laugh in your helmet.

  6. Jeremy in TX says:

    I wish we could lane split here in Texas. I don’t commute on the bike here any longer – too many times have I had to make a mad dash for the shoulder or between two other vehicles in front of me to avoid being pancaked by an approaching driver who realized too late that the 80mph flow of traffic had suddenly ground to a halt. If I weren’t so paranoid about checking my six when stopped, I’d probably have used up all of my nine lives by now.

    Even if they did pass a law here to legalize lane splitting, a law making it legal to shoot lane splitters from stopped vehicles would probably be attached to the same bill.

  7. Ricardo says:

    Lane splitting should be okay to do if traffic is stopped only, if everyone else is moving at whatever speed, then technically there is no need for lane splitting right?, we all are sharing the road and are moving and eventually we will get to our destination. But when you get to a stop light and have to wait 2-3 green lights to get through, is there and then when I think lane splitting has its real value by saving gas and time for a few people as well as less traffic jam. Or when there is an accident on the highway and all traffic is stopped. This way is safer and less people will be upset…
    Lane splitting above 15 miles an hour is plain dumb, cagers are already distracted with cel phones and texting enough to notice the motorcycle on the road.

  8. Peter Griffin says:

    All you guys with loud exhausts make POOR ambassadors for the rest of us riders. Hell, I can hear some bikes from over a mile away. Trust me when I say, you don’t look or sound good to anyone but yourself. Time to be more responsible and conscientious of others.

  9. LarryC says:

    Well, we had the common sense to legalize pot here in Colorado, maybe there’s hope for legalizing lane splitting?

    Nah, probably not. There’s more prejudice against motorcycles than pot.

    I got held up in a construction zone on a rural two lane about 20~30 cars back from the flagger. I filtered to the front on the shoulder and was actually chastised by the flagwoman for doing so. Why would she possibly care? Why would the cage drivers possibly care? I would just have to tediously pick ‘em off one by one when we got out of the construction, not necessarily an easy thing to do on a twisty mountain road with lots of no passing zones. Common sense just can’t prevail over jealousy.

    • todd says:

      I came up to a line of cars waiting for a downed tree to be cleared up in the Oakland hills. I filtered my way to the front, had a chat with a firefighter about his motorcycle and he let me through slowly with the bicyclists while all the cars had to wait. I imagine that made a couple of car drivers wish they were also on motorcycles.

      I’ve been “lane splitting” for over twenty years with one single incident (slight bump). I’ve been in more car accidents in a car and been taken to the hospital even though I’m only in a car less than 1 percent of the time I’m on the road. In my book, that tells me it’s proven itself safe for me to ride motorcycles – even between cars.

      -todd

    • sherm says:

      I’ve seen a lot of instances where one lane is closed for some reason and drivers stay in the closed lane until they reach the lane block. Then they start squeezing into the traffic lane which really slows down the flow. Don’t know if it’s a
      lane splitting issue.

      • Banditfan says:

        @sherm
        There have been numerous studies done both in North America and the UK (and probably elswhere) that show that staying in the closed lane and merging at the front actually speeds up traffic flow. There are some juristictions that use automated signs telling drivers to use both lanes and alternate yield at the merge point. If everyone is doing it there is no reason for aggressive blocking as everyone takes their turn. Sure, there will always be the occasional a$$h0le who tries to block someone from merging but by and large, it apparently works well.

        • BMS_RSVR says:

          No need for a study, it is a mathematical certainty taught in all undergraduate traffic engineering classes. Just that Americans can’t seem to comprehend using two lanes and then merging one for one; me first, me first. It is the law in Germany to merge in this manner during lane closures.

    • TimC says:

      Yeah, I don’t know what the deal is (some kind of altitude effect?) but CO drivers are uniquely uptight. There is some HUGE resentment if you are going faster – no place I’ve lived before here (OK, AZ, WA, OR, CA) was it so guaranteed that someone going 70 in a 65 will speed up just to prevent your passing.

      Also, no place I’ve lived will people blob up side by side at some speed instead of differences leaving a way through. I was going up one surface street and actually (this is this rare here) managed to get behind someone actually going THROUGH THE GAPS and we were both able to flow through (this is both in cars, so not a splitting story*) – when we finally got stopped at a light – CA plates. AHA.

      * The relevance here is that CO drivers are NOT going to be tolerant of splitting. I’ve only done it a couple of times, like when I hit a traffic jam on the way back from a ride on a HOT day. I got honked at and brighted (CO drivers LOVE their high beams too) plenty that time.

  10. Gg says:

    Maybe not relevant 100% but a few yrs back in a German city the local authorities imposed parking laws for bikes as for cars. Very cleverly bikers responded by occupying one parking place each – it only took a day to withdraw the new legislation following a total traffic chaos due to lack of parking spaces. Just imagine the chaos it can be created on the same lines if no filtering takes place …!

    • Hefner says:

      That freakin’ rocks!

      But I doubt our government would/could respond like that… They’d probably just push through projects to build new parking structures and steal funding from public schools to fund it. And then the next year they’d push through new taxes and say that if you don’t vote for it the schools will go bankrupt.

    • Joe Bar says:

      They did that in northampton, Massachusetts a few ywears back, too.

  11. sherm says:

    OK, ABATE gets a state to repeal their helmet laws, then it gets the state permit lane splitting. So we’ve got helmetless lane splitters. What do you Cal guys think about helmetless lane splitting? Not to worry?

    • Hefner says:

      I think helmet-less riding is idiotic, period. I don’t drive my car without putting on my seatbelt, and I don’t ride my bike without a helmet. Or Gloves. Or boots. Or an armored jacket. Or reinforced pants.

      ATGATT

      And proper gear at that. I have several scars from where jeans wore through after sliding on a relatively low speed crash (40-ish?), denim is not abrasion resistant! And neither is skin…

    • ApriliaRST says:

      Sorry, sherm, but your fears are unrelated to the topic.

      • sherm says:

        I was thinking about a state that had just approved lane splitting. Cal has developed a lane splitting culture over the years that riders and drivers are accustomed to. I think it could be very dangerous where the practice is approved overnight in some other state. I’ve been in states where it’s damned dangerous to ride a bicycle on the street.

    • Gabe says:

      I think these are two seperate issues. Lane splitting is not dangerous per se; therefore it isn’t really a safety issue, like helmets.

  12. TmaxGixxerBlur says:

    when we lane share/split, it benefits the cars just as much it benefit us. maybe more so for the cars! why you ask? well, look at this…when there is more motorcycle riders, there is less cars. less cars mean less congestion on the roads. if we, the motorcycle riders gave up our bikes, the traffic would be even worst! as more of us rides, there is more room for the car drivers to get the road for themselves. in the past few months, when i was in traffic and moving along through the cars, a young (maybe in her 20’s) blonde tried to block me as i was splitting. right when i got there, i can see her eyes in the rearview mirror watching me. once i got there, she jumped out in front of me and almost hit me. she rolled down her window and yelled, “if i’m stuck in traffic, there’s no way you’re going to cheat and get ahead of me!” can you believe that?? i yelled back at her, “are you insane?? you would tried to KILL me because you’re jealous of me riding my bike through traffic?? you would go TO JAIL for something this stupid??” she looked at me with her bugged eyes, trying to respond to it, and then blurted out again, “you’re breaking the law!” i told her to brush up on her dmv legality, because it’s legal in california, but even if it wasn’t, assaulting a human being with a car is like using a gun. attempted murder to murder. people with this kind of hatred…my god, if they’re so jealous of us cutting through, i always tell them. learn to ride, save gas and money, instead of getting so insanely bloodthirsty. and older man did the same to me a few weeks later. with his family inside of his car! his wife kept apologizing to me while i was about to call the police. i took down his license plate number. he quickly tried to drive away, but a few hours later, after i reported it to the police (in healdsburg), in a small town, he was arrested for attempted murder!! that was on me! but i heard the charges was brought down to reckless driving after i told the DA that i didn’t want him to go to jail because he was just frustrated being stuck in traffic. he had nothing on his record. i hope he learned his lesson because something like this can just end a person’s life just because he didn’t want me to split lanes?? he was very apologetic after everything was over. yes, drivers, please be good and don’t let jealousy over take you. think of the benefits that us riders give you before you go nuts on us.

  13. Max2 says:

    Cage drivers (as well as riders) don’t like anyone broaching their “space”. That’s the issue. Since everyone’s self-space is subjective, and they figure everyone else’s space objective (meaning; it’s theirs for the taking), then of course there will always be a conflict.

  14. Jim says:

    You think people in California frown upon filtering, try Ohio. People here are out to get ya. That’s why I only do it if traffic speed is less than 20 & limit the speed differential to about 15mph. Say what you will about the legality, filtering has saved me from heat stroke on numerous occasions.

  15. James says:

    When traffic is so bad that it comes to a complete stop, lane splitting is definitely safer than waiting for an inattentive driver to rear end you. Before I moved to CA I used to pull to the side of the lane and watch my rearview mirror with dread every time traffic slowed suddenly. I was ready for evasive maneuvers but it’s tricky watching your mirrors and trying to look ahead simultaneously.

    On the other hand, American drivers are incredibly angry and dangerous and it would be hard to start the practice up in other states. I split lanes once in Texas at a railroad track when a train was going by and a redneck in a pickup truck went out of his way to chase me down and scream at me for not waiting in line like everybody else. The 2nd time I tried it (although not technically lane splitting) I rode down a narrow shoulder at a T-intersection to turn right. Because cars couldn’t do it, one guy got mad and opened his passenger door on me. Fortunately I was able to swerve without going off the road. CA drivers may resent it, but I’ve done thousands of miles of lane splitting and it is rare for a driver to cut you off with enough malice to worry about. The few drivers who hug the center (either because of bad driving ability or resentment) are easy to get around. And yes, for some reason there seem to be a lot of Prius drivers in that group.

    • Bruce says:

      You’re 100% right about the behavior of US drivers, but this “stay in line and wait like the rest of us” mentality is not limited to just lane splitting. On many occasions as I have approached the merge point of a construction lane closure, I have had motorists screaming or swerving in front of me to prevent me from continuing to use the open lane after most the cars have already moved over. I am of the mind that traffic should continue to use both open lanes until the merge point, but most drivers do not agree. They feel traffic should move over ahead of the merge point and that bikes or cars continuing down the open lane are cutting ahead.

  16. Bryan Whitton says:

    I lane split at reasonable speeds. The ones that get me are the ones that lane split at 75 or 80. I am not talking about their speed I am talking about mine. Highway 85 5:45 PM doing 75 in the HOV lane and some idiot rides between me and the car next to me and I am on the right side of the lane. Or same speed Northbound 101 and another idiot on a GSXR 750 doing a wheelie 2 feet from me as if to try and impress me. Well I was impressed, not with his riding but with his stupidity. I just hope that all that ride like this on public roads in traffic die young so the stupid gene that they carry isnt carried on.

    • Gabe says:

      Comment noted, but this story isn’t about reckless riding or stunting. The activity you describe is definitely illegal, so I’m not sure of its relevancy to the discussion.

  17. Jake says:

    “…the California Highway Patrol (CHP) energetically denies it ever maintained the position that it permitted lane-splitting so air-cooled motorcycles wouldn’t overheat in traffic jams.”
    If they, CHP, did — it would be erroneous and indefensible (especially, with modern bikes). Engines make the most heat when making the most power — at idle (or, very low RPM) they make very little heat, comparatively. And modern, liquid cooled — fan cooled, motorcycle engines operate the same as cars and need no special dispensation.
    So, “filtering” or “lane-splitting” becomes merely a traffic issue and either motorcycles follow the same rules as everyone else or get different rules in which to operate.
    Whichever — there needs to be “Rules of the Road” (laws to follow — not “grey areas”).

    • Gabe says:

      There are rules and there is no grey area in the CVC around this issue. Technically, a very narrow car could lane-split as well. Motorcycles get special treatment because they are small, not because they are somehow privileged. Your argument is like saying skinny people get special treatment on airlines because they fit the seats better.

      • Jake says:

        “it appears nowhere in the California Vehicle Code (CVC)” ” is it truly legal?” “it’s not illegal”
        “the California Office of Traffic Safety’s (OTS)…developed a set of guidelines for lane-splitting”
        (I know nothing about skinny people on airlines — but) Societal order is maintained by promulgation of rules (Laws), respect for those laws by society (all road users, in this case), and enthusiastic enforcement of those laws by LEOs.
        Ignoring the above may lead to a ‘Splitting Headache’.

        • Honyock says:

          At least as of this afternoon in the U.S., we haven’t yet descended to “that which is not mandatory is prohibited”. Today’s conventions on lanesplitting in the Golden State were forged in the great fuel crisis on 1974, when our trusted allies and great friends in the oil-rich MidEast cut off oil shipments because the U.S. wouldn’t stand for the obliteration of Israel – politics aside, in 1974 virtually all motorcycles (including those ridden by the CHP) were air cooled, and extended idling was not a good thing for any of us. During that first “oil crisis”, motorcycling became fashionable and was seen as almost patriotic. Pity that we can’t invoke the same zeitgeist today.

  18. K-Kid says:

    Comparing lane splitting in the US and in Europe is kind of a waste of time. European drivers are more aware of riders, generally, and the culture is more motorcycle friendly. I have experience riding in California and parts of Europe, and the two are worlds apart. American drivers generally have the mindset that they “own” whatever piece of highway they happen to be on at any given time, and any one trying to share or enter their asphalt territory are trespassing. Cultural difference to most European countries, “if you’re not using the space I will,” try driving/riding in Italy. I do think lane splitting has its merits, the miles of California Highway traffic jams for one; but the majority of American roads are just too dangerous for riders to safely lane split due to drivers inattentiveness and wrecklessness.
    My 2 cents.

  19. Dave G says:

    I agree with Hefner’s assessment of the situation. I would add one more thing that upsets drivers. That is having an obnoxiously loud bike pass by a foot away from your open window. That eritates drivers more then the lane splitting..

  20. Hefner says:

    I grew up in LA, and rode a motorcycle year-round for several years. Lane splitting was a way of life, and practically automatic whenever traffic slowed significantly below the speed limit. For the most part, if you’re courteous, cars would actually make room for you. Sure every once in a while you’d get that one person who tried to block you, but moving to the next lane was usually easy enough. Like the article said, keep it single file, and limited to between #1 & #2 lanes.

    What you should NOT do is swarm through all 5 lanes of traffic with your buddies, cars hate that, and rightfully so. If they can’t predict where you’ll appear, they can’t properly react when they see you.

  21. Dale says:

    I know a Guy, a former “Million Mile LA Motocourier”, that was considered the “Valentino Rossi of Lane-splitting”, riding with him in LA was a revelation, he appeared to be faster, safer and more comfortable while “splitting traffic” than any I’ve ever seen. Come on Pete, fess up, what’s your secret?

    I was “lane-slitting” SoCals Freeways at 15 (1975), it feels more natural and safe to do so than not. If I still lived out there I couldn’t imagine commuting without “lane-splitting”. If you live there now you understand if you haven’t been out there just sit in your car and want to go somewhere but don’t move, for hours, you’ll get the point. Do they still call where the 101 crosses the 405 “The Worlds Biggest Parking Lot”?

    The article is accurate about “lane-splitting” probably not being exported to other States, unfortunately. Rarely, it can be gotten away with outside of Cal, I intend to try it some during Bikeweek.

    I’ve never had someone open a car door in traffic on me, if that were to happen I’d sure try my best to leave a bad taste in the Guys mouth about doing it…

    • Gabe says:

      Little Petey is a maniac! MOrons forever!

      • Dale says:

        Yeah, Yeah All the MOrons are faster than me :-)

        Funny thing is, as we know, Pete is a (nice) calm, rational, almost calculating Guy, that’s how he appears to ride. I could imagine someone seeing him think it’s just balls, it’s not. When you’re riding too you can see the deal.

        It’s hard to describe but I’ll try. Watching him go through traffic is like watching a floating, graceful, dance while he tracks an almost laser straight unwavering line. He seems so far ahead of what’s going on he’s halfway through his burger while we’re still on the Highway going to the restaurant. He never uses his “outs”, he’s already in the right place at the right time. Almost like it’s already happened, before it did… Ali’s “Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee” comes to mind.

        Alas, Riding with him in LA is Different, he’s not going too fast for him, he’s just going too fast for Me! “Catch ya later Dude, grab us a good table.” I don’t care who you are or what you’ve got, it’d take a helicopter to get around LA any faster than Pete just cruisin’ on his Bandit 1200 (or whatever he’s riding these days), I’d bet on it.

        MOrons forever!

  22. johnnelee says:

    Legal or illegal, I’ve been lane-splitting, filtering, et al, since the first day I rode on the street about, oh, 55 years ago. I do not and would not live in SoCal, but lane-splitting has probably given me an additional 5 years of living (and enjoyment) that sitting in traffic, etc can not provide.

    Like any other activity, there are those occasions when lane-splitting is appropriate and those when it is not appropriate. In day-to-day riding I am normally on a dual-purpose bike (NOT one of those bloated “Adventure” bikes.), and I often use routes that are not expressly leagal for motorized vehicles. Yes, I’ve received my share of tickets, but less than you might believe.

    One of the great attractions of two wheels is the ability to utilize space and terrain that 4 wheels cannot use. I will never stop lane-splitting until I can no longer ride. It is a risk worth taking for me. There are other risks that are not worth taking: I don’t smoke; I very rarely drink (and never to excess); I am not obese; I am fit; I don’t watch TV (nor perform any other sedentary activity) more than an hour a day; I don’t hang out in clubs, etc, etc, etc.

    Life is about choices. I’ve made mine.

  23. Uffe Kristiansen says:

    I live in Miami Beach, FL. As mentioned lane splitting is not allowed in FL and considering the way most people drive down here probably way too dangerous too. My suggestion would be to allow motorcycles to use the emergency lane with a speed limit of 30 mph and single file only. This should of course only be allowed when traffic is crawling at lower speeds. Motorcycles will always find space to get out of the way should an emergency vehicle need the emergency lane. This would allow for riders to keep riding without much increased safety risk. Just my opinion.

  24. Ace says:

    “One of these days, I’m just going to open my door…”

    Response – So if I beat you into a quadriplegic right now, I’m preventing a future murder, right?

    • Dale says:

      An excellent response.

      I offer the slightly more chilling:

      “So… If I Beat You into a quadriplegic Right Now I’m preventing a future Murder???”

      PS No internet badass here but I know what the stakes are. I see someone trying to kill me with a car no differently than if they were trying to kill me with a gun. If you’re trying to hurt/kill me, I’m going to try to hurt/kill you, first.

      If words can get the point across, that’s best.

  25. MGNorge says:

    I’ve been riding for a long time. We generally don’t have miles of traffic jams that would make filtering a huge advantage. Besides, exposing us to the next bugaboo, jetting out into an intersection first as the light goes green, exposes us to the inattentive, or “I don’t want to wait at the light and hit the gas when the light was already yellow and going red” type and get creamed that way. The thought of squeezing my way through a few cars to the head of the pack does nothing for me and I can wait my turn. We all share the road. I might think differently if we had miles of traffic back-up at intersections but we don’t. There’ll never be a consensus as to the practice’s true safety. I’ll let others do it, I’m OK by not doing it.

    • Dave Kent says:

      Exactly. The ambulance ride and subsequent Obamacare mandated 16 hour wait in the ER will make you much later for your appointment than having waited your turn in traffic.

  26. Dave T says:

    No lane splitting in Canada, and rightly so. Our speed limits are just estimates, and everyone changes lanes like they are in a race to get to work. Stay safe my american friends!
    Be careful if you visit the great white north.

  27. Miguel Gonzalez says:

    I remenber, some time ago you open a discusion about spliting, I rejected it, and steel do. The only way you can get some idea, the problem would be is going to a city like Caracas Venezuela.

  28. Dave Kent says:

    No thanks. I have enough problems with cage drivers invading my lane AT SPEED, with unexpected maneuvers that require my evasive action. Regardless of how safe lane splitting is at slow or no speed, we shouldn’t do anything that reinforces a notion that it’s ok for both of us occupy the same lane, EVER.

  29. Norm G. says:

    re: “How do we keep it legal? Read the guidelines, be a good ambassador (wave to drivers who pull over, eschew noisy exhausts and keep the speeds down!) educate your friends”

    OMG, wait, did somebody (other than me) dare suggest that motorcyclists behave in a manner that reflects personal responsibility…?

  30. Norm G. says:

    re: “it seems that many California motorists have a real problem with motorcyclists lane-splitting.”

    jealousy will get you nowhere… literally and figuratively. LOL

  31. Wendy says:

    I rode for a week in Ireland, and throughout Europe, “Filtering” is actually encouraged. Since even a fairly weak scooter can out accelerate a car, having all the bikes up front at a traffic light clears the intersection quickly. Lane splitting should be legal here, but in the land of coffee drinking texters, would I trust the cagers?

    • jim says:

      sadly, its the prevalence of cagers with a cell in one hand and a buick sunfire in the other that lead me to sell my bike. I’m out.

  32. ApriliaRST says:

    As described under the recently released guidelines, it should be at minimum *tolerated* in every state. Motorcycling groups ought to take a stand on this just as they did with helmet laws. If it isn’t made fully legal– IOWs merely tolerated– then it should be made fully ILLEGAL for drivers to block or take discouraging actions.

  33. Ted says:

    During my California time in ’05, most drivers made way for me. I envisioned them imagining themselves as hyper Euro-tolerant with a mildly benign attitude towards splitting.

    Or they were just asleep.

  34. SmartOxymoron says:

    Hehe, you guys should move to India :) Not only is lane splitting perfectly acceptable (assuming there is a lane in the first place), pavements (if they exist) are fair game too. Don’t try stopping the guys on the pavement unless you’re in a fightin’ mood though.

  35. Marc says:

    As a full time SoCal commuter who rides about 20k miles lane splitting makes it bearable. If I couldn’t split lanes I would have to buy a car and that would be rough. There is no shortage of drivers doing stupid things but after 40 years riding on the street I have learned to anticipate them and just assume 50% of the drivers can’t see me and the other 50% are aiming for me. Never had an accident doing it but I have been rear ended twice once at a stop sign and another during light traffic on the freeway doing 50mph.

  36. goose says:

    It gets so frustrating talking to car drivers about lane splitting. “Don’t bother me with facts or your 40 years of experience, I know it is dangerous”. It is beyond my imagination how people can think sitting still in traffic is safe. Every brain damaged, over or under caffeinated dweeb thinks the spot you’re occupying is just the thing for getting a 10 foot advantage by forcing his/ her way into your space. Yeah, that’s really safe. I’ll take being in control and lane splitting every time.

    I’m also amazed by what Gabe alludes to, here in the “home of the free” a large percentage of the population seems to think telling other people how to live is the American way. From the right’s sodomy laws telling even a male/ female married couple what they may or may not do in their own bedroom to the left wing, jerk California state legislator trying to tell people they can’t smoke in their own home we are a nation in love with telling others how to live.

    Goose

    • Dale says:

      When I happen upon those that are “in love with telling others how to live” I always think of the song “Sunshine” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Bg6BpxKCfY). “You can’t even run your own Life, I’ll be damned if you’ll run Mine!”

      How about “Your Freedom ends at my nose and vice versa.” or “You stay clear of me and I’ll stay clear of you.” The only “plan” I’m interested in is less “gov” and less taxes, More Freedom.

      It’s refreshing to see that others can see the faults of Both “sides”, “establishment”, positions.

      I can’t be the only one noticing some irony in the statements “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave!” or “Liberty and Justice for All!” to name a few these days…

  37. Tom R. says:

    Is it just me, or do drivers of Camrys and Prius models always seem to hog the friggin’ lines?!

    • PatrickD says:

      I think that people often have their cars ‘off centre’ to try and see up ahead, but that’s no excuse. For sure, some people are bitter and hate to see someone with an advantage.
      Lane splitting, or filtering as we call it in then UK, is certainly a demanding but rewarding aspect of motorcycing. It needs more concentration than any other activity on the road, with road debris, unchecked lane changes and different wing mirror heights. As I look at it, it’s a trade off for getting soaked and frozen regularly on a motorcycle.

      • stratkat says:

        doesnt matter how you ‘look at it’ as much as how the people in the cars look at it. right or wrong they are the ones that can ruin your day/life. it would take a huge re education of drivers to accept your advantage in lane splitting. man if people in CA get pissed off imagine the rest of the states having to accept it. thats why i dont ever see it being legalized state wide.

        • Dave Kent says:

          Amen! The largest wisdom in street motorcycling is this: In ANY conflict between a car and a bike, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. The car ALWAYS wins. This should be in the back of our collective minds whenever we make a decision as to how to ride.