A motorcyclist splits lanes on the I-405

Last year, for the first time, the California Highway Patrol posted safety guidelines for motorcyclists who ride in the space between lanes of cars to avoid traffic. The practice, called lane splitting, is controversial but legal. Earlier this month the CHP removed the guidelines without an explanation, sparking renewed public debate over lane splitting and motorcycle safety.

Nick Haris, western states representative for the American Motorcyclist Association
Peter Apodoca, officer in CHP's Motorcyclist Safety Program

  • ES Trader

    Lane splitting should be illegal, how it was ever permitted is perplexing. Cyclists expectations for cars to watch out for them is illogical. Cars are not permitted to use the shoulder or an on or exit ramp to pass.

    Cars, regardless of the circumstances,must respect the size and non-maneuverability of larger vehicles especially big rigs. We do not expect big rigs to be able to respond quickly enough to avoid us. Likewise on a narrow road, the vehicle traveling up-hill gives right-of way to the vehicle going down hill. It’s just common sense as well as a law of phyisics, Force = Mass x Acceleration !

    Cyclists appear from seemingly nowhere attempting to slip between cars and avoid traffic.

    The CHP action does not go far enough, the legislature should pass a bill and signed by the Governor,

    It’s enraging enough to look into a “proposition” effort !

    I can’t wait to hear the lame reasons to continue this dangerous practice.

    • Lili Peck

      “Cyclists expectations for cars to watch out for them is illogical.”
      So your inability to be aware of your surroundings while behind the wheel is OK? Wow. Thanks for being so honest.

      • ES Trader

        as I said try driving before reaching conclusion

        • Lili Peck

          Um…I do drive??? And ride.

        • By the same logic maybe you should try riding before reaching any conclusions?

          • ES Trader

            I had a motorcycle before you could spell the word, when young and stupid. Like Jekyll and Hyde, people change when they gert behind a wheel but even more so straddling a motorcycle w/ a helmet that psychologically gives a sense of security and isolation

          • Well then, you have no idea what it’s like to be a motorcyclist then in modern traffic. So I still say you should try riding before preaching.

          • ES Trader

            It wasn’t that long ago and remember the experience; I dont have a real problem with it in stalled traffic but a significant minority of riders abuse it even when the traffic is going 65 mph + and they dont realize that approaching on wither side of a car is like a stealth plane evading radar.

            Cyclists have un-obstructed visibility but forget that autos do not so for your sake keep that in mind next time,

            I know the feeling of freedom and soaring it provides but its not worth a serious injury that might be permanent.

            Personally I think it should be illegal, the arguments for less traffic and personal rights are trumped by auto driver rights

          • It’s not lane splitting when done at 65+ that’s speeding and reckless driving/riding.

            Education about lane splitting is needed, which is why those guide lines were so important. However, it’s not the CHP, but the DMV who should be sharing them. But driver education in this country is pretty awful.

          • mandark357 .

            Not everyone is unable to control themselves like you are when on a motorcycle. In most cases its the complete opposite. People tend to be more careful on their motorcycles than in their cars. Most of us know that a small mistake on a motorcycle can be much more costly when it comes to our well being compared to being in a car surrounded by metal.

            Of course there are exceptions to this point. But the same idiots who ride like morons on their motorcycles tend to drive their 4 wheeled vehicles in the same manner.

        • mandark357 .

          Are people really this dense to not understand that most people who have motorcycles also drive cars. Comments like this just shows how out of touch and naive some people are.

          OR are you really referring to cyclists and not motorcyclists? There is a big difference you know.

          As a cyclist myself, people who drive cars seems to also think that just because someone is on a bicycle(cyclist) does not own a car! I have a car, a van, a motorcycle and a bicycle!

          One law this government should pass is to make it mandatory for all citizens who has and seeks a license to ride a bicycle and a motorcycle to work for a month on each mode of transportation. This will teach these people just how much more dangerous a car/truck/suv in the hands of a person who is not aware of their surroundings.

          • I can’t count the number of times I have had angry SUV drivers blow their horns at me when bicycling — telling me to “get a car” or “get on the sidewalk” or “get a job/pay taxes” — as though they are doing the world some great favor by driving cars and swerving at bicyclists.

          • Jed Wheeler

            I’ve seen this when riding my bicycle too. It’s as though they feel threatened by the very idea that it’s possible to get around without burning petroleum. Very strange.

      • Sail Nut

        There is no other area is which an overtaking vehicle is given the right of way over a vehicle being overtaken. It is unreasonable to expect a driver to use the limited visibility of rear view mirrors to spot and respond to the oncoming presence of a rider who has much better visibility and more options, including slowing down slightly.

        The vehicle in front will often be in a position to spot road hazards that the vehicle overtaking cannot. These hazards may require movement within the lane. In all other situations, the driver is free to choose the location within the lane, as long as it doesn’t impinge on vehicles in other lanes. In this one situation, which the auto driver cannot predict, the biker has the expectation that the auto will maintain a left side lane position, even if in means running over the truck bumper in the left side of the lane.

        I doubt many motorcyclists would choose to risk an accident, just to allow someone else to get to work a few minutes earlier.

        • Cecil-T

          “There is no other area is which an overtaking vehicle is given the right of way over a vehicle being overtaken. It is unreasonable to expect a driver to use the limited visibility of rear view mirrors”

          This is ridiculous. You’re basically saying that mirrors on cars are useless and don’t need to be used, and that a car swerving into something next to it or coming from behind is without blame.

          “I doubt many motorcyclists would choose to risk an accident, just to allow someone else to get to work a few minutes earlier.”

          You fail to understand that it’s the motorcyclist whose life is on the line, not the driver. At worst a driver suffers a broken mirror.

          Do you feel the same way about bicycles? Pedestrians? Do you just drive around avoiding other cars and ignore everything else?

    • srcarruth

      motorcyles needed to keep moving or overheat but I think that has been largely dealt with?

      • Sail Nut

        Any vehicle that overheats while stopped is poorly maintained or poorly designed. I get hot while waiting in traffic; big deal. If your vehicle isn’t safe unless it keeps moving, it isn’t safe for a public roadway, where any of several reasons could make it necessary to stop and wait, including complying with the law with regards to traffic lights.

        • You are confusing “overheating” with normal operation — my motorcycle is oil/air cooled.

          Air flow is required to prevent the transfer of the heat from the engine to the rider which can result in heat stroke –> decreased cognitive function –> accidents/death

      • Another Mike

        There was a traffic backup on 17 on my way back, due to people staring at an accident in the opposite lanes. All the motorcycles splitting were Goldwing types, which have watercooled engines along with their road fairings, hard-sided saddle bags and trunks.

      • Motorcycles have different cooling systems. My motorcycle is oil/air cooled. That means that the oil goes into a more metal parts between my legs to cool — higher ambient temperature means that it stays hotter.

        If I have to stop on an idling motorcycle in traffic or go very slowly (think driving in traffic in Portland in July) — my motorcycle is getting hot, true — but the real danger is that without the airflow, that heat is transferring directly to my body and making me very hot, putting me in the heat stroke risk category.

        I don’t like heat stroke, especially when I am trying to safely operate my motorcycle in traffic.

    • Cecil-T

      You do understand that the vast majority of the world, as well as California, allows lane splitting with much success and very, very few incidents, don’t you? If you can offer evidence as to how “dangerous” this practice is (when most motorcyclists who actually do it – and whose lives are actually on the line – believe it to be safer), then I’m all ears.

    • ES — would you just stop calling motorcyclists “cyclists” — it’s inaccurate and confusing.

      • ES Trader

        please cycle out of responses

      • ES Trader

        tomatoe, tomato, potatoe, potato,

  • MattCA12

    Lane splitting is a disastrous law and should be made illegal. Motorcyclists routinely clip side mirrors on cars, resulting in an expensive repair for the automobile owner at best, or at worst a serious accident for the rider. And we’ve all seen drivers of idling cars suddenly open their doors to empty their coffee cups onto the street. What happens when a motorcyclist enters this picture?

    • You have no idea what you’re talking about. Why don’t you cite some studies proving these allegations before you spout off with random scenarios?

      • srcarruth

        some motorcyclists can be very aggressive in lane splitting, not most but enough to be noticeable. I’ve seen motorcyclists intentionally swerve into cars, I’ve seen people driving out of their lanes onto the shouler to avoid a motorcycle zipping down the line at 60+mph (hard to know that someone is coming when they go that fast).

        • Many motorists can be aggressive as well. So?

          • srcarruth

            I said ‘aggressive in lane splitting’, cars do not lane split

      • ES Trader

        try drivimg in traffic on Bay Area fwy’s

        • I have for about 30 years, 28 on a motorcycle. I’ve lane-split tens of thousands of miles and probably millions of cars. And I’ve never hit a car or broken a mirror (they’re stronger than you think!) while doing it.

  • California Rider
    • ES Trader

      link an ” illegal ” one and you get a signature

    • Jed Wheeler

      Signed it, thanks for sharing!

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Drivers tend to be reactionary and decry lane-splitting as if was the frightful practice of outlaws. There is no basis for their outrage. Statistically, lane splitting is safe and does not result in more collisions. In fact, if lane splitting was eliminated, then each motorcycle would take up the space in the lane of a regular car, so congestion would be increased. I’ve never owned a motorcycle, but I do know how to research and reason, which is what the lane splitting haters should try before they spout irrational statements.

    • Frequentshopper

      Please enlighten us morons with your research sources and the methodology you used to get your conclusions from the data. Also, how many drivers were surveyed and when and by whom? What questions were they asked? Were motorcyclist also surveyed? Use of terms like haters is always a good way to start rational discussion in comments. Passing a car with a few inches to spare while driving 10 to 30 mph faster is not wise even in a car and it is idiocy in a motorcycle for reasons even you might guess.

      • There are numerous studies showing lane-splitting has little to no effect on crash or fatality rates. The studies include MAIDS, Australian and UK studies as well as studies here, including the Hurt report and a new study under way at UC Berkeley.

      • David Ayala

        Catch that reply from Gabe or would like lessons in reading and comprehension?

    • ES Trader

      Research and reason is intelligent but experience trumps both; cyclists are obnoxious, a hazard and LOUD.

      All of which I do not care to deal with navigating crowded I-80, 680,580, 24. and 4 and not only during commute hours

      • Fay Nissenbaum

        That is not a legal argument. I dont like big vehicles in front of me blocking my view of the road. And I also dont like people who dont signal their turns and lane changes but that is in fact illegal, not based on personal feelings. See the difference?

      • Random Kqed Listener

        That is simply jealousy showing up in your comment.

      • SocietasDraconistrarumlit1

        Loud is good. Means you should hear and promptly see us. Obnoxious is a good word to describe some of both cagers and bikers. A viable plan conceived with awareness and executed immediately without prejudiced is frightening to the more relaxed members of society.

        It’s time for you to stop relaxing…

        • ES Trader

          Loud is not good, from bikes cars or stereos,its obnoxious to everyone except the perpetrator.

          Advocates only demonstrate the lack of consideration of others

          • SocietasDraconistrarumlit1

            Too quite must be bad also. Activists for the blind have complained that electric cars are too quite and that blind people have been killed because they don’t hear the vehicle and walk out in front of them.

            If you have good taste in music, turn it up!

          • ES Trader

            Yes aware of that but at 50mph + exhaust decibel is not a factor and I almost never drive with windows cracked or down. Maybe on city streets.

            Had GF once that used 455 a/c ( 4 windows down, 55mph ) but nearlyeveryone has climate control roday.

            If exhaust sound is such a pheromone, hope Harley doesnt add sound effects to their new electric bike.

      • Beverly Fincher Cowart

        LOAD PIPES SAVE LIVES! Share the road with us and quit acting like a horses a$$. Thank you…. lil REDneck harley chick.

      • mandark357 .

        Given the fact that not all motorcycles are load and obnoxious and a hazard, sounds to me that you are categorizing every motorcycle and riders based on some that are load, obnoxious and a hazard.

        I drive a car too and when I drive I am more concerned about the obnoxious and hazardous drivers that are on the streets and highways that are constantly weaving in and out of traffic and cutting people off just so they can be 5 seconds in front of me.

        If lane splitting is going to be stopped because of what a few people do then driving cars should also be stopped because of all the speeders and hazardous drivers out there who are killing people in their cars every day of every year.

        Oh yeah, outlaw alcohol while you are at it because of all the DUI based accidents, deaths, and murders (others call it manslaughter, but whats the difference really).

        • ES Trader

          Where did I mention ALL cyclists are loud and obnoxious ?

          i agree auto drivers can be also but when did you see a car pull out onto the shoulder and pass cars, an illegal maneuver ?

          I said splitting should be illegal although that will not eliminate the practice.

          • mandark357 .

            You said: “Research and reason is intelligent but experience trumps both; cyclists are obnoxious, a hazard and LOUD.” Where I come from that implies all.

            I’ve seen a few drivers drive on the shoulder while I was stuck in traffic on 680/Sunol when I was in my car. That driver is particularly obnoxious and is a moron. Do I say “Drivers are obnoxious and a hazard”? Nope. That’s because I am capable of understanding that not all drivers drive on the shoulder and are a hazard just because some individuals chose to be one.

            If that is the case then all driving on the road should be illegal because obviously people are not capable of making individual decisions.

          • ES Trader

            How did you do in school?

            Your answer is incomplete like one of the blind men describing the elephant.

            And it wasn’t even a trick question

            How often do you see cars driving on the shoulder or any inappropriate area vs seeing cyclists weaving in/out of traffic and lane splitting?

          • mandark357 .

            I did very well in school, actually. I am very much able to comprehend what others say and I am very capable of expressing what I want to imply.

            You on the other hand are not even able to comprehend or put forth what it is that you want to convey.

            First, you say you didn’t say all when you obviously did without using the actual word. Now you are asking “how often” when you initially asked WHEN did I ever see a car pull over to the shoulder. Scroll up and read what you wrote. “When” in any language does not mean “How Often”.

            If this is how you pose questions then you ARE giving trick questions.

            And to answer your “question” No, I don’t see cars as often on the shoulder passing cars. It happens “when” a driver decides to but not “often”.

            Let me ask you this questions. “How often do you see cars on a single lane road go over the double yellow on the left and the single white line on the right? How often do you see cars weaving in and out of traffic at a very high rate of speed? How often do you see cars cutting other cars off in a busy street? How often do you see cars going waaay over the speed limit?”

            I see those happen often. When? On a daily basis. Does this mean cars should be illegal on the road because of infractions of a few people? Can you answer that question?

          • almost every time I go over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in heavy traffic, there’s some idiot CAR DRIVER who thinks that the broad shoulder is an unused third lane that they can use to pass people on the right. EVERY TIME. Motorcycles = never.

          • krowbarr

            I drive a bus and believe it or not, I’ve seen it numerous times here in New York. Makes no difference what the laws are. People are going to do whatever they want to get ahead of traffic (till they get caught).

      • Please don’t conflate “motorcyclists” with “cyclists” — the later is used exclusively to refer to “bicyclists” — big difference.

      • Jed Wheeler

        What you “care to deal with” is not the issue here. I would prefer to deal with a lot fewer self-entitled pricks who take up far more than their share of space and fuel on the road. My motorcycle is smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient and more space efiicient than your car. I don’t need a whole lane and have no desire to take one up and contribute to the horrible congestion people like you create by driving vehicles that radically exceed their actual needs. Sit in traffic if you want, I’d rather be lane splitting and doing my part to ease road congestion and reduce america’s dependancy on fossil fuel! You should be thanking us.

        • ES Trader

          Be honest, your reason for riding is neither for environmental nor reduction of traffic concerns,

          It’s simply stimulate and satisfies your anti establishment, rebel sentiments.

          The bottom line is that were you able to afford say a Porsche 911 cabriolet, you would abandon your loud, obnoxious adolescent toy faster than the NBA disowned Donald Sterling.

          You are the “prick: thinking you are cool and seeking attention. What you fail to recognize is that you are about as cool as the idiot kid wearing his jeans down by his knee cap and driving a $1500 car with a $3000 stereo with the bass turned to maximum.

          “To thine self be true”, as the Bard said or probably someone more familiar to you Dirty Harry, ” a man has to know his limitations”

          Try it and you may not remain a “loser” for life

          • Jed Wheeler

            I have a college education, a 6 figure salary, a beautiful woman who loves me, and a house on a hill overlooking the bay. If I’m a loser then that’s just fine with me. 🙂 If I wanted a sports car I’d buy one. I don’t. I’ve spent a good portion of my life volunteering and contributing to various enviornmental causes and would much prefer my 48mpg motorcycle to a gas guzzling cage.

            As for my bike, I ride a small displacement standard bike with stock pipes; it is neither loud, obnoxious, nor adolescent.

            You’re ignorance is showing and it’s not a flattering picture. I suggest you do something about that.

          • ES Trader

            thanks for the advice good luck keeping your woman with your small displacement

  • Lili Peck

    Lane splitting can be perfectly safe when practiced prudently by the motorcyclist AND car drivers are not distracted and aware of their surrounding…AS THEY SHOULD BE. There are studies indicating that it’s actually MORE DANGEROUS for a motorcyclist to sit in traffic and risk being rear-ended than to filter prudently between cars.

    • L A

      I can see the logic of lane splitting from the last two comments but I have driven in slow traffic on 101 where there is a lot of lane narrowing because of construction and was quite startled by motorcycles flying by. I had recently returned to CA and did not know this was legal. But even after learning it was okay for the motorcycles to be between the lanes I still find it startling–they come up so fast.

      • Lili Peck

        Thank you for your response. I drive a car as well and even I am occasionally startled by lane splitting bikes. But I’m also startled by all kinds of things…sirens, screaming children etc…and obviously we can’t ban those things. It’s very simple really..just check your mirror and turn your head before a lane change. That’s it. That’s all. No heroics necessary. When I drive (and ride) I *assume* a motorcycle will be splitting until proven otherwise and then, when I know it’s safe, I change lanes. It’s not rocket science. 🙂

        • Frequentshopper

          Apparently you have not seen the rockets cause they fly by you so fast

          • Lili Peck

            Apparently you’re unaware of your surrounding when you drive.

        • Sail Nut

          I have had my door kicked by a motorcyclist that thought I wasn’t far enough to the left side of the lane. I wasn’t changing lanes and had no intention of doing so. I was, however, avoiding a truck bumper that was in the left part of the lane.

          Which of the 2 drivers involved in this incident was more aware of their surroundings: the motorcyclist that decided to continue to move past traffic, despite there not being enough space or the auto driver who moved over into the right part the lane while the cyclist was 2 or 3 cars behind?

      • Chili Pepper 1996

        Perhaps some driving lessons to help you deal with unexpected events? It sounds like you may be a nervous driver – honestly, everyone who drives (and rides) could use more training and practice.

  • JP

    I am a motorcyclist who lane-splits every day on my I-680 commute. I find that continuously moving forward through traffic is the safest way for me to ride. I know it startles car drivers at times, enough for them to yell, gesture, and amazingly to occasionally swerve at me — I just assume they’re angry people. I take it as my responsibility to not hit their cars, especially mirrors. I give motorists the responsibility to check their mirrors before lane-changing, to stay within their lanes, and to not react in a dangerous manner (swerving, etc) when they do see me. All works out well when that is the case. Motorists just need to know that I’ll do everything in my power not to hit them, since it’s my life on the line. The quicker and safer I move past a car, the better it is for everyone.

    • Sail Nut

      I hope that you are honest about how you actually drive, not just saying what you think the ideal is. If so, I wish there were more like you, rather than the jerks I see on the 101.

      Having ridden for more years than I like to think about, I’ll caution you to think about your assumption that moving through traffic is safest. I know it feels safer, because you only have to worry about cars in front of you, where you can see them. However, each car that you move past is another situation with the potential for something to go wrong, possibly fatally. Logically, each of those situations you avoid reduces the risk of a collision. Slow and irritating at it is, you’re safer riding with the flow of traffic.

      • JP

        I appreciate the reply. I can’t argue with that logic; that is indeed safer, even considering the risk of being rear-ended. However, if I could not lane-split, I would not be commuting on a motorcycle. Then I would be yet another car idling in the 680 traffic. Avoiding the fumes, heat, and gridlock is what keeps me on two wheels. Take away lane-splitting, and I’ll be adding to that gridlock.

        I do like having all my situations, real and potential, in front of me. And though I’m exposing myself to *more* situations than if I were staying in traffic, I feel that I am more in control, through my reactions, by constantly moving forward. In my years of 5-day/week, 60-mile round trip commuting, I’ve avoided countless accidents by swerving, braking hard, and/or accelerating. I know probability will catch up at some point, but — knock on wood — I have not gone down yet. Most of those near-misses would have been a lot less stressful if the driver had simply checked his/her mirror before lane changing. That is the bigger issue, in my opinion.

    • David Ayala

      I wonder if those idiots, who swerve at lane splitters, ever contemplate that they may be swerving at a patched member of their local Hells Angels MC, Mongols MC, Pagans MC, etc? I suspect that there may be one or two who would not appreciate that very much.

  • Frequentshopper

    So some motorcyclists alone got their safety tips taken down because they were afraid they could be found at fault in an accident if they did not practice them? Why didn’t the CHP also remove the other guidelines. Obviously, they did not get behind the scenes political pressure to do so. The excuses being given for allowing this practice by the in-studio rider would equally apply to cars

  • ES Trader

    “motorcycle down” is a dailly report on radio traffic reports, while fender benders and accidents are also common, there are car drivers that have a history of “0” accidents in a lifetime of driving, on the other hand I’ve yet to meet a motorcycle rider that has not experienced going down

    • And they went down while lane-splitting? Cite some facts.

      Plenty of motorcyclists have never crashed, but almost half of motorcyclists are injured because of car-driver error and inattention.

      • Sail Nut

        I have it on good authority that “most motorcycle crashes are single-vehicle”. This make the claim that “almost half of motorcyclists are injured because of car-driver error” very difficult to understand.

        See comments above by Gabe Ets-Hokin.

    • And just because a motorist has “0” accidents — doesn’t mean that they didn’t leave accidents behind them and keep on toodling along like Mr Magoo.

      • ES Trader

        You are daydreaming way to much cycling, ex cuse me, pedaling…focus on traffic or at least something constructive

  • Steven Bergman

    I think lane splitting should be illegal. It often is not done safely. How many times have we all seen motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic. Often, these motorcyclists are in their twenties and are dare devils. I equate this with bicyclists who should be stopping at stop signs. Most bicyclists don’t stop at stop signs. Most motorcyclists don’t lane split in a safe manner. It is not only unsafe for them but also for automobile drivers. Motorcyclists should sit in traffic just like the rest of us.

    • Okay, but you have to cut the roof off your car and disable your air conditioning and airbags. Fair?

    • Cecil-T

      I think driving cars should be illegal. It often is not done safely. How many times have we seen a car swerving because the driver is texting or on the phone, or runs through a red light. Often, these drivers are ordinary people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. I equate this with pedestrians who cross the street outside of a crosswalk. Most drivers don’t drive in a safe manner by paying attention to the task at hand. It is not only unsafe for them but also for motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, deer, and squirrels. Car drivers should just buy motorcycles like the rest of us.

    • clifjmpr

      I’ll agree when there are no more rear-end collisions due to inattentive drivers. Until then, I’m not going to be the sitting duck waiting for some guy to plow into me from behind.

  • Patricia

    As a cyclist and a motorcyclist, I always assume I’m invisible. I make a mistake, for the most part, I’m the one that suffers most. You make a mistake, I’m still going to suffer most. I’m taking most of the risk, I’m being the most responsible for the environment, I’m contributing less to the traffic jam… how about a small reward, that allows me to pass a few cars as they are stopped in traffic. Really folks?

    • Sail Nut

      If the cars are actually stopped, it might be OK, but eventually the bike is going to get to somewhere where the traffic isn’t stopped. What happens then?

      The bike has to merge in in front of some car, delaying it and all the others behind it, increasing the traffic jam.

      I get that you want to be responsible for the environment and you’d like a token of appreciation. How about getting to use the diamond lane? Oh yeah, you already got that one, unlike me in my hybrid that gets better mileage than many bikes.

    • whomedoyou

      So does the law say that if a motorcyclist splitting lanes will always be responsible for being involved in any accident. If that is case then yes please lets allow this. Not otherwise.

  • ES Trader

    I always not only use the mirror but turn my head to look before I change lanes but cyclists are not easy to pick up with a quick glance.

  • Frequentshopper

    It is clear this CHP officer only tickets car drivers for reckless driving but just gives “talks” to bikers. He has confused the different branches of government and should run for legislative office if he wants to change the laws. Reckless is reckless.

    • As a guy who has received many tickets from motor officers, I can assure you he is not biased.

  • I also wanted to point out that LANE SPLITTING IS LEGAL! There is no “gray area.” Either something is legal or illegal. There is nothing in the vehicle code preventing you from carrying a bicycle on the roof of your car, but nobody says, “well, it’s not ILlegal.” Same in this case.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    CHP maintains “switters” data, which is the officially cited authority for the state. Ask CHP guest about the evidence showing lane splitting does not result in more collisions. Anecdotes are colorful, but wildly inaccurate. This is a link to Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS):

  • Bob Fry

    Lane splitting when traffic is stopped is one thing…on a freeway is scary dangerous. They should instead let motorcycles drive on either shoulder.

    • Chili Pepper 1996

      Unfortunately, the shoulder is full of debris and would be a very dangerous place to ride. More accidents would be caused than by lane sharing.

  • duffro

    The fact that it’s startling is no reason for it to be banned. The fact is it will not be banned in California. That horse is out of the barn. It startles me when I’m in my cage(er…car), but what it really does is make me wish I were riding that day. I never pass on the right side of the road. I think drivers should thank lane splitters.

  • kenoli6666

    I am commonly jolted with a panic when a motorcycle with a roaring muffler shoots past me.

    Motorcycles can’t be heard until they are roaring past, a sound and flash of movement that comes out of nowhere. Not being able to see or hear the motorcycle until the last minute, I am often confused by what just happened or how to respond to it.

    Are there no noise requirements for motorcycle mufflers as there are for cars.

    The sound can be frightening and dangerous.


    • That’s a separate issue! And yes, motorcycle mufflers have a standard for maximum decibels. I agree that it’s annoying.

    • Sail Nut

      Many cyclists select a bike because of the intimidating sound. Many of those seem to enjoy pulling up close behind a car and blipping the throttle.

    • Chili Pepper 1996

      I’d suggest some driving lessons to learn to handle unexpected events on the road. What if a truck backfires next to you? Or a dog or deer runs out in front of you? Or a car loses control as it passes you and enters your lane? If you are frightened and confused by the sound of a motorcycle or a motorcycle passing you then you may need some more practice and education on driving safely. You may be a danger to others.

  • JP

    I think there should be half-width lane for motorcycles only on the freeways. Imagine the congestion relief as more people motorcycle commute in a much safer manner…

    • Jed Wheeler

      I would love that and have thought the same myself. The only problem being that cars would drive in it the same way they drive in bike lanes on surface streets. Still, raise the ticket price for those people high enough and most of them would probably get the message eventually…

      Personally I think they should make the diamond lane two or even three lanes on every freeway. Let at-capacity vehicles get past andmake all the selfish jerks who want to drive a 2-ton suv that gets 10mpg with no one else in the car sit there and rot in the gridlock they’ve created.

  • Another Mike

    Driving to Santa Cruz recently, the merge onto Highway 1 was stop and stop, but I had to move over, on a curved part of the road. Finally I had an opening and started to cross the lane marking. Zoom! A motorcycle doing 30 miles an hour split the lanes. Luckily he was able to swerve around me instead of crushing himself against the back of my car, or launching himself into the air.

    • Jed Wheeler

      Next time check to your right and use your turn signal. I lane split every day and regularly slow down to let cars in front of me change lanes or just go around them. Sharing the road is really not that hard but requires communication and attention to your surroundings.

      • Another Mike

        I did check to my right, and I did use my turn signal. The problem is that the motorcyclist hidden between two lines of cars — did you note the road was curved? — riding at 30 mph is invisible until the last 20 feet, a half-second before he must take evasive action or run into my legally lane-changing car.

        • Jed Wheeler

          Well that’s good then, it sounds like just a combination of less than ideal conditions. Sorry to be snappish and assume the worst – you would not believe some of the crazy stuff I’ve seen motorists do! More than once I’ve had people purposely try to swerve into me to try and stop me from legally passing them in what would have otherwise been safe conditions! I realize being stuck in traffic and seeing others who are able to escape the crush is frustrating but that doesn’t justify attempted murder!

          Not accusing you of that, just relating some of what I’ve seen.

          To your point about visibility – that’s a real concern. I personally try not to pass people in corners unless traffic is totally stopped for that reason. This type of situation is why some riders opt for louder mufflers, they want you to hear them coming when you can’t see them. I’d rather keep my quieter stock muffler and just ride slower, but there’s a real case to be made there for louder pipes.

          In any case, safe driving to you and please do watch out. Trust me when I say we want to avoid accidents at least as much as you as we’re far more likely to be the ones that get killed.

  • Jim

    Lane splitting is dangerous as practised buy most all motorcyclists. If a car decides to suddenly switch lanes chances are the motorcyclist wont even be seen as it comes up 20-40 mph faster than the traffic flow. Furthermore, they startle drivers with a loud noise suddenly a few feet from their door resulting in potential accidents. The number of motorcyclists I’ve seen driving with the flow of traffic is clearly less than 5%. The rest are a hazard on the road.

    • Chili Pepper 1996

      Assume you don’t live in CA. Most drivers in CA are quite familiar with lane sharing.

      At any rate, if you are that easily startled on the road then perhaps you should consider some lessons to learn to drive when unexpected events occur. A dog, deer, or other animal could unexpectedly run out in front of you. A truck or a car may backfire, startling you with a loud noise.

  • InabaML

    There is no good reason for allowing lane-splitting in California. Motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic is an unnecessary distraction to drivers. Lane-splitting by default means that the cyclist is driving too fast for conditions at the time. I believe that motorcyclists should be allowed to ride on the shoulder.

    In researching motorcycle traffic accidents, I was surprised to learn that most accidents between autos and motorcycles occur when cars are hit by motorcycles, rather than the other way around. If motorcyclists ride on freeways, they need to follow the same rules as auto drivers.

    • “I was surprised to learn that most accidents between autos and motorcycles occur when cars are hit by motorcycles, rather than the other way around.”

      Only if you think all motorcycle crashes are multi-vehicle. The truth is most motorcycle crashes are single-vehicle, explaining the high at-fault rate for motorcycles and scooters.

      • Another Mike

        Forget lane splitting: a friend riding a motorcycle hit a car who pulled out in front of him from a side street. (She, of course, “didn’t see him.”)

        All he could do was lay it down and hope for the best.

      • Sail Nut

        What part of “accidents between autos and motorcycles” didn’t you understand? I don’t see how discussion of single-vehicle incidents is relevant to lanesplitting.

    • Chili Pepper 1996

      There are actually many good reasons to allow it. Please take the time to research this issue instead of forming an opinion without knowing all the facts.

      Motorcyclists should not be weaving in and out of traffic when they lane share. I fully support the CHP stopping riders who lane share in a reckless manner. If you had bothered to read the guidelines as published by the CHP you would understand better.

    • Cecil-T

      “I was surprised to learn that most accidents between autos and motorcycles occur when cars are hit by motorcycles”
      Let me correct that for you – “most accidents between autos and motorcycles occur when cars encroach on a motorcycle’s right-of-way”, where the vehicle with the right-of-way is defined by traffic laws.

  • Another Mike

    I am not jealous of motorcycles, because nothing keeps me from riding one.

    • Exactly! Thanks.

    • Chili Pepper 1996

      Thank you! Well stated.

  • mrs.jdough

    I’ve been a licensed M1 rider for over 10 years. Ignorant drivers need to be informed that lane splitting is not illegal, nor is pulling to the front of a line at a stop light. A vehicle once raced me off of the line attempting to regain his position at the front of the line. Obviously angry that I had moved in front of him, he proceeded to zig zag across the two lane road and eventually rammed my motorcycle with his vehicle breaking my hand.

    • Another Mike

      There are a LOT of passive-aggressive drivers out there, who cannot tolerate any vehicle getting ahead of them, no matter how slowly they may be going.

      • I wouldn’t call that passive-aggressive — it was just aggressive!

        Too many people get driving licenses in this country — PERIOD. There should be a psych eval to determine a person’s aptitude and emotional balance in addition to knowing the rules of the road and having the training to use the machines.

  • Jim

    Riding on the shoulder is a good idea. Gives motorcyclists the ability to keep moving without the risk of damaging someone’s vehicle or causing accidents as their loud bikes roar by.

    • Another Mike

      The shoulder is typically full of debris and road hazards. Not exactly what you want to ride on, when you are driving atop two rubber tires.

    • Random Kqed Listener

      Sounds like you dislike loud bikes rather than lane-splitting bikes. Misplaced emotions.

  • Sail Nut

    Lanesplitting doesn’t, in fact reduce congestion. The advantage that motorcycles get from moving ahead comes entirely at the expense of the cars that have to slow down behind them.

    Unless the biker lanesplits continuously until all traffic is able to move at the speed limit, a practice generally understood to be dangerous, eventually the bike has to merge in in front of another vehicle. That vehicle has to slow down a bit to maintain a safe following distance, as does the one behind, etc. back all the way to the first car that the cyclist passed.

    There is no actual extra traffic moved by this, the only different is that the cyclist gets to jump the line, delaying all the other traffic by 2 seconds each.

    Bikers tend to act as though lanesplitting entitles them to the right of way over cars in front of them, regardless of road conditions, some of which they can’t see, given that there is a mostly opaque vehicle between them and the road surface ahead, except for directly in front.

    I’ve ridden bikes for almost as long as I been driving, but I’m aghast at the rude gestures and sounds, kicks and other impacts directed at me by biker who feel that I haven’t moved out from in front of them promptly enough.

    Line splitting has no redeeming societal value and is manifestly unsafe. It should be illegal.

    • California Rider
    • Chili Pepper 1996

      If you have actually ridden (I have my doubts) then I would think you’d be more cognizant of how lane sharing can be done efficiently and with little impact to drivers. I suspect you have never shared lanes or are from a part of the country where it’s illegal. When I share lanes, my goal is to be as courteous to the driver as possible and move around them so as not to impede their progress. Not sure where you got the “2 seconds” figure – seems like something you came up with out of your hat.

      Drivers here in the Bay area are also very used to lane sharing and many actually work with us to make it safer and improve the traffic flow.

      At any rate, it’s legal here in CA and is not going away. I am thankful for that. As a rider, we all have the choice whether to share lanes or not. And everyone who is annoyed because they think they are somehow being held up or taken advantage of can learn to ride a motorcycle and join us.

      • Sail Nut

        Indeed, the first vehicle I owned was a Honda 350. My enthusiasm was tempered by being squashed by a car trying to squeeze through a left turn before the light changed, but I still ride when I get a chance.

        2 seconds is the following distance recommended by DMV and most driver training schools. Traffic engineers use lane capacity as a measure of how many vehicles can reasonably be expected to flow past a given point on the road. It varies with conditions and locality, but 1800 vehicles per hour is a commonly used figure. 1800/hr = 2s. It’s a rough rule of thumb number; if you have a more reliable one available, let’s use that. If you come up with one later, we can make the adjustment.

        You say that you’re courteous to the car drivers; a most laudable goal. Have you ever pulled to the right of the lane, to allow them to split the lane with you?

        Drivers in the Bay area are very used to all sorts of nonsense. Don’t use use that as an argument in favor of bridge closures or BART strikes, either.

        I thought everyone was aware that it was legal. Whether it goes away depends on our legislative representatives thinking clearly; I’m not holding my breath.

        • Chili Pepper 1996

          Interesting. I was taught in drivers’ ed that the following distance depends on your rate of speed and that you should allow 1 second for every 10 mph. So two seconds would equate to 20 mph. Still not sure how it applies to motorcycles splitting past cars and how that action would cause a driver to slow down. The cars that I split past do not change their speed although some do move to the left to allow for more room. I do not expect them to do this but it is nice when they do.

          If I am holding a driver up while riding, I most certainly pull to the right as I would if I was in a car. My goal is to be as far away from cars whenever possible so if someone was tailgating me, I pull over or speed up and get away from them.

          Glad you are not holding your breath – that would not be good for your health.

          • Sail Nut

            You may have taken driver’s ed about the same time I did, when the rule of thumb was 1 car length per 10 mph. The current advise is phrased in different terms, to avoid the need to judge how much a car length is, but 1 car/10MPH works out to roughly the same as 2 seconds.

            http://teendriving.statefarm.com/teaching-a-teen-to-drive/being-a-role-model/following-distance was the first listing when I googled “following distance”. Apparently 3 seconds is what is recommended, now.

            The point I thought was clear is that a biker has to stop splitting SOMETIME. We would all hope that that point is when the traffic is so light that everyone is driving at the limit. My daily commute never happens that way. The traffic is congested, stop-and-go , with bike splitting lanes at no more than 30MPH, then the next instant, without any accident or stall to get around, everybody’s free to go the limit? Doesn’t happen to me.

            Once the bike is no longer splitting, the vehicle behind is constrained by the need to keep a safe following distance. Tailgating a bike is just as bad as tailgating any other vehicle. Don’t assume that just because the following driver isn’t the sort of jerk who tailgates that the bike isn’t contributing to the congestion.

            I look forward to seeing you at the next stop light I encounter, since apparently you pull to the right side of the lane, when stopped at a red light, to allow cars to share the lane with you. If I have the chance to pull up next to you and your bike, you know that it’s me by the friendly wave.

    • Cecil-T

      This one may also be of interest to you

  • Random Kqed Listener

    Good motorcyclists are usually 10X more attentive than car drivers. During lane-splitting that needs to get bumped up to 15X. All the cars have to do is to NOT be distracted and signal before a lane change.
    I am a motorcyclist for decades and I shake my head when I see some guy lane-split at 85mph when traffic is at 70mph. That behavior simply points to unsafe rider and that person would be an unsafe driver as well when driving.

  • I’m very disappointed on how angry some people seem to feel about motorcycles lane splitting. It’s not fun and games for the rider either, when done intelligently it’s a stressful process. http://motocynic.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/the-coolest-thing-about-motorcycles-that-stresses-me-the-most/

    However, with all the terrible drivers out there I would rather be between the cars moving than sitting behind one hoping the person behind me isn’t texting, talking on their phone, eating or the millions of other things people do when they should be watching the road.

    • Sail Nut

      Suppose you notice a driver that seemed to be inattentive to the road, whatever the reason. This driver has poor lane control, and isn’t likely to react quickly or even appropriately to a new situation. Do you really think that moving into a narrow space between this car and another and startling him/her is SAFE? Then after you’re past the inattentive driver, you want to move back into the lane in front of this car; where the car is ALREADY HEADING? BETWEEN it and another vehicle that might stop suddenly? Perhaps the safer course of action would be to stay behind the driver at a safe distance, where you can keep an eye on her/him.

      • Why would I pull in front of them? Wouldn’t I pass him carefully and then continue lane splitting, putting many cars between us? If there was room for me in front of him that means traffic is most likely going fast enough that I wouldn’t be lane splitting.

        • Sail Nut

          Are you claiming to be able to split lanes for your entire commute? You don’t change lanes to get to the exit? You don’t pull in front of a car when you leave a stop light? You stay on the dotted line the entire time a car in front is changing lanes? When the speed limit is 65 and traffic is going 64, you just cruise on by, to put more cars behind you?

          If you can manage your entire commute without EVER, not once, changing lanes such that the car behind has to slow, not one tiny bit, in order to keep a safe following distance, my hat is off to you.

          If you can show me evidence that anyone has carried out such a incredible feat, I’ll gladly award the trophy for Master Commuter, Gold Edition.

          • clifjmpr

            Lane splitting saved my life yesterday morning. Rear-end collision just two meters away. Traffic was slowed to about 15mph, and lady on phone hit pickup at about 60mph…over the truck and rolled 3.5 times. Had I stayed behind truck I wouldn’t be able to post this message. It was a horrible experience to witness, but once you understand the dangers posed by inattentive drivers to riders you’ll understand it isn’t about cutting the line or getting there faster… it’s about not being a sitting duck amongst two-ton wrecking balls.

          • whomedoyou

            Lane splitting encountered on 101, 87, 880 – I don’t travel on 680 much. On every one of these freeways I have encountered a clown willing to prove that he is a lane splitting god speeding through 2-3 feet of space from me. Or just had no intelligence because he was riding less than a couple of feet behind me. Not to mention the swerving through lanes.

          • There is always that “idiot” riding like a maniac, they drive cars too. It’s his life he’s going to ruin, the ones in Cars do more damage.

          • I had a long reply and then realized you are not going to change your mind. We have fundamentally different understandings on how traffic works.

          • Jed Wheeler

            The trouble with your argument is that traffic is not homogenous, it moves in chunks with large groups of cars clustered together and occassional big open spaces. As a motorcyclist, my goal is to spend as much time as possible in those open spaces since cars are lethal weapons aimed at every living thing around them. As much as possible, I want to drive where the cars aren’t.

            Safe driving is all about mainaining appropriate space cushions to allow appropriate reaction times. Lane splitting allows me to trade some of the horizontal space cushion that does me no good since I don’t take up a full lane for space cushion in front and behind. In the process it radically increases my visibility ahead so I have more time to react to threats and allows me to escape from the large clusters of heavy traffic that are especially dangerous for someone on a smaller vehicle.

          • Sail Nut

            I imagine most of the cars you split past share your goal of spending “as much time as possible in those open spaces”. Unless you stay between lanes the whole time, each time you move into one of those open spaces, you’re making it impossible for a car to safely occupy a section of lane: the one at the beginning of that open space. The are 3 possible situations the car just before that has to be in: 1) already moving at the limit, 2) reducing speed to follow you at a safe distance, or 3) accelerating at the maximum safe rate.

            In case 1), you have been lane-splitting at a higher speed than the car, so above the speed limit, both unsafe and illegal.

            In case 2), you have entered the lane ahead of a car, which is now driving slower than it otherwise would. I fail to understand how that can possibly avoid increasing or preserving congestion.

            In case 3), you might possibly accelerate faster than the following car, but when I’ve encountered this situation, it seems like the rate at which I’m able to safely accelerate is constrained by the motorcycle moving into the lane in front of me, which is really the same as case 2).

            It still seems like splitting does very little more than to allow motorcycles to get to the front of the line for those open spaces.

      • Moto Enthusiast

        I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a driver with poor attention. By lane splitting past I put myself in his/her sphere for as short a time as possible. Legal lane splitting is as said earlier done at fairly low speeds in more densely packed environments limiting the inattentive driver more dangerous random action. Staying behind with a lead in traffic is inviting drivers to try to cut in front which increases the cyclists chance of being hit or rear ended by the driver behind thinking that there is more room than there is.

        • Sail Nut

          I don’t understand how you can split past without being “anywhere near a driver with poor attention”. You’re coming from a position of being hundreds of feet away from the driver you think might be unsafe. You can see his every move and have the ability to react in several different ways. You want to come up within a couple feet, where you have to keep equal attention on the driver of the other car and you no longer have the option of deviating to the left or right and only a short time window to decide whether to speed up or hit the brakes. One you hit the brakes, you’re counting on 2 cars behind you to react in time, even assuming you’re able to brake without deviating to either side. You describe this as “safe”. I think you’ve been reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and are using an alternative definition of “safe”.

          I haven’t heard any legal constraint that says splitting has to be at low speeds. It’s often done that way, but often done at higher speeds.

          The pro-splitters describe how splitting is safe, based on the assumption that it’s done while traffic is stopped, or nearly so, but they then want to argue that it reduces congestion, while skipping over what happens once the traffic is no longer stopped.

          • Moto Enthusiast


            “Traffic flow – Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 mph faster than other traffic; danger increases at higher speed differentials. Lane splitting is notadvised when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster; danger increases as overall speed increases.”

            This is from the DMV motorcycle handbook, while it’s not the law it is what we’re required to study to get the motorcycle licence.

            As for comparing lane splitting to the Vogon Constructor Fleet. Yeah I’m with Ford Prefect, I’d rather be there than on the planet that was just destroyed.

            I’m pretty sure nothing but your own research will convince you lane splitting is safe. I encourage you to look at all the other links people have posted as they will hopefully assuage your worries that we’re just crazy zealots out to scrape your paint and kill ourselves under your tires. Another fun idea might be for you to go take the Motorcycle Foundation Safety class and see what it’s like to be on a bike.

      • Cecil-T

        If a car is stopped, in gridlocked traffic, it’s not going anywhere. It can’t swerve to hit you if it wanted to. I know lane splitting SEEMS dangerous on the surface. But there are very few accidents from it, and the ones that happen are generally very minor (read: safe for the rider). Until you are actually an experienced motorcycle rider, and have actually tried lane splitting, please don’t comment on what you THINK may or may not be dangerous, especially with no data to back you up. Outside the US, most of the world allows lane splitting, and everyone benefits. Get over yourself, your commute isn’t a race, it’s OK if somebody with the capability filters past you in traffic.

        • Sail Nut

          I am an experienced rider, more so than several posters here and have, indeed, tried splitting. You are correct that creeping past absolutely stopped traffic is fairly safe. This is true, but irrelevant.

          While driving a car, I’m frequently passed by a splitting bike while I’m driving in excess of the limit. I suppose I’m taking a chance that the CHP will read this post, but think about this: I’m driving 70 in a 65 zone, the bike is doing at least 75. There is 5 feet between the cars, the bike is 3 feet wide. If everything is lined up perfectly, there is 1 foot or room before something bad happens. All three vehicles are covering a foot in about 0.01s. You’re telling me this just SEEMS dangerous?

          On my commute, sometimes bikes will split when traffic is completely stopped, but traffic is rarely completely stopped. Most of the splitting comes at intermediate speeds, perhaps 20-40.

          Since it isn’t a race, if indeed everyone did benefit, I’d be all for it. I don’t see that I benefit from having dozens of bikes pushing to the front of the line every day. On my commute, there is usually at least one segment where the traffic accelerates up to the limit. On that segment, the lane capacity is around 1800 vehicles per minute. Each bike that is in that section delays all the vehicles behind it by about 2 seconds, just like any other vehicle.

          I learned how to wait in line when I was in kindergarten. Have other bikers forgotten that lesson?

          Most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day and succumbs to malaria, cholera and other preventable diseases; is this a sound basis for making policy in the US?

          • clifjmpr

            This is precisely why the CHP guidelines are necessary. Read them and you’ll notice they recommend splitting ONLY at low speeds, when there is room and it is safe to do so. Splitting can save lives in traffic and at stops. Until motorists stop rear-ending vehicles I don’t see how you can argue it is safer for a rider to stay in between cars in stop-and-go conditions.

          • mandark357 .

            How is this different from a car that squeezes in between 2 cars that has less than 1 1/2 car length between them at speed?

            I personally will not split lanes when traffic is over the limit but I see cars every day on the streets and highways weaving in and out of the lanes when other cars are going in excess of the speed limit. And every day there are more car on car accidents out there compared to motorcycles.

            Of course its dangerous for a motorcycle or any vehicle to squeeze in between 2 cars only 5 feet apart, but then again, WTF are you doing as a driver following or pacing another car next to you in excess of 70 mph with only 5 feet in between you for extended periods of time? Cars themselves are supposed to keep a buffer zone between them and others either in front or on the side. But I see more and more drivers out there that will pace another car next to them to prevent anyone, car or motorcycle, to pass them.

          • What motorcycle is 3′ wide? That sounds like a big Gold Wing or something. Most sport bikes & dual sports are far less than that — handlebars on my DR650 are the widest part of my motorcycle, and they are barely as wide as my 24″ duffel bag I put on the back when I travel.

          • Sail Nut

            I’m sure there is a range of dimensions out there. I didn’t see anything in the guidelines that suggested that splitting not be attempted by bikes wider than 24″. Since I don’t see any bikes sitting in the lane at low speed and I see Gold Wings, BMWs and other touring bikes with full fairings going by, I assume that they are about that dimension.

            I took a guess based on the bikes I’ve ridden, which usually had a fairing that extended a bit past the ends of the bars. Just to check my guess, the first one I got in a google search, http://www.jpcycles.com/product/502-236 , is 36 1/2″.

  • JP

    I would recommend this article to anyone considering a motorcycle commute with potential for lane-splitting: “Lane Splitting 101” http://www.ketchum.org/ls101.html . I would also recommend it for motorists to better understand their two-wheel neighbors.

    • Sail Nut

      I especially like this quote “Being aware of the lethal danger you’re in and simultaneously ignoring it is a requirement of lane-splitting.” I totally agree; anyone who decides to lane-split has made a choice to put themselves into a dangerous situation. While I wholeheartedly support their right do so, at least while the law is on their side, I also believe that they should bear the bulk of the responsibility for the results of their choice.

      On those occasions when collisions occur following lane-splitting, common sense (and, surprisingly enough, the law) place the primary responsibility on the driver who made the decision that led to the situation where a collision was likely. In the vast majority of cases, the auto driver has no say in whether or when there is a lane-split. The auto has very little warning of the maneuver coming up and very few, if any, options about how to respond. The biker has all of these.

      Biker’s who moan about how “it’s those auto drivers who make lane splitting unsafe” are simply trying to avoid taking responsibility for their own poor choices.

      Mr. Grazia boasts that he saves “about an hour a day” by lane splitting. If so, he does it by delaying 1800 autos by 2seconds each. That isn’t enough for any single driver to notice, but he’s not the only lane-splitter on that run. If some DJ delayed 1800 cars for 3 minutes to get a haircut, we’d all hear about it. When Mr. Grazia and 100 of his associates do the equivalent, auto drivers are supposed to be more understanding.

      • I’d love to see your study that proves lane splitting doesn’t improve congestion.

  • California Rider

    Great information for those that care to read it: http://www.tmleuven.be/project/motorcyclesandcommuting/home.htm

    • Sail Nut

      There are a couple points about that study that make it less relevant to this program: its conclusion is that increasing the mix of motorcycles may reduce congestion; it says nothing about the impact of lane splitting, per se. It’s a simulation, not an actual measurement, so the conclusion depends on the accuracy of the model.

      In particular, the model used assumes that motorcycles use less space than a car, presumably based on some observation. The model and its conclusions cannot then be used to support a claim that motorcycles take up less space than a car.

      The model also appears to neglect the acceleration zone, the area of transition from congested traffic to free-flowing traffic. In this zone, motorcycles will start to take up as much space as a car (per the model). This delays the traffic leaving the congested zone, giving back most, if not all, of the apparent gains from having higher density in the congested zone.

      The assumption of less space in this model doesn’t distinguish between reduced following distance and lane splitting. If reduced congestion is the goal, then it seems likely that we could achieve that goal by exempting motorcycles from the requirement of maintaining a prudent following distance.

      • California Rider

        I will simply refer you to your initial statement (Lanesplitting doesn’t, in fact reduce congestion), which is totally erroneous based on the results of the study. As for the idea that they don’t specifically identify lanesplitting by name, that is not accurate but it is also not seen as a big issue as it is accepted as a normal thing.

        • Sail Nut

          That initial statement wasn’t intended as a comment on the study. Since the study doesn’t actually say anything specifically about lane splitting, it can hardly indicate that any statement about lane splitting is “totally erroneous”.

          The study does suggest, given it’s assumptions about PCE values, how much denser traffic might be. My point was that compacting the traffic into a smaller area doesn’t translate directly into reduced time spent in traffic. It can be beneficial, since it allows some traffic to flow along roads that would be needed as a place to store those vehicles, but in some cases it provides little or no net benefit. One case is sections where there is no leaving or entering traffic, such as freeway segments that go over bridges, which we have several of in the Bay Area.

          For this study to be useful in considering the alleged benefits of lane splitting, one has to make assumptions about how much of the reduced PCE comes from lane splitting, as opposed to reduced following distance. Since the study doesn’t discuss any assessment of that, you’ll need to explain what assumption you’re making and support it with a sensible reference before any thoughtful person could accept your assertion. I also didn’t see any discussion of the possibility that the reduced congestion resulting from motorcycles might come at the cost of more or more severe accidents. Apparently, the authors thought it outside the scope of their academic discipline. It seems, however, a relevant consideration in a discussion of legal policy.

          In the absence of such evidence, your argument seems to boil down to that you like motorcycles and you have no consideration for any motorist not currently on a motorcycle.

          I’m not opposed to motorcycles and am willing to stipulate that motorcycles due, on the whole, observably reduce congestion. My criticism of the study is that it doesn’t analyze what aspect of motorcycles and the way traffic behaves around them leads to this reduction. To the extent that the study models this effect, its results are just as consistent with a hypothetical claim that following closely behind motorcycles is an effective way to reduce traffic congestion.

          • California Rider

            Feel free to share your sample data and peer reviewed conclusions with the researchers who authored the study, I am sure they would welcome your information.

      • California Rider

        Page 19 of the study says the following: 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. A motorcycle then has a PCE value of 1. 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. The passenger car equivalent of the motorcycle is consequently reduced. When traffic comes to a complete standstill, it can be assumed that all motorcycles drive between two lanes.

  • t fal 4

    The truth is, drivers are jealous of bikes because they can avoid some
    of the worst traffic. Envy and jealousy will only make you more stressed
    and unhappy while you boil in traffic. Relax guys, we are all just trying to get to work on time
    by whichever method we choose.

    I have been a Bay Area automobile commuter for 14 years, and now a motorcyclist for 1 year. In those 14 years I never once had a motorcyclist surprise me because I always took it as my responsibility to be VIGILANT and AWARE of my surroundings.

    I am the one driving a 3,000 pound weapon. Comparatively motorcyclists are on ~300lb toys.

    In the last year as a motorcyclist, I have seen on a daily basis drivers committing egregious acts when behind the wheel of a 3,000lb vehicle:

    – Smoking marijuana/hot-boxing while speeding down the freeway is very common in the bay
    – Women putting on makeup using the rearview mirror on the way to work and not looking at the road (WTF?)
    – Guys driving huge construction and moving trucks with one hand while eating breakfast with the other
    – Texting while driving… STILL
    – Reaching in the backseat

    You will never see a motorcyclist commiting any of these highly unsafe acts, which if we had the granular numbers, I bet would add up to a hell of a lot more collisions every year than those of lanesplitting.

    • Sail Nut

      The truth is that motorcyclist are lane splitting because it allows them to get to the front of the line. In my daily drive, I have never seen a motorcycle move to the right side of the lane to allow an auto to share the lane. Bikers want to share the lane when they are behind a car, but once they’re in front, they pull to the left and want cars to stay at a respectful distance.

      I see on a daily basis bikers riding with no hands, turning around to look at their passenger (and kissing, too), hitting and kicking vehicles, making left turns from the right (of 3) lanes, texting, popping wheelies, and smoking (a cigar). I’m not going to claim that auto drivers are pure of heart and never do these things, but it’s ridiculous to claim that bikers are all law-abiding citizens.

      I’ve been a motorcyclist for 30years. I tried lane splitting and it slowly sunk in that splitting lanes is like a blind man in a crosswalk without a cane. The law may be on your side, but you’re counting on someone else to do the right thing. You’re just one twitch of the steering wheel from being flattened between a rock and a hard place. 99.99% of drivers will see you and hold in the lane or ease left to allow you room. If 0.01% of the time, there is a blowout, pothole, epileptic fit, mechanical failure, or any of a dozen other things that could go wrong, you’re dead. How many times do you want to play Russian Roulette? A thousand times a day?

      • t fal 4

        No question about that. The purpose of lane splitting is #1 overcoming traffic, and #2 safety from being smashed from behind by cars. No one is denying that. Once a motorcycle gets to the front, it is best to stay there and continue forward between other cars. If you were to continue riding alongside the same car (i.e. “share the lane with cars behind you” as you suggest), since most drivers are either annoyed by loud pipes (as am I) or jealous of motorcyclists, you are likely to make the driver angry and he/she might react badly. It is safer to keep moving forward.

        The bikers who are kissing or smoking cigars are not wearing full face helmets and are probably the types riding huge bikes that you cannot lane split with (e.g. Harley/cruiser type). This is really a different breed of rider than the riders lane splitting and commuting to work in heavy traffic, which this discussion focuses on. Likewise, one cannot text while on a motorcycle as you need both hands to shift and brake, plus most often are wearing gloves which do not allow you to manipulate a touch screen. The only riders who might be able to do this are the ones riding those huge bikes, which again, aren’t really doing the kind of lane splitting this discussion talks about. I’m not saying they do text, as I have never seen it, but it would be possible. In fact I am going to call you out as a liar saying you see riders texting daily – no f-ing way. There are so few idiots that would attempt this, there is no way that you see this daily.

        Hitting and kicking vehicles, making left turns from the right (of 3) lanes, popping wheelies (in traffic)… anyone doing these deserves what injury comes. That is truly bad behavior and I condemn it.

        For the most part, bikers who lane split in traffic are law abiding citizens. I have never met such a friendly and good-natured group as bay area motorcyclists.

        • Sail Nut

          Do you have any reference that show that bikes are more likely to get rear-ended than other vehicles? I suppose it’s plausible, but I think you exaggerate that particular risk. Anecdotal evidence is not so reliable, but I’ve never seen or known of a bike being rear-ended, although I’ve witnessed, been in, and heard directly about several other kind of bike collisions and several auto-auto rearends.

          There are several technical reasons to expect bikes to stop in a greater distance than cars, although I don’t have evidence to show that that makes them less likely to be rearended.

          In any case, I don’t understand why a splitting bike would be immune to being rearended. clfjmpr indicated that he’d used splitting to avoid being rearended; if so, he must have been very alert to spot that car in his mirrors. On the face of it, it seems that there is the potential for 4 different cars to rearend the cyclist if (s)he is forced to brake suddenly while splitting.

          Those who claim that splitting is safer than staying in the lane seem to be making the underlying assumption that, when something goes awry, that they can keep splitting ad infinitum and just accelerate out of trouble. This is a wonderfully simplifying assumption, provided we can neglect those hundreds of 3000lb wrecking balls, bumbling along the freeway.

          • whomedoyou

            I think the traffic rules should be made simpler – if motorcycles need to overtake they should use the left shoulder, if there is none then they shouldn’t overtake. In all other lanes they should behave like normal cars. They still get to claim to be environment savers and in a way get their own lane.
            [Edit] – I would also consider it to be ‘somewhat safer’ if the transportation department of California is willing to put double line splits (e.g 1 foot wide) between lanes which will would help drivers to tell a little better if a motorcycle is barreling down between me and the next lane in the rear view mirror. This would also tell drivers to expect motorcycles coming through.
            Right now sitting in a normal car on a packed freeway I have no way of knowing if there is someone coming through on a motorbike more than 4-5 cards behind. This is when they appear to pop out – this is also the scariest scenario because you’re trying to pay attention to the stop and go traffic and car ahead of you.
            But making up their own judgment calls like ‘lane-splitting is safe’ and they ‘can escape inattentive drivers’ is not making things safe for anyone.

        • Sail Nut

          If you’re convinced that being rear-ended by a car is the major hazard for cyclist to avoid, I suggest you read http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810834.pdf . The passage that caught my eye was “In 68 percent of the rear-end crashes involving motorcycles and passenger vehicles, the role of the motorcycle was recorded as the striking vehicle.”

          Common sense and my experience suggest that virtually all rear-end crashes can be avoided by allowing sufficient following distance to allow for the current conditions of the road and the drivers involved. This statistic suggests that motorcyclists are twice as likely to crash into the car in front of them as to be rear-ended, despite the fact that in most cases it’s the cyclist who is the recorded fatality.

          Several posters have suggested that motorcyclists are 10X more alert than auto drivers. One can quibble with the details, but the statistics indicate that that should be closer to 0.5X.

          Motorcyclists are a self-selected group who, on the whole, are more risk tolerant than the general population. This has led them to form a subculture of risky behavior, of which lane splitting is an instance. To support that culture, bikers have created a mythology that cars are the problem and if everyone not on a bike were banned from the road, motorcycling would be perfectly safe.

          Having ridden for many years and driven formula cars, I’m probably part of that risk-tolerant group, but I learned a lot from a friend who told me, “There are old bikers and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers.”

          If you think of yourself as one of the bikers who are more alert than the general run of drivers, then you can use generous following distance as a tool in avoiding being rear-ended. If you have plenty of braking distance available, you can brake at less than maximum deceleration and check your mirrors for an inattentive following driver. Since you still have reaction time available, you can choose one of the escape routes available, including lane-splitting.

          If, however, you’re busy weaving back and forth between lanes, keeping a close eye on the spacing between the cars in front of you, it’s unlikely that you’ll be sufficiently aware of the cars behind you to be able to take action in time to avoid one of them rear-ending you. In any case, once you’ve pulled up next to a car, it’s unlikely that the car following it is going to maintain double following distance behind it, to allow for you. It seems more likely that lane-splitting is going to increase the likelihood of being rear-ended, than to reduce it.

        • Sail Nut

          I didn’t claim that I saw bikers texting daily. It was one item in a list of unsafe practices. A more pedantic way to phrase it is that I see 1 of those practices per day, on average. As far as gloves, the usual technique seems to be to pull the glove off and hold it in the teeth. Many bikers choose to shift without the clutch, although the need to shift is often deferrable enough for some folks to read a text, although I’ll confess that I don’t know exactly what they are doing. What I see is an object that looks like a phone being held in the left hand at the angle that one would use to text, with the thumb hovering over the screen and the back of the hand braced against the handlebar. The rider’s head is angled down and to the left; I can’t watch the eyes, but the posture suggests primary focus is on the phone.

          I also didn’t claim that all of those practices were performed while splitting. I don’t have the opportunity to watch splitting bikers at length, but it seems most of them are totally focused on putting as many cars behind them as possible. The exceptions are those that seem intent on expressing their contempt for those of us stuck in a cage, regardless of whether that mode of expression is rude, unsafe, or illegal.

          I’m not sure what kind of bikes are too big to split, but a lot of the splitting I see is big V-twin Harleys with extended forks and sissy bars. If there are any 2-wheel bikes that are so big that they have to wait in their lane like a car, I rarely see them. Since I do see occasional 3-wheel bikes (not splitting), I have to assume that they are rarities.

          • Love to see your data to support “many bikers choose to shift without the clutch” — that’s a sure recipe to destroy your clutch.

            I’ve never seen people using cell phones on motorcycles in the Bay Area — but I have seen it in Maui and Ohio where motorcyclists ride in flip flops, shorts, no shirt and NO HELMET in hot weather. Those guys shouldn’t have ANY kind of license IMO.

          • Sail Nut

            I don’t have any statistical studies, but I’ve shifted without a clutch many times. It’s unlikely to damage the clutch, but if done in a hurried, unskillful way, it certainly can damage the transmission.

            It’s sometimes suggested as a way to slightly reduce the time to make a shift during acceleration. There are certainly transmissions for which is inappropriate and times may have changed since then, but when I learned to ride, it was common practice.

  • We ALL take a risk daily. Every time we wake up. Every time we choose to drive, ride or walk. Living IS taking chances. When it’s our time to go, we die. Only God knows how each one of us will go. So, with that being said, live life to your fullest and do what you want. It’s your choice. And it’s legal.
    I’m a 35 yr. rider in my 50’s. I’m female and I ride and I ride hard yet safe. If that is how I die, by crashing, I can say I died doing what I loved.

  • xman_11530

    A compromise: legalize lane splitting, but require all motorcycle license holders to become organ donors?

    • Kevin Moore

      I already am an organ donor. If I’m dead, why not help others.

      Should everyone who is ticketed for using a cell phone while driving be mandated to be an organ donor? They are more likely to kill someone else.

      • xman_11530

        My idea was tongue in cheek, but the cellphone idea is a good one. Might serve as a wakeup call to texters.

  • whomedoyou

    I wonder how insurance companies react to lane splitting? They seem to be the most risk averse industries out there.
    I would really like to hear their take on lane splitting.

  • Sail Nut

    I just noticed the picture above; the motorcyclist is lane splitting atop a double-solid-yellow line. That’s usually used to indicate an area where changing lanes is prohibited. Surely, if changing lanes in this area is unsafe, lane splitting is, also.

    Maybe this is a stock photo from somewhere where the meaning of lines is different, I certainly don’t see any unusual hazard, but maybe it’s just another example of a biker who doesn’t know the difference between safe and unsafe lane splitting.

  • Big Daddy

    Let’s see…some of the arguments against lane splitting:

    1) A car might suddenly change lanes: Why is the car “suddenly” changing lanes. When driving my car in commute traffic, I’m fully aware of the possibility of a motorcyclist coming by so I double check before changing lanes. No problems as long as I’m not tailgating the car in front of me or trying to “beat” the line by trying to jump into a faster moving lane.

    2) Someone might open their door to pour out a cup of coffee: Why does the driver need to pour out a cup of coffee on the road? They can’t wait until they get to the office or to their home to empty their cup? If I recall correctly, the only liquids you’re allowed to pour out of your vehicle is water. Again, why the need to pour anything out of your car while driving on the road? Better yet, why the need to drink while driving, adding to the ever growing list of distractions. I don’t eat or drink in my car although admittedly it’s more because I don’t like food and drink spills in my car.

    3) If you could afford a Porsche 911, you wouldn’t feel the need to ride: I own a sports car. Admittedly not a Porsche, but Porsche doesn’t make the only sports cars in the world. I still ride.

    Sheesh…for every bad lane splitter I’ve seen many more bad drivers texting, talking on cell phones without hands free setups, eating, drinking, reading newspapers, writing in notepads, etc. I wish there truly were as many law-abiding drivers on the road as there appear to be here in the comments section, then the #1 lane would only be used for passing and drivers would always yield to faster traffic, be it a car or a motorcycle. Thereby reducing the some of the need to lane split in the first place.

  • Kevin Moore

    I have had a motorcycle license for 40 years. Lane splitting is something I do, but on a limited basis. It is one of the advantages and on of the main reasons to commute by motorcycle, instead of a car.

    Years ago, there was lots of resentment that motorcycles could pass traffic lane splitting. Some cars even tried to pinch off motorcycles due to resentment. Recently, I have noticed more cooperation from car drivers, many moving over to give more room. The attitude has become “at least you are not stuck”.

    The biggest hazard are cars suddenly changing lanes without warning. As the lane splitter, my solution is simple, always assume someone will switch lanes without warning, so lane split when both lanes are bumper to bumper. If there is a gap, slow, make sure the driver knows I am present, then pass. Lane splitting is safest when both lanes are bumper to bumper.

    Extremely Loud pipes… I don’t like them. Yes, they would make lane splitting safer, but at what cost. Annoying everyone, everywhere you go? I ride a Honda 750 with stock pipes that quiet. If I feel I need to warn drivers, I can rev the engine or hit the horn. Want a really safe loud bike? Put a rubber band over the horn button. Too annoying? Share having an annoying bike.

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