General Guidelines for Lane Splitting

Posted on November 11, 2013 by

In the state of California, lane splitting is legal when it is done in a safe and responsible manner.

Also referred to as lane sharing, white-lining or filtering, the term lane splitting basically refers to the act of riding a motorcycle between the lanes of slow moving traffic or between lanes of vehicles waiting at a red light.

When motorcycle riders have sufficient skill for lane splitting, they should adhere to these basic guidelines:

  1. Do not exceed a speed that is approximate to 10 mph faster than the surrounding traffic. The greater difference in speed the higher the risk of collision. This will allow riders ample time to acknowledge and react to the majority of dangerous developments around them. Also, when the speed differential is increased, motorcyclists have less time to acknowledge and react.
  2. Lane splitting is not recommended when traffic is traveling at 30 mph or more. As the overall speed increases, danger and the risk of having an accident increases as well. At only 20 mph, cyclists will travel between 30 and 60 feet before they can even begin taking evasive action when needed.  Swerving or braking at higher speeds requires more distance and time. Various factors such as the type of motorcycle, the experience of the rider and the surrounding environment, will all affect stopping and braking distances. The severity of a crash will increase relative to the traveling speed before the accident occurs. Always being cautious and aware of your surroundings could be the difference between life and death.
  3. Between the left two lanes (number 1 and 2 lanes) is generally safer than between other lanes because it is more common practice, so other motorists naturally adapt to this. Also, it is risky to split lanes near exits and on-ramps because the conditions are much less stable with the constant incoming and outgoing traffic flow.

    Avoid lane splitting when another motorcycle rider is splitting lanes nearby. The neighboring vehicles will likely make extra room on the opposite side, thus, reducing the amount of space you will have to pass through.
  4. Always display caution while splitting lanes, taking into consideration the weather and lighting conditions as well as the size of nearby vehicles.
    • If you are not able to fit, do not try to split. Certain lanes are narrower than others, leaving insufficient space for passing. There are also vehicles that are a lot wider than most, which can also leave little passing room. 
    • Try not to split on roads in which you are unfamiliar. You don’t want to be taken by surprise when faced with sudden turns, obstacles or rough road surfaces.
    • Limited visibility, due to inclement weather or darkness will make it hard for other motorists to spot hazardous conditions and make it harder to see you. Wear protective gear in bright colors and use your high beams during the daytime so that you can be seen more easily.
  5. Be aware of other drivers around you and try to anticipate movement from surrounding traffic sharing the road.
    • If gaps or spaces open up in the lane next to yours, be prepared to take action.
    • Never ride your motorcycle while impaired by fatigue, alcohol or drugs.
    • Always be aware of changes in surrounding conditions that would cause a shift in the current traffic pattern.
    • Take into consideration not all drivers are completely aware of their surroundings.
    • Motorcyclists should never weave in and out of lanes or travel directly on the line.

Operating a motorcycle comes with a great deal of responsibility, considering the dangers involved. Accidents that occur involving motorcycles result in much more severe consequences, so one oversight or mistake could result in a catastrophic injury. The rules on sharing the road apply for motorcyclists just as they would for any other driver. Use good judgment, be respectful and use caution with respect to traffic conditions.

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