Lane Splitting. Useful, Safe Or Dangerous?

The practice of riding between cars, or lane splitting, is illegal in 49 states but legal in California and in several foreign countries. Should car drivers support this practice because it helps in reducing overall traffic congestion while also allowing motorcycle riders to reduce their time of commute to and from work? Is it scary and dangerous? Yes, you could die or be seriously injured if you clip, or are clipped, by a car. This video explains the legality and the technicalities of lane slitting and the basic rules of doing it safely if you live in a place where it is authorized.

45 Responses to “Lane Splitting. Useful, Safe Or Dangerous?”

  1. 1 Bayer Jan 24th, 2013 at 9:10 am

    I believe that lane splitting is safe, if done properly.

    Just out of curiosity: this is what happens in a country where lane splitting is legal and unruled…

  2. 2 Sarah Park Jan 24th, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I am not in favor of lane splitting. A lot of accidents happen involving bikes because of this.

  3. 3 Sean Jan 24th, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Lane splitting with moving traffic may be more dangerous, but filtering through stationary traffic at traffic stops is not. The bike won’t be moving quickly enough to cause very severe injuries to the rider and posses almost no risk to other drivers. And it puts the rider in control of his own safety. Filtering, at least, should be legal.

  4. 4 John Jan 24th, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Lane splitting is one of the important benefits and joys of riding a bike. Stay alert and don’t be stupid and you are no less safe than riding in lane. How is this fundamentally different from a car going past slow or stationary traffic in the lanes around it?

  5. 5 CafeSportyTC Jan 24th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I can tell you i see why its important, for myself i would have to build up the courage to do it

  6. 6 Toby Jan 24th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    The problem with lane splitting is you essentially take on the liability for any wreck to you or another vehicle that you are passing. All vehicles (car or bike) “own” that space between the lines whether moving or not. When you split a lane you are encroaching onto one or two vehicle’s “space”. If you get hurt or cause an accident then it’s on you. A few MSF courses mention this along with the usual admonishment not to do it. Take a look at your state’s statute. They are all similar.

    IMOHO squeezing a bagger through a lane with moving traffic is not an option unless traffic is stalled at a dead stop.

  7. 7 Kirk Perry Jan 24th, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Air-cooled motor best not sit idling.

  8. 8 Curt Jan 24th, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    If lane splitting is such a fundamentally great idea, then why have lines that designate lanes at all ?? Lets have everyone just drift around where ever they want to with no order what so ever. If that’s what you want, then move to any third world country where they drive like that. Ever seen the videos? It’s chaos.
    John, you answered your own question. “in the LANES around it?” The key word there is LANE. You go where there is none and where the other users of the road aren’t expecting you to be. How is that not clear to you??
    Everyone who share the roads with each other need to follow the same rules, or we’re looking at people getting hurt. It’s just that simple. I’ve been riding for 30 years and have enjoyed all brands and styles of bikes (currently a rigid chopper). To me, it’s just not worth it, so I don’t do it. Never been down once, ever.

  9. 9 BadMonkeyMW Jan 24th, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Curt, have you ever been out of your home town in 30 years? Many countries in Europe allow lane splitting and it works just fine there. I personally rode 2000 miles around the UK and Ireland a few years back and we did it quite a bit. The difference is that car drivers there are used to it and aware of bikes passing them between the lanes.

    The problem you have in the US is that too many drivers think they’re Dale Earnhardt and have such a fragile ego that the idea of letting some dude on a bike pass them just isn’t acceptable. Between them and the teenage girls on cellphones people on bikes would get hurt or killed.

    Lane splitting is a proven help to reducing traffic congestion, but without a major attitude change and increase in awareness among drivers here in the States I don’t think it could work.

  10. 10 yank Jan 24th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    When you live in the city it’s absolutely necessary. I ride to work everyday and enjoy safely spliting lanes. it saves me time helps my motor especially during the hot summers here in Sacramento. if you have a water cooled motor then I understand not spliting lanes but with most air cooled motors siting in traffic with our heat is not a good option.

  11. 11 MADrider Jan 24th, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I lived in LA for decades, it is dangerous there because of the lack of people that actually pay attention. In stationary traffic it is safer i believe, but I never did it in moving traffic. I have also witnessed jerks that block you and have seen some guy open a door infront of a lane splitter and caused him to wipe out. I don’t think it is all that safe at all because of the other drivers some that resent the advantages of riding, so in spite they do actions that thwart lane splitters. It kinda is a toss up I guess. Now I live in another state that doesn’t allow splitting so for me splitting is not a issue.

  12. 12 Kirk Perry Jan 24th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    If they want to keep people alive, the DMV should create a series of U-Tube videos (in black & white to grab attention) and tell people the story of why motorcycles split lanes and which bikes split lanes the most (narrow Asian) and which less (hog Harleys) and educate the “cagers” 🙂 on the habits of scooter-trash.

  13. 13 BobS Jan 24th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t see anything inherently unsafe in the riding shown in this video. The potential problems I can predict would be guys on bikes that think what’s safe to do at 20 mph in city traffic is also safe to do at 75 mph on a highway and guys in cars that are offended by being passed and will try and block. Lane splitting should be legal with restrictions. Like say never more that 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic and of course never faster than the posted limit.

  14. 14 DJ Jan 24th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Lane splitting is not legal in California. It is actually not illegal. It is a small but important destinction. And for anyone who lives in ca. Knows is a scarry practice. Conditions have to be just right for me to do it.

  15. 15 domino Jan 24th, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I live in California. I used to split all the time (at high speeds with the pack), not so much any more… Times have changed… Splitting is dangerous, I am older. As mentioned above, Cagers hate it and will come after you. I still do it occasionally if I am comfortable… I enjoy my rides.

  16. 16 domino Jan 24th, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    p.s. OMG, have I turned into what I always hated? A responsible rider???

    It is nice to live where I have the freedom to split if I wish…

  17. 17 richard Jan 24th, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Thrre guys who all think lane splitting is a good idea. The video would be more objective if they had three additional guys discussing it with these three, so we could get BOTH sides of the story. Inherently it seems to be a bad idea.

  18. 18 burnout Jan 24th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I have done it BUT I trust NO cage driver enough to get that close to em!! ANY and ALL drivers on cell phones pose the greatest hazard on the road! peace

  19. 19 Jusmecuz Jan 24th, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    We do it occasionally here in Bama, usually when it’s 90+ deg. Of course, it’s illegal as hell here, but I only do it when there’s a group of us riding and traffic backed up. I wouldn’t split lanes while riding alone though. If traffic backs up on way to/from work, I usually just hit the emergency lane and ease on down to the next exit. I won’t sit there and let my bike overheat….if I can help it. As for legal lanesplitting, like on the video….kinda sit in the middle of that debate, could go either way….bout like the helmet law debate.

  20. 20 sollis Jan 25th, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I split lanes everyday in the morning to work and afternoon going home . Ability splinting lanes its best thing can happen at list for me . People say lane splinting is dangerous try get rear ended on motorcycle. The guy on the video is correct you in control situation don’t rely on a car drivers . On another hand i see guys spiting lanes with lack of confidence they stay to long on split between cars . I can’t stand them motorcycle riders who is split lanes and drag other bikes behind them .

  21. 21 Sportster Mike Jan 25th, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Filtering is legal here in England at what the Police would call a sensible speed ie not more than 10-15 mph more than the cars, and if cars are stationary do just that – 10-15 mph between them and NOT 60mph! (although very tempting sometimes I must admit)

  22. 22 Duncan Jan 25th, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Echoing what Sportster Mike says filtering is part of the motorcycle test, needed to get your license. If the opportunity presents itself for you to filter you have to do it, or it’s a fail. However, it is referred to as ‘making progress’.

  23. 23 Steelchoppin Jan 25th, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Curt: I agree. They have put bicycle lanes all over our area in Florida (I never see anyone in them). I “get” that lane splitting makes you cool and hardcore but it is also too dangerous for this kid. I try not ride like an ass (not easy…I am one) but in Florida I try to avoid as much traffic as I can. The blue hairs have it in for me. Lane splitting lanes are dumb, if you want safe drive a car.

  24. 24 Red Jan 25th, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I did it all the time when I lived in Chicago. It really pissed people off.

  25. 25 The Supreme Team Jan 25th, 2013 at 10:02 am

    If you lived in CA, you’d understand the need for splitting lanes from a safety perspective. When done safely, there’s no problem other than the occasional irritated person in traffic, but since there has been such an increase in bike traffic over the last 10 years with gas prices, people are a bit more conscientious.
    The issue for most pissed off cagers, including myself when I’m in my truck, are the idiots on the sport bikes, flying through 15 MPH traffic at 40MPH.
    THAT pisses people off because of the scare factor of loud noise coming out of nowhere, and whizzing unsafely right by you.
    Unfortunately it’s not a stereotype either….95% of all the idiots out here on crotch rockets ride that way, so the rest of us get grouped in with those pinheads when we try to sneak through traffic.
    If you can do it safely, it’s a nice edge in your commute, but if you’re riding like you’re being chased, you’re playing with fire.

  26. 26 BlueStrada Jan 25th, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Using good judgment of course makes a difference…The difference is that drivers in CA know it’s legal… so there are only surprised by the occasionally LOUD motorcycle that does make them jump.
    Riding someting a bit more stealthy… and not as wide as a bagger… makes it easier for sure.
    As I attended one of the CHP “University of Driver Rehabilitation” schools… the instructor was asked about it… he said ‘we would rather have motorcyclists ahead of the traffic than stuck in it… ‘
    As someone ahead of me metnioned… air cooled newer bikes hate it.. My Buell Ulysses wanted to burn my leg off while sitting in stopped traffic in CLT, NC traffic in July.

  27. 27 Jaap Jan 25th, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Lane splitting in Holland is legal up to 30mph with a speed difference of 7mph. This really helps in a crowded country like ours.

    Just ban handheld use of cellphones. This is dangerous for us, specifically with lane splitting.

  28. 28 Mike Merritt Jan 25th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I did a ride a couple years back from Sturgis to San Diego and back. We entered California from the north. I can deffinately say that I LOVE lane splitting! It was kind of funny to see how drivers reacted differently depending on where you were.

    In San Francisco most drivers seemed indifferent, they really didn’t go out of their way to help or harm you.

    In LA, it was a different story, we had several people try to run us into guard rails, and even open doors as others have said.

    Once we got to San Diego, the story changed, all you had to do was rev the motor a bit and people would make room if they could.

  29. 29 Rodent Jan 25th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Lane splitting is dangerous, riding a motorcycle is dangerous, going to the movies, school or the mall is dangerous. Living is dangerous as we all die of it.

  30. 30 brenda Fox Jan 25th, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    ^ I Agree with Rodent…

    I split lanes and I run with scissors…

  31. 31 bigalyts Jan 25th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    The Question “lane splitting, useful, dangerous or not”? First, thing First, Anytime anyone get’s closer to a Car for any reason, has increased their chances of getting hurt or hit has increased twice. I am not telling anyone to do it or not, I am just making a very valid “Truth”. Closer to a cage, closer to getting hit.

  32. 32 Josh Jan 25th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    lane splitting is our right here in CA. Don’t speak out against it just because you’re afraid to lane split, or aren’t skilled enough a rider to do it safely.

    we can’ afford to lose any more of our freedoms just because people think what we do is scary

  33. 33 Rodent Jan 25th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Lane splitting ain’t any more dangerous than Diane Finestein!

  34. 34 Martin Twofeather Jan 25th, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    It’s past time to make it legal in every state

  35. 35 Wikked Steel Jan 26th, 2013 at 9:19 am

    When I lived in LA I split lanes every day for about 60 miles commuting to work. If you stay in between the #1 and 2 lanes you are relatively safe because that’s where the CHP rides their bikes all the time. I also at every opportunity, would tag behind one of the CHP bikes just to illustrate to cagers that the practice was not illegal. Try to at least make eye contact with the drivers in their mirrors if at all possible though. And a headlight modulator seems to get their attention as well. Be safe!

  36. 36 Kirk Perry Jan 26th, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    In San Diego it’s safe to split as long as your respectful, trying to let people know your coming through at a slow pace. It was fun on the 57Panhead rolling at a slow pace between traffic, trying to stay moving in stop n’ go traffic. With the momentum, you’re pretty much in control of the situation. When I found a break in traffic, I would pull back into a full lane. The when things started getting tight, I’d look to make sure no other bike was splitting behind me, then I’d start splitting again. Like dat’, get me where I’m going.
    “…Once we got to San Diego, the story changed, all you had to do was rev the motor a bit and people would make room if they could.”

    That’s because San Diego is separated from Orange & L.A. counties by 10 miles of wilderness traveling up I-5, Camp Pendleton, from the beach to the foothills and beyond east. It makes the entire county of San Diego a huge soup bowl cut-off from the rest of California, with the major employer being electronics and military – and one huge port that’s mostly only for tour-ships after the tuna industry left in the late 50’s. There’s Mexico next door and those people are famous for being laid-back. They have a 500+ mile coastline and so San Diego is more like a part of that, than California. More people wear flip-flops in Dago than hard soled shoes.

  37. 37 tom Jan 28th, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Contrary to what some others have said, the CHP does support lane splitting. Check out their recently published guidelines on it here:

    It’s about time other states got with the program. Driver awareness is key to making this work.

  38. 38 Andy@AmV Jan 28th, 2013 at 11:28 am

    It’s all down to respect and responsibility: I’ve always been a lane-splitter, because in the UK it is legal.

    Car drivers are aware of it, as are the police, but that doesn’t mean you can assume that the car drivers you are passing will respect your legal right to do so, any more than that they will respect your right of way at junctions. That’s because some people are dangerous, some are dicks and some are both – and that counts for riders as well as drivers: I’ve seen riders lane-splitting on 70mph motorways at 90mph.

    Practice defensive riding: work on the basis that everyone is trying to kill you, don’t take chances or make the assumption that the driver of the car you’re passing has seen you, and learn to read the body language of drivers – it’s amazing what you can determine from the movement of shoulders, heads (including eye contact between driver and passenger when in conversation) and use of mirrors – use your brain and your eyes, take responsibility for your actions and safety – making sure you’re in the right gear and covering your brakes, so you can either crank the throttle or stop quickly to get out of trouble if you need to – and you’ll be okay.

    Think I’m right in saying that the highest risk here of an accident, when you’re out of lane, is passing a line of queuing cars and being pulled out on by a driver who decides to turn right (left for you) to bypass the traffic, or into a parking spot on the opposite side of the road. They look forwards and at where they are going but forget to look behind. The easy way to avoid that is to be aware of side roads and emopty parking spaces, and pay extra care at those points. Same applies on highways, with empty spaces in moving lanes being too tempting for drivers stuck in stationary ones, but you can see the gaps as easily as drivers can so take care.

    Oddly, the safest place I’ve visited for filtering is southern France, where we are told it’s supposed to be illegal: a higher proportion of drivers also ride and so take more care.

    Driver awareness is key, but don’t underestimate the benefits of rider awareness too.

  39. 39 Kevin Boyle Kustoms Jan 28th, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I loved it when I lived in Europe …made life a lot easier …until the moment the guy in the blue vw jetta decided to switch lanes and sent me airborn over the lanes of traffic AI was navigating through …ugh! all good ….got up …brushed off …fixed minute shit …rode off!

  40. 40 pokergolf420 Jan 28th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    It’s already the law Bob S., no more than 5 MPH over the flow of traffic.

  41. 41 Dan Jan 28th, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Support Lane Sharing.

    Its been a long time coming. Its taken a lot of arm twisting, arguing, and frustration. But we have taken a huge leap forward.

    Lane Sharing is being supported by two of the big three in California. We have CHP on board and below is a link to their website and the info being distributed. The California Office of Traffic Safety is also supporting the information and should have the info posted on their website soon. The Department of Motor Vehicles has the information at their executive level and reviewing if they will be supporting. If they do we will get the info posted up on their website and begin integrating the info into the car and motorcycle handbooks. CALTRANS has also approved. short version expanded version

  42. 42 Sluggo Jan 29th, 2013 at 12:23 am

    If you are not an experienced rider and don’t feel comfortable splitting lanes then don’t do it. I’ve done it since the sixties and its a way to ride at any speed I feel like. Actually if a car blocks a bike from splitting traffic in California they get a ticket for obstructing traffic. Let those who do it alone. That white line between cars IS the motorcycle lane. Live and let live is the best way to be.

  43. 43 John Williams Jan 29th, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I moved to Florida 3 years ago from Orange County California. Can’t split lanes here in Florida. I sure do miss splitting lanes.

    Ride on

  44. 44 Fabio Pligher Jan 31st, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    The traffic in US, even in LA area is a piece of cake. I drove on the LA high ways many times.

    Let´s talk about the most dangerous traffic in the world

    After 15 yrs riding in Sao Paulo with no injuries, I assume that riding between the cars is safe if you have skills to do it. You must be aware about the traffic and the drivers might be aware about riders around. My life is between the cars, with my GS500 or even with a Fat Boy. Just do the right thing.

    I can see everyday at morning riders running above 60mph between the cars. Of course this is a suicide.

    When they use balls instead a brain, they die. More than 1 rider die per day in Sao Paulo.
    But ride the motorcycle just behind the car is unsafe too. The cars brake system works better than a motorcycle brake.

    And in Brazil is illegal split lanes. But a big city like Sao Paulo allow it to survive. Just figure 300k motorcycles behind the cars at morning…

  45. 45 Vince Feb 1st, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    I was a Motorcycle messenger for 10 years. I probably have a million miles on bikes and most of them here in California. I find it more dangerous to sit in traffic than to filter between the cars both on city streets and on the freeway.

    During the summer when its over 100 degrees I dont think its too safe for people to sit in traffic while wearing all their gear for hours on end either.

    If you pay attention and keep a clear head it will keep you riding rather than healing. I started riding in 1983 legally on the street and have not “Been Down”.

    Those who dont want to split lanes should just not do it and leave those of us who do alone.

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Cyril Huze