Motorcycle riders have been “lane splitting” probably since the motorcycle was invented. However, since California became the first state to formalize the practice last year, a larger emphasis has been placed on safely lane splitting.
While it was never technically illegal, the practice of lane splitting, in which a motorcycle passes between vehicles by riding on the lane line, has been a contentious issue. But now that it’s wholly legal in the state, there are some important safety reminders, both for motorcycle riders and drivers who share the road with riders.
In an attempt to educate drivers and riders on the safest techniques for lane splitting, the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) developed some rules and guidelines in order to help standardize the practice.
In particular, they suggest the following guidelines:
- Keep your difference in speed to less than 10 mph. CMSP suggest that riders bike no more than 10 miles faster than surrounding vehicles. Anything faster is seen as dangerous.
- Don’t lane split if traffic is faster than 30 mph. Reaction time is slower when traffic is moving faster. In addition, traveling at a greater speed can lead to more severe crashes.
- Try to lane split in the left most lanes. Avoid doing so on off-ramps and exit lanes.
- Keep an eye on your environment. Be smart with lane splitting. Some highways have narrower lanes, or provide less opportunity for lane splitting in a safe manner. If that’s the case, don’t push your luck.
- Be alert. As will all motorcycling, anticipate the actions of drivers around you, some of whom may not be as attentive as others.
While these are just cursory rules, they provide the basic framework for motorcyclists and car drivers to keep our roadways safe whilst lane splitting.
When should lane splitting be avoided?
Common sense is often emphasized when talking about bike riding. The same applies to lane splitting:
- Don’t do it if you can’t fit.
- Don’t do it in fast traffic
- Don’t do it if the road conditions are dangerous—this means wet roads, uneven pavement, etc.
- Don’t do it around curves.
- Don’t do it if you feel uncomfortable about it.
For riders, the first priority should always continue to be safety.