Some information on Lane Splitting for those unfamiliar with Southern California traffic. (I was the Safety Officer for a Motorcycle organization for many years).
Did you know that lane splitting is safer than staying in a lane of
stop and go traffic? Statistics and safety experts confirm that
this is the case. However, lane splitting is loaded with situations
that require careful consideration.
In the legal sense, lane splitting in California does not have a
legal definition. Instead, it is NOT defined as being illegal. All
traffic laws apply when lane splitting so it is very possible that,
in the eyes of the law, other traffic laws are being violated.
Police policy in California is such that you should not lane split
when traffic is moving faster than 30 mph. If you are going more
than 10 mph faster than traffic, you may get cited for "unsafe for
conditions". If traffic is moving above 45 mph, you may get written
for reckless driving. Lane splitting is less likely to be tolerated
on surface streets.
As a rider splits lanes, they have to observe the traffic ahead and
be able to predict what the drivers on both sides are going to do.
Always assume that the drivers do not see (or hear) you coming. If
there is not enough room to pass a vehicle, wait until there is an
opening and go around. Do not get angry or do anything to
antagonize the driver as they might seek revenge on you or the next
rider to pass by.
Be aware of the geometry of your bike. Any protruding handlebars,
mirrors, pegs, saddlebags, etc. must be taken into account. Be
alert and ready to detect and react. Scan for signs of trouble.
The safest lanes are usually the two left lanes. This is because
the drivers tend to keep to the left and there is less lane
changing occurring. A cardinal rule of lane splitting is that any
time you are between lanes, you should be passing cars. If cars in
an adjacent lane start passing you, get back in the lane.
Keep your speed to a point where you can handle surprises and
minimize your surprising the traffic you are passing. You should
not be going much faster than the surrounding traffic. This will
allow you to observe the traffic that can influence your riding
pattern and properly react.
If you are overtaken by a faster rider, move over into a gap and
permit them to pass. This has an added benefit in that drivers are
usually more observant after a bike has passed them. However, don't
follow the bike too closely. Leave room just in case something does
The most dangerous time to split lanes is when traffic is first
slowing down. This is when motorists are most likely to change
lanes seeking the fastest lane. When the traffic has stabilized,
the lane switching falls to almost zero. However, if there is a gap
large enough for a car to occupy, you should assume a car will
occupy it. So be very vigilant and watch all vehicles carefully for
any intent to occupy the empty space. Watch for head movements, see
if the driver has acknowledged your presence, watch the front tires
of cars for movement, sudden braking, hesitation, signals, etc.
Lane splitting is a riding technique that requires the utmost
concentration and skill short of situation avoidance maneuvers. It
is not for everyone and as with all riding skills should be
practiced and learned gradually. If you do not feel comfortable
splitting lanes - DO NOT DO IT! It is not worth any time saving if
an injury should occur. But if you are comfortable with lane
splitting, do it carefully and safely so that the right to do it is
not taken away from us in order to "protect" us.