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You’re driving down 101 when suddenly a motorcyclist zooms past between you and the next car. Is that legal?

It’s called “splitting lanes,” and, yes, it’s legal. Or as CHP Officer Jon Sloat described it: “There’s no law that says it’s not.”

He said the motorcyclists can only do such passing between lanes, not on the shoulders, and only “as long as it’s safe” and they’re not speeding.

So the next time you’re contemplating changing lanes, check not only to the side and behind but for a lane splitter.

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Comments

14 Comments

  1. none

    This is one of the worst things about driving in California. It should be banned. I’m amazed more motorcyclists haven’t been killed by this. Or maybe they have and we just haven’t heard about it.

    April 27th, 2010 8:56 pm

  2. Jeff McDonald

    Your survey is a bit slanted – splitting lanes when “zooming past” in a loud, intimidating manner (specifically the crotch rockets and the Angels-wannabees on their intentionally altered exhaust systems) – yes, that is dangerous.

    However, splitting lanes with approximately a 5 mph speed separation and situational awareness – no, it is not dangerous.

    I have split lanes during my forty+ years experience on a quiet motorcycle (with LEGAL exhaust) and not had a single problem.

    The courtesy works both ways.

    April 28th, 2010 11:43 am

  3. Jeff

    Its legal only 10 miles over speed of traffic and much safer than getting sandwiched between cars when someone gets rear ended. It also keeps flow of traffic moving. Only 2 states its legal in, CA and AZ. Keep an eye out for motorcycles, they pay for the roads too….

    April 28th, 2010 12:32 pm

  4. none

    Jeff:
    Motorcyclists may pay for the roads too, but non-motorcyclists end up paying for the health care of many of these motorcyclists when they are seriously hurt.

    April 28th, 2010 11:34 am

  5. rider

    Why would you be paying my health care costs? I have health insurance & motorcycle insurance just like you have auto insurance. There are two types of people on the road. The ones that are happy to let you pass & the ones that some how you getting by them cheats them. They are the ones that sometimes squease the lane to prevent you from passing. At least cyclists are not talking on their cell phones or smoking flicking their ashes out the window then throwing the lite butt out. Get off your cell phone & use your ash tray!

    April 28th, 2010 12:32 pm

  6. dbarco

    Jeff Mc Donald might be one of the few sane lane splitters, of which I rarely see. My latest terrifying experience was s/b Hwy 101 just south of Todd where CALTRANS did a horrible job of going from three to two lanes. As the cars were going about merging, 4-6 Harley riders just cut in between us in unsafe manner and only abrupt braking kept them getting hit.
    I’ve been passed by both rice rockets and HD’s and I wish the legislature would come up with a sane law.

    April 28th, 2010 7:33 pm

  7. ZXmaster

    I ride everyday and have to split lanes constantly because of the lack of focus of people opperating cars.. I will just be riding along doing the speed limit and some person decides to brake for no reason, subsuquently it starts a chain reaction and instead of slamming on my brakes and possibly wrecking my bike, i just go around the idiot and continue on my route.. I do not advocate people who split lanes at unsafe speeds, but there are so many bad drivers in sonoma county, its unavoidable. Not to mention the lack of getting any roadwork done in the county in a timely manner…

    April 29th, 2010 2:03 pm

  8. Kitty Rutherford

    First let me say that I like motorcycles and believe we can share the road. Everyone just needs to respect the other driver.

    Most the lane splitting that I have seen is on 101 with bikes going 60 mph. They come up fast behind you and then zip by. This is usually when there isn’t really room to be darting in and out.
    The CPH are also in the habit of doing the exact same thing.

    I would like to see the law changed as well.

    It would be great, when the Press Democrat is reporting an accident involving a motorcycle, for the story to also include how the accident occurred. Was it because a motorcycle cut in too close ? When big rigs are laying on their side, was it because someone cut in too close. Cars and trucks need room to stop but unfortunately most of us do not allow for that and when someone cuts in too close, there is no room to stop or avoid an accident.

    April 29th, 2010 3:17 pm

  9. Iam Me

    The reason lane splitting is legal for motorcycles is that most(not all) motorcycles are air cooled and must keep moving,otherwise they can overheat.the law as written in the california vehicle code book used to read….
    The motorcycle should be traveling no more than 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic (without exceeding the speed limit) and not come close enough to that traffic to cause a collision.
    I think i remember reading this following part as well some years ago… but im not totally possitive.
    traffic should be moving no more than 25 or 35 miles an hour

    Im not sure when this was changed..but
    the law regarding lane splitting now reads…
    Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible under California law but must done in a safe and prudent manner.”
    I guess its really a judgement call for the officer.
    The law in my opinion now is kinda in a grey area…. where as before it was black and white and there was no confusion to it.
    And yes we do know not all the police officers out there make the best judgement calls…but they are the ones with the power…

    April 29th, 2010 5:06 pm

  10. Dan Reynolds

    It’s about as smart as wearing KKK sheets and marching through Compton: yes, it’s legal but you are a moron who is probably going to get hurt and will deserve little sympathy when such occurs.

    Especially the dingbats that lane split and then slice right in between me and the car in front of me; I *WAS* keeping a safe distance, now I’ve got to brake just because YOU are an impatient, immature, inconsiderate jerk.

    I ride, but it should be banned.

    May 1st, 2010 11:06 am

  11. Sean Maguidhir

    To: Iam Me.
    Having an air-cooled engine has nothing to with why “Lane-Splitting” is allowed in California. If that were the case, motorcyclists would be allowed to ride through stop signs and lights. My air-cooled rice burner can sit in traffic at idle for quite some time without blowing a gasket.

    There have been a few attempts to prohibit lane splitting, however the motorcyclists in California get involved and pressure the Assembly from creating the law. The current rule is “Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible under California law but must done in a safe and prudent manner”, is more than adequate.

    As it is true in flying, there are old motorcyclists and there are bold motorcyclists, but there are very few old, bold motorcyclists. perhaps the bold ones are also Darwin Award winners.

    May 5th, 2010 3:15 pm

  12. CruzinCommuter

    When I took the MSF course back in 2007, this subject came up and we were advised to use caution, common sense and courteousy when splitting lanes. We were advised to keep the speed differential to within 15 MPH and never exceed the speed limit while doing so. I ride an HD every day on the freeways, highways and surface streets. I have found that 99.9% of drivers react favorably when I abide by this advice.

    Part of common sense is to not only ride defensively, but to make a conscience effort to be as visible as possible so the drivers know you are there. Of the 5 years I’ve been riding, I can count on one hand the amount of drivers who deliberately blocked the lane. No problem, I just slowed and cruized with the flow of traffic and waited for a chance to continue on.

    I empathize with driver’s frustration when motorcycles seem to breeze right through traffic jams. Thats the very reason why I ride a motorcycle.

    On the flip side, I have found that about 4 out 10 cars I pass will actually move over for me when they see me approaching from behind. I always look forward to waving a thank you when I pass.

    Yes there are those who have no fear and take risks at high speed. Hopefully before it’s too late, they will learn to balance the fun and thrill of riding with cautiousness, common sense and courtesy.

    November 29th, 2012 2:36 pm

  13. John M

    Lane splitting is NOT legal in the State of Michigan. In California, however, which prohibits lane splitting.

    http://www.2keller.com/library/michigan-motorcycle-laws.cfm

    February 5th, 2013 12:58 pm

  14. Chris

    I dont have a problem with it, if they get hit, they get hit. That’s the risk one takes to ride a motorcycle, we all know it. They sure know it too, because everyone of their friends and family told them not to get one. So wah wah…

    February 5th, 2013 2:42 pm

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