It’s known as “lane splitting” or “splitting lanes.” It’s controversial, and it’s legal.

Now, the state Office of Traffic Safety has issued a survey of motorcyclists and drivers about their reaction to lane splitting, in which bikers snake their way between cars on Highway 101 or on local roads with two lanes going the same direction.

Here are some of the survey’s findings:

–77.6 percent of motorcyclists say they lane split, with 30.9 percent saying they do it all the time.

–7.3 percent of drivers say they’ve tried to prevent a motorcyclist from lane splitting. Of them, 43.6 percent said they did it because lane splitting is unsafe and 23.1 percent said it was because “it is unfair they get ahead of me.”

–67.2 percent of motorcyclists said a driver has tried to prevent them from lane splitting.

–91 percent of drivers said they have motorcyclists split lanes next to them nearly every day of the week.

–5.3 percent of drivers said they had been in a collision with a motorcyclist on a freeway.

–11.7 percent of motorcyclists say a vehicle had hit them while lane splitting; 3.2 percent said they had hit a vehicle.

–19.1 percent of drivers said they had witnessed a collision involving a motorcyclist who was lane splitting.

–36.6 percent of drivers “strongly approve” or “somewhat approve” of lane splitting, while 63.4 percent “strongly disapprove” or “somewhat disapprove.”

–53 percent of drivers know that lane splitting is legal.

The survey comes as OTS and the CHP have declared May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, publicizing reminders to drivers and motorcyclists to “share the road.”

OTS says after more than a decade of steady increases, motorcycle fatalities dropped in 2009, the latest year for which statewide data is available.

OTS says the key to legal lane splitting is for bikers to do so “in a safe and prudent man n er, being cognizant of overall traffic speeds, speed differences, spacing and lane changing patterns of surrounding traffic. Riding too fast is one of the most common things that motorcyclists do to make lane splitting unsafe.”

To read a past column on lane splitting, CLICK HERE.


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  1. Brian

    For those of you comparing lane splitting to cutting in line, let me present an interesting fact:

    According to a detailed study by Belgian consultancy Transport & Mobility Leuven, if 10% of cars were replaced by motorcycles in the traffic flow, time losses for ALL vehicles decreased by 40% and emissions were reduced by 6%. A 25% switch from cars to motorcycles, would eliminate congestion entirely (http://www.gizmag.com/motorcycles-reduce-congestion/21420/).

    I think the more accurate metaphor would be your are waiting in line at the bank and some nice gent on a motorcycle comes up and shortens the line for you by several spaces. The polite thing for you to do would be to thank him not hinder his ability.

    To think that, by lane splitting, motorcycles are wronging you in some way is so narrow minded. The reality is that they are helping everybody on the road get to their destination faster and taking great effort and risk to do so. So be courteous the next time you see one of us motorcyclist safely splitting lanes!

    Like everything in life, lane splitting has its pros and cons. But I truly believe that if done safely, the pros far outweigh the cons. Here are the pros and cons decide for yourself.

    -Encourages people to ride motorcycles and reduce congestion
    -Reduces congestion further
    -Takes motorcycles out of the very vulnerable position of being bumper to bumper with large cars and trucks
    -reduces rear-end collisions which are possibly fatal for the motorcyclist

    -Increases minor side swipe accidents
    -Is unfair in the mind of small-minded individuals who can’t see the big picture.

    Finally, as far as motorcyclist being bad and aggressive drivers, I couldn’t disagree more. Riding a motorcycle forced me to be more tentative, focused and safe than I ever was in a car. I drive defensively and with vigilance because, after all, I am greatly exposed. I don’t talk on the cell phone, listen to music, eat, etc. Sure there are a few bad apples and a guy on a sports bike popping wheelies while lane splitting at 80 mph stands out a lot more than the guy in the camry who nearly side swipes you, tailgates you to death because your not going 20 over the speed limit and cuts in front of you with no warning. The latter happens to me daily. The guy popping wheelies I really ever see.

    January 9th, 2013 11:20 pm

  2. Mike

    Swerve at me and I’ll kick ur mirror off and ride away. Hit me when you swerve and hit me and loud pipes will be very low on the list of things that make you uncomfortable.

    February 1st, 2013 9:16 am

  3. klroth025

    I like Brian’s analogy, but I will make it better yet.

    It would be like being mad at the people who use the outdoor drive up deposit only box. They have to have their deposit ready to go with a completed slip, all checks signed, and placed in a bank deposit bag. Then they can just skip the line, drop the bag, and go.

    The complaint would then be… That’s not fair. They should have to look for a place to park, park their car, go into the bank, fill out the deposit slip, wait in line for a teller, give the teller the deposit, wait for a receipt, leave the bank, go to your car, and then you can go like everyone else.

    And by the “blockers” logic, it is ok to then… see a person WALKING up to the outdoor deposit, drive your car over the curb onto the sidewalk and use the car to physically block access to the outdoor deposit box. If your abrupt maneuver causes a collision between you and the pedestrian, or if the pedestrian falls or hurts himself trying to get out of your way, too bad. They shouldn’t be allow to get in front of YOU!

    Sounds kind of petty when you look at it that way. I’ve got an idea. It is legal to “split lanes”, so the motorcyclist has the right to do so, within reason.

    I have an idea for a new law. If you INTENTIONALLY block or attempt to block a motorcycle that is proceeding in a lawful manner, the charge will be reckless operation with intent to do bodily harm. That would make any would be “vigilante cagers” think twice.

    And just a quick FYI for people who like to use their cars as weapons… A person with a CCW permit, when presented with a situation that threatens his or her life, can respond with deadly force. Keep that in mind before you swerve.

    February 16th, 2013 6:41 pm

  4. DMG

    Thankyou if you read down this far. First two comments (vincent&commonsense) are great examples of opposing view points. Like most things lane splitting is good in moderation and there are times to do it (not at 100mph). Motorcycles change lanes fast, they do everything faster they are typically 1/10th the weight so it is expected. Understand that typically cars piss off trucks, motorcycles piss off cars etc. You can’t ignore the physics of the vehicle you are responsible for.I drive a motorcycle, car, pickup, on and off-road for work I don’t drive either of them like the other and adjust my driving style to the location in city or country.. and the worst thing you can do is invest your ego in a lane position

    November 8th, 2013 6:56 am

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