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Lane Splitting
Texas recently considered it, and so did Arizona... but as of late 2010, California is still the only state in the union where law enforcement tolerates lane splitting.

The practice is controversial here in the States, despite the fact that it's legal in many other parts of the world. Promoters say it cuts down on traffic and can even reduce greenhouse gases, while detractors argue that it's unsafe and exposes motorcyclists to more potential harm than good.

In Oregon, the state's Governor's Advisory Committee for Motorcycle Safety is weighing the possibility of legalizing the practice, and they'll be holding an open forum on Friday, November 19th*. If a public poll favors the idea, the Advisory Committee could recommend a change in traffic law, but they would face opposition from Oregon's official motorcycle education program, Team Oregon.

Who's right and who's wrong in this argument? I don't think the answer is clear cut, though I personally subscribe to the belief that lane-splitting, when performed responsibly, can not only make riding more efficient, it can also make it safer; if you choose to occupy the space between cars when there's little or no possibility of being cut off, it's a better alternative than exposing yourself to cars approaching from behind.

What do you think? Would you want to see legalized lane-splitting in your state, or is it best left to us crazy Californians? Share your thoughts in this Readers Respond feature.

Source: Oregon Live, via @motorcyclesnews on Twitter


* The public forum will be held at 6:30 PM at the Kaiser Permanente Town Hall Ballroom: 3704 N. Interstate Ave, Portland
Photo Getty Images; click to share your opinion!

November 20, 2010 at 9:34 am
(1) Pete says:

” Oh look dear…we’re going to sit here for another 3 hours…let’s move over and make sure this guy on the bike get’s home”. If all the fine folks stuck in the log jam were of that charitable mood, I might be inclined to try it.
I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

November 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm
(2) ryde4ver says:

I think lane splitting should be allowed. But as Pete mentioned there is a big potential for back lash from an uneducated public. This is one of those changes that would really need to be blasted out via the media so that people would know that is legal.
It is also imperative that riders of larger, wider bikes realize that that there may not be room to split lanes. And those mirrors on the F150′s really stick out! Riders would need education on when to properly split lanes.
I agree with your comment about not being exposed to approaching traffic in the rear.
I would like to see it in all 50 states, like that is going to happen!

November 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm
(3) Mike says:

I live in Oregon. If it is done in California, why not here. I mean all Oregon is is a bunch of transplanted Californians isn’t it? The drivers here, no different than any other state, ignore motorcyclist and I know of some people who would position their car to block or even injure a motorcyclist if they attempted to split lanes. I say no because the public is undereducated.

November 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm
(4) Brett954 says:

well, there is definitely a stradegy to splitting lanes that needs to be mastered. I have been splitting in CA for about 9 years now and I have had many close calls. But it can also shave about 30 minutes of drive time off when CA traffic is at a stand still… The key is to just keep it nice and slow and to try and anticipate what the drivers ahead of you are going to do. And besides, once bikers start taking off mirrors people will be more willing to just move over… I know I split in Nevada, out of force of habit,(even though Im not supposed to) and the drivers dont have a problem with it. Probably because most of them are california drivers or have been to california.. Anyways, I think it would benefit the state of Oregon to legalize it but then again, I dont live there. And as far as the big bikes splitting, I ride a sport bike and I have seen these old guys on gold wings just wizz through traffic and I am in complete shock. Its a fearless art form for them!!

November 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm
(5) breeze says:

I’ve just been in Cal. for a few months, still getting used to splitting lanes. I like the idea, but you do need to be careful.

November 25, 2010 at 1:57 am
(6) JamesK says:

I recently returned from a 3 year job assignment in the US. Unfortunately for me, I was not in CA. Having lived/ridden bikes in many other countries I really can’t describe how frustrating and dumb it was to have to risk getting a big ticket for just doing what is common sense and standard accepted practice in pretty much the rest of the world and the only progressive US State – CA.
I’m not keen on breaking traffic laws, even when they are as ridiculous and arcane as making lane splitting illegal, but a motorcycle is not designed to sit in multi-mile traffic jams, for many reasons, including such obvious ones as you literally get CO poisoning, heat stroke in summer and inattentive/distracted cagers (even more so than usually).

The idea with lane splitting safely, as is the case in the ROW is to know what you’re doing and watch closely what the fools in the cages are doing or planning to do.
Lane splitting can actually be quite fun and interesting since it requires good slower speed control and hones your preemptive skills which are useful in every aspect of riding.
The key in lane splitting (as is really in riding on the roads) is to expect that every cager out there is going to run you down, generally because they are too preoccupied doing everything but concentrating on driving and/or simply lack even fundamental driving skills. Once you ride (in general) with these facts in mind you are much more in control. The excuse that the car driver didn’t see you is pretty lame, since you should be making sure he/she saw you!

November 26, 2010 at 2:33 am
(7) Rich says:

I am a rider! I think it is dangerous.

I also think it is reasonable to consider that the operator of a vehicle has the right to use as much of his lane space as wants or needs, without having to worry about leaving space for lane-splitters

Drivers or riders should not have to worry about being in the wrong place within their useable lane, so that motorcycles can make their way through. Bike riders should not encroach that space.

I’ve seen in CA, where the driver of a vehicle did not allow enough space for a lane-splitter, and been subject to verbal abuse from the rider.

It made me feel like I would like too open my door as the motorcycle came by.

In any case, even if it were legal where I live, I would not do it!

November 26, 2010 at 7:44 pm
(8) Pete says:

Brett…you make it sound like “taking mirrors off” is our god given right if some inconsiderate jerk in a car chooses not to move over.
Let me tell you who the inconsiderate jerk is!
The first guy who takes a mirror off my car will have to have his brake lever extracted surgically.
Just in case you wonder why people in cars have little or no use for us.

February 2, 2011 at 1:03 pm
(9) Steve says:

Lane filtering should be legal. With the over-taking 2-wheeler not traveling more than 15 mph over the over-taken vehicle, it is very safe.

As for the mirrors and door-dings; those are accidents, and we have a host of laws dealing with them. If a pass results in an accident or scrape, the over-taking vehicle is at fault.

It should be ESPECIALLY accepted practice at highway construction stop-and-hold sites! (I have done this and it is heaven being released ahead of 20-30 other vehicles.

Ride fast, ride safe.

March 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm
(10) Heidi says:

Splitting Lanes or Filtering as it is called here in the UK.

In the UK where splitting lanes is legal, the highest accident rate is still at junctions from motorists not seeing the motorcyclist, not from filtering.

Riding bikes is higher risk mode of transport. But to most bike riders, riding isn’t just a mode of transport it is a pleasure. It makes that journey to work almost worth going, well that and the money :O).

The risk of lane splitting can be minimised, if the rider looks far enough ahead and learns what signs to look out for and doesn’t go faster than 10 to 15 mph.

From an Oregonian biker, living in the UK and filtering every day in and out of London.

July 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm
(11) cynthia says:

i ride a motorcycle and live in oregon i didn’t think about lane cutting till i did a trip to california and i say all state should pass it the heat when sitting on a motorcycle is difference then in a car as with other things i think shift moving that slow ect but for those who miss use it with speed there need to be set speed laws and education for both motorcycle and car traffic

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