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Basem Wasef

California Highway Patrol: How to Split Lanes Safely

By February 16, 2013

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How to Lane Split Safely

One of the privileges of living in the Golden State-- apart from the fact that life in California is already pretty swell-- is the fact that lane sharing on a motorcycle isn't legally prohibited, unlike the other 49 states in the U.S.

I frequently split lanes when I'm riding Southern California roads, and though the practice hasn't been without its close calls and occasional consequences, my experience of cutting through traffic has mostly been efficient and relatively stress-free.

Because the California Highway Patrol has historically been vague about lane sharing and tons of misconceptions abound about the legality and prudence of squeezing between cars, the CHP has released these five guidelines for successful lane-splitting:

  1. Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic - danger increases at higher speed differentials.
  2. It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster --- danger increases as overall speed increases.
  3. Typically, it is safer to split between the #1 and #2 lanes than between other lanes.
  4. Consider the total environment in which you are splitting, including the width of the lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, as well as roadway, weather, and lighting conditions.
  5. Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users.
The CHP has an expanded explanation of those points on their website, and also suggests following by their "Four R's" of lane splitting-- Reasonable, Responsible, Respectful, be aware of all Roadway and traffic conditions-- but the thing I appreciate the most about this particular message from law enforcement is that it places responsibility into the hands of riders with logical, reasonable advice.

What do you think-- does this make you want to move to California, or what?

Source: CHP


Photo Getty Images

February 16, 2013 at 8:44 am
(1) Pete says:

49 States (and 10 provinces) can’t be wrong. While the appeal is obvious, I don’t see the risk being worth the reward.

February 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm
(2) three west says:

so Pete, the entire continent of Europe is wrong?

February 18, 2013 at 12:07 am
(3) Pete says:

Point taken…

February 18, 2013 at 2:07 am
(4) Steve says:

I agree with the message from CHP, however, idiots will be idiots. The message seems to be targeting those that are not reasonable, responsible, respectful, or aware of all roadway conditions in an attempt to make them so. Additionally, my answer to “does this make you want to move to California, or what?” is no, nothing will make me want to move to that country because I will always be considered a felon there whereas not in 45 other states.

February 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm
(5) LovemyGS! says:

Don’t forget all of Asia, Three West!

February 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm
(6) Ninja Kev says:

Since I live in Denver this isn’t a legal option for me but even if it were, I don’t think I’d try it. The “Cagers vs The Riders” sentiment is alive and well here so I can easily picture somebody trying to block me in any way possible.

Unfortunately there is a high percentage of insane crotch rocket riders who make it difficult for those of us who opt to ride safely and comply with the laws. The only time I ride my 2006 Ninja 500R “wild and crazy” is when there isn’t anybody nearby who might get hurt by my actions.

February 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm
(7) Breeze says:

I’m in Kalifornia, and the ONLY good thing about this police state is lane splitting. I like it, I do it, but I’m very careful

February 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm
(8) Pete says:

Police State??!!
You wouldn’t have to look too far to find someone who could educate you and tell you what a police state is like. Fer damn sure you don’t live in one!

Look up sour grapes and there’s a picture of ‘Breeze’. I bet he has a whole drawer full of tickets… none of which are his fault of course…some Cop having a bad day and needed someone to persecute.

February 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm
(9) Stan says:

I live in NY, a state where lane sharing/filtering is not legal. I was always opposed to the idea, but I’m trying to broaden my horizon. My exposure to it is from hot dogs who split lanes at high speeds and intimidate other road users. On CA it seems a natural progression to learn how to lane share because it’s so common. In other states it would be a new educational experience. It could be a way to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow if riders and cagers can get on the same page.

February 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm
(10) CA Res says:

Let the cages run interference for you. Cage on your left won’t move to the right if a cage is there and vice versa. Don’t checkerboard.
CHPer has been telling us that in the Bay Area since the 70′s.

February 20, 2013 at 10:33 pm
(11) fenross2 says:

I live in Texas and I would be scared as hell to lane split in Dallas or Houston. I was in California last year to ride but never got into a situation where lane splitting was necessary. Not sure I would if I could because I have no experience with it. Like one other person mentioned, I would be concerned some driver would get irritated and take some negative action toward me. Perhaps that is just my inexperience talking. It would be interesting to see any data regarding actual accidents or incidents related to lane splitting.

February 21, 2013 at 12:01 am
(12) Pete says:

I tried riding up the left side of a dead stop 10 mile traffic jam on a major highway in 100 degree heat a few years ago. I was at least 4 or 5 feet away from the closest cars .. doing maybe 20mph. After the 3rd driver opened his door and threw something at me, I got off the highway and went home.
Too many whackos out there having a bad day and the last thing necessary to push them over the edge and bring the 9mm out of the glove box is some perceived twit on a bike ‘almost’ taking his mirror off…
The risk is way beyond a few minutes saved…people are too unpredictable. And there’s only a small fraction of the 9mm’s here.

February 21, 2013 at 10:44 am
(13) grit says:

Lane-splitting in New York City or State would be suicidal. I don’t do it. Ever.

February 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm
(14) Joe says:

I’m with Pete, to dangerous with the way cagers are now a days.

February 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm
(15) Aaron says:

I lane split here in NYC because traffic is a nightmare. In high-congestion areas it just makes sense to allow motorcycles to use every available inch of pavement just like in Paris, Rome, etc.

February 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm
(16) Scottie says:

When heading to upstate NY (where I keep my bike and there is no traffic) I see bikes splitting lanes on the Deegan all the time. I wouldn’t do it, but can’t blame them. It can take 45 minutes to travel three miles waiting for people to get on the GW bridge and get out of the way.

February 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(17) Jess999 says:

I live and ride in California, and I hate most of the riders on the road. Because I saw too many crazy riders splitting lanes in high-speed traffic, in order to save a few seconds of their travel time. It’s way too dangerous for everyone. They should outlaw it.
Again, 49 states could not be all wrong. Most of the European and Asian cities are totally different from ours, therefore, we shouldn’t make the comparison with them.

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