What is lane splitting?
Lane splitting is a motorcycle riding technique in which a rider passes between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic on a multilane road while traveling up to 10mph faster than the other vehicles. The motorcyclist then returns to an established lane when traffic flow resumes.
The purpose and benefits of lane splitting
When done safely, lane splitting can benefit both motorcycle riders and other drivers. It helps motorcyclists reduce their risk of being rear-ended, as they can move from a stopped lane of traffic and flow forward between slow or stopped traffic. And since a motorcycle occupies the same lane space as a car, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, lane splitting can help reduce congestion.
Best practices for lane splitting
As long as you’re riding in a state where lane splitting is legal, here’s how to do it safely:
Only split lanes in between the two left most lanes. The right lanes have more vehicles changing lanes for on- and off-ramps.
Make sure you have enough room ahead to pass safely between traffic; you should have two feet of space on either side of your motorcycle.
Scan the road ahead, since you’ll have limited escape route options.
Watch for cars trying to change lanes.
Ride slowly in a gear that allows for good control and reduces your exhaust sound level—higher speeds and louder noise can startle drivers.
Be prepared to stop by covering the brakes and clutch with two fingers.
Stay ready to merge back into a traffic lane when traffic resumes normal speed.
The hazards of lane splitting
While lane splitting is often safer than requiring motorcycles to sit in lanes of stopped traffic, it’s not without risks, including:
Nearby vehicles that make sudden moves without signaling
Emergency vehicles on the shoulder that cause traffic to shift out of the way and reduce the space around you
Extra-wide side mirrors on other vehicles
Ladders, lumber, and other objects sticking out of pickup beds or car windows
Broken, cracked, or rutted pavement between lanes
Raised reflectors along the lane divider markings
Poor riding conditions, including rain, snow, wind, and darkness
Whenever you ride in a state where lane splitting is legal, review this guide and follow the best practices outlined here. It’s up to all of us to set a positive, safe example as riders. We’re here to help.