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The Benefits of Lane Splitting

Feb 11, 2015 // Trips on Two Wheels //

A bill introduced in Washington last week would make this the second state in the U.S. to allow lane splitting. What do you think about this practice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A maneuver that is common practice in California and the majority of the world is most often met with staunch opposition and sometimes hostility by non-riders in the United States. The general consensus is that lane splitting is either an incredibly dangerous practice, or it is viewed as 'cheating' traffic by motorcycles. YouTube is littered with videos of riders splitting at  dangerous highway speeds and paying the price -- in reality, this would still be illegal under the proposed change in Washington.

The bill specifically states that a motorcycle may not exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 MPH, and traffic may not be going faster than 25 MPH. These limitations allow the benefits of lane splitting while restricting the practice to safe speeds. There's no doubt that traffic in the Seattle area is bad (8th worst in the U.S. according to some reports) and getting worse. Recent efforts to improve Seattle's overloaded highway system have been met with significant delays. With no end in sight for traffic, it only makes sense to allow lane splitting and reduce some of the congestion. This is purely speculation but perhaps lane splitting will encourage more people to choose to ride motorcycles, further reducing the number of cars on the road.

In addition to reducing traffic, lane splitting allows riders to filter to the front at stoplights, reducing the number of rear end collisions. We've all been there -- wondering if the distracted driver behind you will stop in time at a stoplight. While it's still important to be constantly aware of your surroundings, allowing lane splitting moves motorcycles to a safer position at the front of the line.

It's not just Washington riders looking for change -- similar bills have also been introduced in Texas and Oregon. The Washington bill was heard by the Washington State Traffic Committee on February 3rd. Only time will tell if Washingtonians are ready for lane splitting.

I will fully admit that I am biased on this issue. As someone who commutes daily on a motorcycle, the time savings alone make it worth arguing my point of view. But what do you think? Should we move to allow lane splitting outside of California? If so, how can we educate non-riders and show them that we all benefit from this practice?


15 and counting...

guest // Feb 11, 2015
as a rider that rides in Washington state as well as california frequently I hope washington passes this law. With all the distracted drivers nowadays I would feel a ton safer filtering traffic. I feel safer on California freeways then anywhere I have ridden for the simple fact I can move ahead of the traffic.
guest // Feb 12, 2015
I have experienced lane splitting all over Europe and California. Getting in and out of city like LA or London during peak traffic can be hours less with shrewd motorcycling. Safe lane splitting depends on savy drivers, experienced riders on narrow bikes and safe highway construction. If that sounds like us, then this could be a great change. I have my doubts for these reasons: 1) Washington drives are not a quality group. They hog the left lane unlike their better trained European counterparts who know better. They eat, text, drink, and read while they drive Flat out they pay less attention. I'm just glad when I see a turn signal used. Italian drivers get a bad rap, but they pay attention, drive with a 360 degree awareness and follow the basic rules. 2)Our roads are not that good. Aurora and 520 are too narrow, I-5 has lots of left hand exits (dumbest idea ever), a mix of HOV and not HOV lanes, and the main corridors are always under construction. California has a buffer space between HOV and regular lanes. It's lumpy with reflectors, but a motorcycle can bail out there. Cali also only lets people in and out of the HOV lanes in certain spots. Experienced lane splitters know this and change their pace accordingly. 3) American riders (at least around here) ride wider bikes, often with side cases, then their European peers. Our license is a joke compared to Europe's graduated licensing, and we ride way less. For many riders, every trip is the first trip in a while. Wide, heavy, rarely ridden bikes are an accident waiting to happen in the best of circumstances.
guest // Feb 12, 2015
I have ridden all over the world and have never felt unsafe. My personal rules for filtering include not exceeding the ambient traffic speed by more than 10 mph, just as the WA bill proposes. I'm a little leery of North American drivers, however. There seems to be little acceptance of the right of bikers to lane split and I worry about the transition in Washington state.
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