Note: We understand there are some riders out there who strongly believe that lane splitting is unsafe no matter the situation and should receive a blanket ban. This post isn’t about arguing for or against their point of view or telling them they’re right or wrong. This article IS about changes in California law, how it affects us as riders and the insight we can glean from scholarly studies related to the subject. We encourage you to share your thoughts, but if you do, we ask that you please keep them constructive and informative.
Last year our home state of California signed a bill into law officially allowing for lane splitting. While the practice has long been allowed and normalized in the state, nothing was “set in stone” or recorded in the law books until then.
If you don’t live in California you may initially think this doesn’t apply to you. But it does for a couple reasons. First, sooner or later your touring adventures will inevitably lead you to the Golden State, hopefully. Yosemite. Death Valley. Pacific Coast Highway. There are so many amazing roads and destinations. While you’re visiting, it will be important to know what is expected of you and what is the norm in terms of lane splitting. Second, oftentimes California serves as an indicator to other states of what’s to come. And in this case it is a trial run of sorts. So the codification of this practice may or may not eventually affect your home state as well.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) asked UC Berkeley to do a study on lane splitting a few years ago to try and find out its effect on driving safety. The result of over a year’s worth of research suggested that lane splitting doesn't increase the risk of accidents as long as motorcyclists weren’t traveling too fast (more than 10 mph compared to the flow of traffic was considered too fast). In other words, if we ride at safe speeds and with caution, our risk of accident or serious injury doesn’t increase when splitting lanes. Some proponents contend that it helps ease overall congestion and prevents rear-end collisions in traffic conditions, which account for over a quarter of all motorcycle accidents, according to the Los Angeles Times. It's also worth noting that one of the authors of the study, Tom Rice, considers training and rider education to be of vital importance.
As always, it’s about safety first. If you don’t feel comfortable with splitting lanes on your Wing or consider it to be unsafe then you have every right to refrain from the practice. We have the freedom to make that choice. And after all, we ride our Wings for enjoyment, adventure, fun and many other reasons. We ride to make lasting memories and create unforgettable experiences with our fellow Wingers.