By on August 21, 2013

keiji-bypass_japan

As I slipped the clutch and rolled on the throttle, the big GSXR1100 bucked and growled like a wild beast between my knees. I took the little wiggle and the bucking in stride and cracked the throttle even wider to shift the bike’s weight onto the rear tire. The bike responded instantly, the sound of its anger pouring out the back as a prolonged shriek of pure rage. The toll plaza fell quickly away as I hit third gear and leaned into the gentle, sweeping left hander that would bring me up onto the Yokohama-Yokosuka Expressway and there, in the final few meters before the merge, I drove the tachometer towards redline and shot past a pair of slow moving cars before shifting into the higher gears and settling onto the highway ahead of them.

The road was wide and smooth and the south bound traffic moved quickly along above the posted speed limit. I ran along slightly faster than the traffic and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun on what was an otherwise cool October day. I was here, where I wanted to be, atop what had been for one brief shining moment a bike that had been on the very sharpest part of the cutting edge of technology. Fifteen years on that time was well past, but the bike’s power and attitude remained and I felt every intoxicating bit of it through the steady thrum of the engine. The power lurked there, under my right hand, waiting – demanding – to be put down onto the street and I was in the right mood to indulge it.

GSXR1100

Ahead was my chance, two cars rumbling along side by side in a painfully protracted pass, neither willing to do what it took to clear the lane of travel for the faster vehicles stacking up behind them. I checked my six in the rearview mirror, rolled onto the white line that divided the two lanes of the freeway, dropped two gears and opened the throttle. The bike shot forward into the gap and in an instant I was out ahead of the traffic accelerating away in brazen display of sheer power. It was glorious.

Right about now, those of you who have never thrown a leg over a bike are thinking I am nuts. I’m not going to disagree with that. There was a time I didn’t have much at stake and I was willing to push right to the edge, but the truth is lane splitting, even at high speeds on the freeway, isn’t a big deal. Bikes can go all sorts of places that cars can’t and understanding that is more important than most people realize. Besides allowing you to act like Top Gun on some Japanese freeway, it can actually keep you safe when the shit hits the fan. What’s more, it’s a skill that you can use in your car.

YouTube Preview Image

To most of us, our place on the road is inviolate and the lines on the road might as well be two feet tall and made out of granite. Safe inside in our metal boxes, we are secure in our right to a place on the road and our confidence in the rules, and the fact that the vast majority of people will obey those rules almost all the time, means that we don’t have to think about things like exit strategies. Beginning motorcyclists need to snap out of this mentality in a big hurry if they are going to enjoy a long, injury free career in the saddle. Because bikes are smaller than cars they are often overlooked by drivers and having someone merge into their place on the road is a common occurrence. Without a steel crash cage to protect their soft flesh, a rider’s inviolate legal right to a place on the road the same as any car offers scant real-world protection and so the best answer is often to flee from trouble.

A good rider constantly scans the road for trouble and takes special note of possible escape routes. A beginner often thinks in terms of where a car can fit and so exit routes tend to be few and far between. More experienced riders think in broader terms and soon any space you can reasonably expect to fit into becomes a possible egress. The space between cars running the same direction is surprisingly wide as is, believe it or not, the space on the yellow line between opposite lanes of traffic. Motorcyclists can also go onto sidewalks, up paths and even into spaces between parked cars if necessary. If shoving your bike through some small rat hole stops you from getting squished like a bug then, when the situation calls for it, do what it takes to live.

The bike I really learned to lane split on - my CBR250R

The bike I really learned to lane split on – my CBR250R

As a driver, you should be thinking along similar lines. If you can’t stop to avoid a collision, you should seek to avoid it by going around it. Cars are bigger than bikes, of course, but they don’t require an entire lane worth of space in an emergency. They can, if the situation is right, run between cars, go up the shoulder, into a median or up onto a sidewalk as long as there are no pedestrians. No place is off limits in an emergency so long as you aren’t putting anyone else’s life in danger. So maybe you have to rebuild someone’s fence or reseed a lawn, but the cost pales in comparison to extensive repairs and a lengthy hospital stay.

Not everyone can be Top Gun, but all of us should be ready to act when our lives are at stake. Understanding that there are other options outside the norm is a trick that every driver needs to add to their bag. Sometimes the unorthodox solution is the best one, and knowing that it is there waiting to be used might just save your life one day. I’m not asking you to split lanes on your way home tonight, but just think about the possibility. Criticize my antics that sunny October day now if you like, but remember them because one day they might just save your life.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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61 Comments on “Shooting The Gap: An Unorthodox Solution...”


  • avatar

    I’ve been riding for 8 years (just passed 30k miles on my 600) and I’ve never had the urge/want to lane split. It takes one person not paying attention to move over a foot or so as your trying to pass & that is IT for you.

    With that being said, I had an SUV lane split me & another car at a light. Boy was I pissed….

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Its a game of managing risk. You put yourself at needless risk every time you get on the bike.

      Lane splitting is not as crazy as people think. The odds of someone squeezing over into another car the exact moment you go between them is pretty slim, especially when traffic is crawling or at a standstill. Full on lane splitting at speed is stupid, but making a pass on a bike that you wouldn’t dare on a car isn’t exactly lane splitting either.

      That said, if I can have my way, in the future all my riding will be on the track. The thrill of street riding has long passed me by, and the risk of getting cut off by someone making a left far exceeds the reward of tooling around behind grandmas on straight one lane roads. But that’s another topic.

  • avatar
    probert

    I’m a rider and I don’t think you’ll be alive much longer riding like this. Maybe it works in Japan but in America – dead meat.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      sadly in NJ, lane splitting is more a survival tactic than a time saving tactic. The ability to dodge a Mercedes SUV driven by an absent minded yelling at her kids in the backseat instead of looking out the front window is a vital skill. Sometimes, the only warning you get is the glint off of the diamond charm on her Tiffany tennis bracelet and she face-yells into her iPhone.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m not a rider, but my natural instinct when avoiding potential accidents is usually more “swerve and accelerate” rather than slam on the brakes. This is counterintuitive to self-preservation for most people, but it’s just something I got into my head as a very young driver. In most situations, it works well. I have not a single collision of any kind on my record after 19 years of driving. Dozens of close calls.

    Forget insurance liability, I’d rather screw up and sideswipe someone than to slam on the brakes and be killed from behind.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Having owned motorcycles since the 70s, and having ridden big-bore sport bikes since 1990, I agree that ” If shoving your bike through some small rat hole stops you from getting squished like a bug then, when the situation calls for it, do what it takes to live,” and we have the instant horse power to shoot for those holes. But when you split the lanes between the two drivers, you were in no danger. I would argue that you might well have started a chain-reaction that lead to a massive accident. There are far better ways to practice survival skills than scaring the heck out of a couple of inattentive drivers.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    We just returned from Italy where lane splitting by scooters, motorcycles, etc. is the norm, not the exception. Tunnels with cars, trucks, and scooters were particularly interesting.

    I try to be a careful driver and drive defensively (use turn signals to change lanes, watch the other guy), but if you’re not accustomed to regularly having a bike “shoot the gap” on you, it’s just too easy to signal and move over — hopefully without fatal consequences for the rider who appeared out of nowhere. I’m especially cautious around young men on hyper-bikes for this reason, but I would encourage this behaviour be restricted to the track.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      It’s been a few decades since I drove in Italy, but any time there was enough traffic to slow anyone down, the paint became less than a suggestion. I slapped side view mirrors with opposing traffic in narrow lanes enough times to know that an Integra’s would always knock a Fiat’s mirror off as it folded back. What I learned about my car’s actual width has saved me from dent-age if not carnage. I’ve hidden up a driveway while the car that used to be behind me rear ended the car that used to be ahead of me (there was snow involved). Splitting lanes for kicks is stupid (fun). Being aware of unconventional safety zones you can escape into is worthwhile.

  • avatar
    afflo

    Pretty normal for California… and pretty much everyone outside of the other 7/8ths of Americans. Only we have this strange notion that a motorcycle requires a 12′ wide swath. I learned to ride in California, so lane-splitting was just a natural part of the motorcycling world.

    Prohibitions on lane splitting here in Texas, and my 550 lbs motorcycle being forced to masquarade as a 3000 lbs car and sit in traffic, watch the rearview hoping the Flying Spaghetti Monster will stop the fast-closing cars with his noodly tendril of grace… Yeah, may as well just drive the car, and save the motorcycle for the weekends.

    But more on point – motorcycling has taught me more about driving than I ever expected. Skills that SHOULD be part of every driver’s repertoire but too often are not, or aren’t given the emphasis they deserve.

    - Regular practice with emergency braking.
    - Regular practice with emergency swerves.
    - Monitoring your ’6,’ to the point that you always sorta know what’s going on behind you, and know what cars may enter your blind spot before the surprise you.
    - keeping attentive of the 10-12 second time horizon.
    - always leaving yourself an exit.
    - watching for real turn/lane-change signals – the signs that a driver is about to make a move: checking mirrors, head-turns, and the wheels – you’ll see the wheels change direction before the car!
    - staying out of blind spots.
    - assuming you are invisible, and being ready to adapt to not being seen (i.e. always having an exit, always having a fall-back plan).
    - never just assuming the right of way

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You know you’ve been riding a motorcycle for a long time when you can automatically see: a. A slight change in pavement color up ahead, b. A mouse crossing the road 40 meters in front of you.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      As you implied, all good things to look out for while in your CAR, not just on your motorbike. I would add looking for a set of legs (critters or people) walking to the center of the road but partly hidden in front of a car and visible through the ground clearance, and going slow enough to react in time.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    I’m not going to lie; I lane-split from time to time, but only in jams when traffic is more or less stopped up, never when two cars are going 60 and I’d prefer to go 85.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      At those speeds you rarely need to lane split anyway. At that point its more about (aggressive) passing. I am OK at cruising speed just chilling and leaving a nice big gap between me and the car ahead of me anyway.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    I remember the first time I tried lanesplitting in California. I had maybe 80,000 miles under my belt on two wheels at that point, and my fairly-well-developed threat detector was in full alarm mode all of the time. It was wearying. By the end of the week that alarm was a bit better developed, especially as I learned how to do it safely. It helps that Californians know how lane sharing works–indeed, it’s the only place you can do it legally.

    The rest of the world understands how this works, but I’m not at all certain that the rest of the US is temperamentally suited for riders lane-sharing, filtering, whatever you want to call it. But the skill in being *able* to do so is, as you say, pretty crucial. It has saved my bacon more than once. Most drivers can’t even identify and act on threats directly in front of them. Riders who don’t have a complete 360° strategy have very short careers.

    FWIW, I’ve been riding for well over 30 years, having owned more than 20 bikes and ridden something between 500,000 and 600,000 miles.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I’m a firm believer in horsepower as a safety feature just for this kind of incident. My wife is a firm believer that I drive like a jerk. I admit that the two beliefs can cohabitate in the same person in the same way a chicken and a pig can cohabiate in a breakfast sandwich; not necessarilty heathy, but certainly fun.

  • avatar
    probert

    Has there been a rash of rear endings in Texas?

  • avatar
    stevelyon

    I live in California – home is downtown LA, work is Santa Monica, and I lane split 15 miles of the 10 twice a day. I’m more comfortable lane splitting in heavy traffic than puttering around among the inattentive.

    This is what my commute looks like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8ZCDk0WYuw

    The part of the article I liked best was the need to get over the feeling like you own a piece of the road. On a bike, you don’t own shit, and you need to get used to and be ready for people trying to step on your toes.

  • avatar

    Very interesting post.

    The video is a fascinating glimpse into a world I plan never to know in real life.

  • avatar
    Syke

    My disagreement with the article is the (non-Californian) American driver. Unfortunately, over the years, we’ve developed an attitude of equality that is best summarized as, “If I can’t do ____________, then you can’t either. And I’ll make damned sure you can’t.”

    Lane splitting is real, viable, and valuable. I’ve used it in the past to get out of emergency situations. Having never ridden in California, however, I’ve never used it as a regular traffic option. Out here in the East, if you try, sooner or later you’ll get some jackass who opens his door on you for the express intent of making sure you stay behind him. Because he’s in front. Of course.

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      Well, HOW DARE YOU try to pass HIM? I can’t imagine a worse personal affront! ;)

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I was enjoying a nice drive home in my MINI S the other day. The moonroof and windows were open and I’m heading toward the only section of my commute that is any fun. Out pulls a 90s Dodge Ram Cummins, lifted, stacks belching black smoke. He crosses the yellow line to make the first turn at 35mph (a turn I easy hold at 60mph). So, I drop to 3rd, and pass him at the short passing zone right after the turn. I make my way through the few miles of turns with him nowhere to be seen. I then get held up by another vehicle when I reach the relatively straight section but no passing zones and traffic means I patiently wait. Stacks then catches up to me and rides my bumper for 3 miles until we reach the town where I’m going to grab a gallon of milk. I signal to turn into the Rite-Aid, he signals like he is turning in behind me, and then continues going straight with a full throttle rolling-coal soot dump. Heaven forbid I pass someone because they are slow and belching smoke. I just wanted to keep enjoying the nice late summer day with my windows down.

    • 0 avatar

      I knew you were going to say that. :)

      I move between cultures a lot and so “road culture” is a huge personal interest of mine. In Japan it is expected that bikes are going to go to the front no matter what. The second you see a bike in the rearview mirrior you need to expect that in the next second he will be alongside you. Japanese drivers are trained in that environment and seem to be a lot more aware of their surroundings than American drivers.

      American drivers feel that their space on a road is inviolate and they take personal umbridge when a rider gets too close to the side of their car. I have never lane split in the United States, but I would in an emergency. If my not getting killed makes them uncomfortable they can suck it. Besides, chances are if I blast past them in the gap they’re getting an SUV up their tailpipe a second later so I will be the least of their worries.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a SUV lane split me about 2 weeks ago when I was on my motorcycle stopped at a light. Scared the poop out of me. The cops said they couldn’t do anything since they didn’t see it (found a cop about 1/2 mile down the road).

        I did have an idea though! My next big purchase for my bike is going to be synched front/rear cameras on at startup so that I can turn video in to the police. I need to see if the police will actually do anything, howwever, before I spend the coin.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I read the first paragraph, crapped my pants, and then rolled off the throttle.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    “A good rider constantly scans the road for trouble and takes special note of possible escape routes.”

    But a good rider also knows to avoid trouble in the first place.

    What exactly is your escape route *during* lane splitting? When between two lines of cars, where are you going to ‘escape’ to if one of them will suddenly swerve towards you and close the gap? Your only option there is to brake. Travelling at 40-ish mph through almost stationary traffic negates that last possibility quite effectively, too.

    Disclaimer: I ride a motorcycle and I split lanes.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Brakes. If a car is swerving toward you and the gap is closing, it will close from the front thanks to front wheel steering. As soon as you see the gap closing, getting on the brakes will put you into the space behind the vehicles pretty quickly, as long as it’s not an 18-wheeler. And honestly, I’m not that brave to split next to a big-rig!

      That said, I NEVER had that happen. I HAVE had cars skid to a stop behind me. And yes, if you’re quick on the throttle, you can jet into the voids between cars ahead, but much safer to be there already if you can!

    • 0 avatar

      Motorcycling is a calculated risk. A good rider judges the odds and acts accordingly. In the example above, I was on a wide, smooth freeway with no pavement problems and the two cars had enough space between them to allow a car to drive through the gap. There was very little actual skill involved in that particular instance.

      I have split huge long lines of cars like the one in the video but, like you, don’t do it as quickly as the guy in the video (and almost never did it on the GSXR as it was just too damn big to allow it). I have learned that there is a certain ebb and flow to traffic. In Japan drivers are expecting bikes to come through and generally position themselves accordinly so what that guy in the video is doing is really pretty easy. The other thing you do is stick to the lower gears and keep the clutch and brakes covered.

      • 0 avatar
        izzy

        Having been riding in Southern California for a few years. The cars drivers are pretty good about giving enough space for me to lane split and waiting for me to go when the light turns green.
        Rather lane split than getting rear ended at the stop light by somebody texting.
        As far as I am concerned, it should be legal everywhere in the U.S.

  • avatar

    By the way, this is pretty informative:

    http://lanesplittingislegal.com/lane-splitting-news/2013-california-lane-sharing-survey-released-by-ots

    63% of car drivers in California disapprove of lane splitting
    44% of car drivers don’t know if lane splitting is legal and/or think lane splitting is illegal.

    Seems like lane-splitting, even if legal, may seriously piss off drivers. 7% of have actively TRIED TO STOP lane-splitters!

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Last I heard, lane splitting wasn’t specifically “legal”, just “not banned” in California. Obviously in a free country, that would be the same. In California (and any US state/locality with similar laws) a cop can declare your action “reckless” and hand you a huge ticket. Hopefully you can convince the judge that you did nothing past lane splitting (and hopefully had one lane free when given the ticket).

    • 0 avatar
      stevelyon

      I spend about an hour a day lane splitting, and can’t even think of a time when someone actively tried to stop me from getting by. I’ve had people inadvertently do it, but have never had anyone actively block.

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    Great article. If you want to survive as a rider here in NYC, you have to abandon any concept you have of lanes that you might have developed elsewhere as a car driver. If you think that way as a rider, you’re gonna get squished flat by a cab in no time.

    I do occasionally split lanes if traffic is stopped, but not nearly as fast as the guy in the video above. I go slow enough to get through safely and to give myself plenty of time to react if someone decides to move over, change lanes, or open up a door (this last one has never happened yet but I look out for it anyway). In my experience, most people in NYC couldn’t care less if you split lanes, even the cops (except the NYPD Highway Patrol unit – don’t do it around those guys). I’ve never had anyone in the city yell at me or do anything too aggressive to keep me from going by. Occasionally you get someone who sees you coming and starts to move over toward the center line to block you – but apparently these people forget that their cars are fixed width so when they tighten up against the center line, they’re opening up space on the other side. So I just loop around ‘em and continue on my way.

    People who try to block you are ridiculous. No one put a gun to their head and forced them to buy/drive a car. They’re all welcome to buy motorcycles and lane split if they want to get through traffic.

    Most people are so oblivious to what’s going on around them in traffic (which is the really scary part) that they never see you coming and you’re past by the time they can react.

    I will continue to lane split in stopped traffic when the situation warrants. If I wanted to sit in stopped traffic like an asshole, I’d have taken the car! I’ve been both sideswiped and rear-ended while on the bike. I’ll take a sideswipe over rear-ending any day of the week. Sitting at the back of a line of traffic waiting for a cell-phone-using douche in a BMW to run me down is not my idea of a good or safe time.

    Now once you get outside of NYC, lane splitting tends to make car drivers a little more crazy for some reason.

  • avatar
    Topher

    I do this all the time on my bicycle through a major metropolitan city. The only difference is I’m “in the bike lane” between cars parked parallel and cars “parked” in traffic. My max speed differential, though, is only about 20 mph.

  • avatar
    joneill1955

    “A good rider constantly scans the road for trouble and takes special note of possible escape routes.” True. But also just as true: A good rider doesn’t put himself in situations where he’s at the mercy of others to avoid death or injury. When a rider lane splits, his fate is in the hands of others. Do you really trust car drivers not to suddenly change lanes in moving traffic or open a door in stopped traffic? I confess to lane-splitting, but only if traffic is stopped or moving no more than 5 mph, and even then I only move at 1 to 2 mph faster than traffic and cover the front brake lever so that I can stop in an instant if necessary. Split lanes like the guy in the video, and it is just a matter of time before you die from doing so.

  • avatar

    “Scan the road” , this is something that most car drivers don’t do and it’s a shame, after riding a bike for 4 years in NYC, I learned that it’s actually makes you a better car driver too.
    I always did lane splitting, there is no way around it specially when you can do it with such ease, I’m sure you want to do it with your car sometimes but you can’t.
    Also, now when I’m driving a car in traffic and I see a bike behind me, I always move a little to the side so he can pass me, I wish all drivers would do that.
    The video looks scary only because you are not the rider, it always kills me to sit in my car in traffic and a bike in front of me just follow the car in front of him, I just want to scream at him GO ALREAY!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Lane splitting can be done safely , sadly , too many Riders choose not to do this and get creamed .

    I was run over from behind whilst waiting at a red light , I survived a fatal Motocycle accident , I still ride but I always try (just like before) to be aware and not ride like a butthead .

    40 + years riding and I still ride albeit slower as the pain is intense now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Joe K

    Being a motorcyclist, and a car owner in the greater NY Tristate area, I have seen from both sides lane splitting. I will lane split at a relatively low speed if traffic is stopped. I have had idiots and future organ donors split lanes past me while in the car at some really dangerous speeds. I almost clipped one once, as I was changing lanes (turn signal check mirrors blind spots etc) he came out of nowhere. Luckily a space barely opened up for him to keep him from being an organ donor.
    People who lane split in traffic at speeds beyond where you can stop in one car length are just asking for a world of hurt, and possibly ruining an innocent drivers day. Don’t even start me on Harlesy that do it at 40mph while traffic is crawling at 5-10 mph. They have scared the crap out of me as the moment before I had my arm out the window to stretch.
    There is no excuse to put someone else in danger for your selfishness. In the beginning of the video passing the two cars accelerating there was plenty of room and I could see an out, where stopped traffic, the only out is an ambulance.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Lane splitting is something I have never done other than to avoid “getting squashed like a bug”. Part of the reason why I’ve never done it is because it is illegal where I live and I’m 900 km from a freeway. Many of the points the author has said, I agree with. One needs to be aware of what is around you, not just “in your six” but 360 degrees. We tend to take it for granted when driving cars and especially when driving full sized pickups. I’ve ridden dirt bikes most of my life and playing in “the bush” with aggressive buddies or racing means that any speck of open real estate is fare game. That mentality has saved me a few times even when driving cars, vans and pickups. If it will fit and avoid a crash, that is where I will go.

    I had one paramedic colleague give me an incredible piece of advice that I live by when driving and 10 times more so when riding,” Drive with attitude that you are invisible to 99% of the motoring public. The 1% that CAN see you is out to kill you.”

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’ve never lane split but I don’t live in a heavy populated area with freeways and heavy traffic. IIRC, it is illegal in British Columbia.
    I do agree that any open piece of real estate is fare game when it comes to survival. That applies equally to bikes, cars, vans or pickups. That approach has saved me on bikes and 4 wheeled vehicles.

    A paramedic colleague gave me a piece of advice that I use regardless of what I drive or ride, “Drive based on the premise that you are invisible to 99% of the motoring public. The 1% that can see you is out to kill you.”

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I think the best advice for lane splitting is to be moving 3 to 5 MPH faster than the traffic. That way you still have time to react if some one fails to notice you. I also think that lane splitting should be acceptable and legal. Drivers need to be aware of what’s happening in their mirrors anyway… I mean, If I am riding I don’t expect it from from drivers, but, if I am driving, I feel its necessary because not checking mirrors could mean not seeing that semi-truck.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Sorry for the double post. I had thought that my first post hadn’t been accepted by the site.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    This looks exactly like the motorcycle taxi in Bangkok. It´s fast and cheap but not good for my nerves.

    • 0 avatar

      Gotta love a tuk-tuk ride.

      When I was in Bangkok a couple of years ago a workmate and I went for a little ride in one. She totally freaked out when the guy went the wrong way up a one way street. I told her to calm down, there weren’t even that many cars coming at us.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a similar experience in Mexico.

        About 15 years ago I was in a taxi with (at that time, my gf). We needed to go right at the next intersection but traffic was one-way going left. Our taxi-driver made the left as that was the way traffic was going but when my then-girlfriend told him we needed to go to the other way, he stopped in the middle of a flow of cars, shifted into a reverse and went about 1/2 a mile in reverse to get us to our destination. He stayed in his lane, going in reverse for a while & cars just flowed around him like water around a rock.

        Nobody even honked at him. Must be normal…?

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    You have to act like a car to survive out there with them. 20 plus year rider and
    have never lane split. I don’t think it is the best way to give survivalist advice.
    It actually adds to the superman complex a rider can get as bikes can out- accelerate, out-maneuver and out-brake most cars on the road. If a situation is that bad where you must lane split, I doubt that is all there will be to it.
    Sorry man, can’t go along with this one..

    • 0 avatar

      I appreciate your experience and especially appreciate the tone of your response.

      I think I would feel similar to you had I only ridden in the United States. It was the road culture in Japan that opened my eyes to a different style of riding. In Japan, if you act like a car you will get killed because people don’t expect you to act that way. A person has to adapt their riding style to fit the situation.

      That said, what you are doing works perfectly fine in the United States 99% of the time. It’s when that 1% happens that this might be a useful tool to have in your bag. Seriously, think about it, ponder the alternatives and next time you are out on your bike look a all the holes you could go through if you had to. I’m not saying you need to do it but just knowing that it’s an option opens the possibility that one day it might save your life.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Mr Kreutzer,

        I HIGHLY recommend, if you have not read it, to find a copy of “Traffic; Why We Drive the Way We Do, and What It Says About Us,” by Tom Vanderbuilt. It’s a sociologists look at the unwritten rules of traffic and how a culture builds around it, and the traffic system works as long as those participating are on the same page and able to anticipate how others will react.

        I’m a military member, and move around pretty frequently. Moving from coast to coast, and driving in other cities (and countries!) on official business is quite the eye-opener. It’s those unwritten expectations – forcing your way into traffic from a side road vs. waiting for someone to flash the lights and let you in (or even whether a quick flash of the headlights means “go ahead”), merging, passing, the famed “Pittsburgh left,” the tendency of Texans to pull onto a paved shoulder at highway speeds to let you pass, these all require an adaptive spirit.

        If you haven’t read Mr. Vanderbuilt’s book, again, I highly recommend it. I think you’d enjoy it!

      • 0 avatar
        Halftruth

        Point taken, an escape is an escape when it comes to saving your ass. Trust me, I get the thrill of opening up a Japanese four cylinder when there is nothing in front of you. I just hate being near cars when doing so. Enjoy your work.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    Here’s the thing: while I lived in India, lake splitting was de rigueur; lane markings were mere suggestions, even for cagers. The one trait that differentiated Indian drivers though, was that they never treated being honked at as a personal insult. Everyone around you was made aware of your presence. Not using your horn to announce your presence is/was considered unsafe. If we could could overcome our distaste for horn usage, things might become a lot safer for motorcyclists.

  • avatar
    izzy

    The CBR250R looks interesting.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I finally watched that vid. What a miserable ride. At that point you might as well be in a car. Sure the bike is faster but it’s nowhere near as much fun as the open road.

    • 0 avatar

      Almost all driving in Japan is a tedious chore, especially in the urban areas. Unless you are willing to spend he yen it takes to get up on the expressway or live way out in the sticks, you are stuck grinding it out bumper to bumper, stoplight to stoplights everywhere you go. Splitting lanes adds a lot of fun to the equation – think of it as “urban trials riding” something that takes some thought and skill. It can be a lot of fun and fairly safe if you do it right.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I’m enjoying the many differing points of view here .

    One overlooked one is the tiny little ‘ Tiddler ‘ Motos enjoyed almost everywhere else _but_ America ~ 125 C.C. and smaller Motocyles .

    I still ride these along with my full size Motos and love them ~ mostly vintage Honda 90s .

    I find them here & there , left over from the 1960′s and early 1970′s , resurrect them , title & tag them , ride a while then re sell and begin anew .

    Lane splitting in dense traffic on a Tiddler is easy , fun and yes , safe as slow / stopped traffic isn’t usually out to kill you .

    Several here have mentioned they didn’t think cage drivers deliberately cut you off , they’re dead wrong it has happened to me many times and no , I’m not one of those @$$hats who blatts past you @ 4 X the speed of the traffic .

    Americans are simply poorly trained to drive ~ that’s a fact , jack no matter how good you think you are , most are poor drivers indeed .

    -Nate


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