QOTD: To Split or Not to Split?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

This week I spent three days ripping a new Harley Road Glide around Greater Los Angeles. Don’t believe the people who tell you it never rains in Southern California. Man, it pours! I covered about 350 miles, 200 of which happened after dark and in annoying weather conditions.

The Road Glide is a big bike so for the first two days I didn’t do any lane-splitting (or “filtering” as the English say), preferring just to ride in the HOV lane and deal with any slowdowns that came my way. On the third day, however, I was in a situation where I needed to cover 26 miles in a big hurry to make my flight. So the proverbial gloves came off. I started slipping between cars, slaloming through the freeway lanes. Then I found myself on La Cienega with very little time left. It was time to start lane-splitting for real. At one point I had to zip up on a sidewalk right in front of a LA cop; he hit me with a “WOOOP” from his siren but didn’t pursue the issue beyond that.

The good news is I made my flight. The bad news is that I frightened myself a few times. Should I have done it?

Hillbilly tourists on Harleys aside, what’s your philosophy on lane splitting? Should it be permitted? Legal? Encouraged? Should there be limits? What should those limits be?

I’ll look forward to reading your answers before I return to LA for another week on a bike. There’s one thing I do know: I need something narrower than a Road Glide next time!

[Image: Chris Yarzab/ Flickr ( CC BY 2.0)]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Tbone33 Tbone33 on Feb 17, 2018

    My boring answer based on daily lanesplitting: it depends. There is the Berkley study saying it is as safe if not safer to split lanes under certain conditions. You can google the study, which I seem to remember concludes it is safer if you drive at no more than 15 MPH faster than traffic, with a cap at 50 MPH. Read the study, and make your own logical decision about the level of risk you are comfortable with. Here are my rules: 1. Only lane split if I feel I still have the reflexes and heart for it. An hour of lane splitting can really numb one's reflexes. Also, if I've been cut off 3 times in the last mile I may stop filtering, or just filter at a slower pace. 2. If cars are at a dead stop, I drive at 20 MPH. If cars are moving, go no faster than 15 MPH faster than traffic. I cap my lanesplitting at 55 MPH. 3. I'm aware of my bike. I DESPISE the Loud Pipes Save Lives bullshit. Still, my quiet, big, faired Yamaha gets cut off three or four times more frequently than my loud, matte black, little Ducati Monster. Loud pipes help. I hate that fact. Confession - I've hit car side view mirrors before. One impact was with an SUV that wouldn't let me filter on my wife's scooter. Serves that guy right, he began crowding the divider when he saw me splitting lanes and lost a mirror for my trouble. A milder impact occurred when I was new to riding. There was no damage that time, but I felt terrible about the situation.

  • Pete Kohalmi Pete Kohalmi on Feb 17, 2018

    Yes! Filtering should be legal everywhere. It helps everyone out. Motorcycles are a much more efficient mode of transportation compared to cars. They take up less space so more people can be moved on the same width of road. Almost every car on the road has one person in it. Why not encourage motorcycle riding? I've read that if only 10% of drivers switched to motorcycles, traffic jams would be cut by 1/3 or more. Here in New England filtering is illegal. I never did it until I went to Europe. Then I got comfortable doing it. I came back to the US and was met with dirty looks and flagrant aggressiveness. Why? Because I got ahead of you? It's really childish. If you get the flu, do you wish everyone else got sick too?

  • Sprocketboy Sprocketboy on Feb 17, 2018

    This is an interesting discussion as in all my years of driving I am not familiar with this practice at all. I have seen filtering, where motorcycles gingerly move forward in stopped traffic, which seems to be no problem to me. However, when driving in the left lane one evening in moderately heavy but fast-moving traffic I was startled by a motorcycle passing at high speed between my car and the one in the right lane. Ontario law does not prohibit lane-splitting but it does not seem like a very safe practice to me, particularly where drivers are not used to seeing it.

  • JimC2 JimC2 on Feb 18, 2018

    Lane splitting has a couple things in common with "move over from the left lane" laws: - Done correctly and in moderation, it helps everyone by making traffic flow better! - If everybody follows just a few simple, sensible rules, then it works really well too.