Poll: Motorcycle Lane-Splitting: Okay, or Dangerous?

It's perfectly legal, but police caution both motorcyclists and bicyclists about the dangers. Tell us what you think.


We've all experienced it; sitting in endless Bay Area traffic on a clogged freeway at rush hour, when, suddenly....a motorcycle blows by in that narrow strip between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you.

Is that guy crazy? Or is he a smarter commuter than I? And, is what he's doing even legal?

According to an article in Friday's San Jose Mercury News, "lane-splitting" by motorcyclists is perfectly legal, albeit controversial.

The article coincides with the beginning of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the release of a survey by the state Office of Traffic Safety on the practice of lane splitting. 

The survey found that 53 percent of drivers think splitting lanes is against the law, but that 87 percent of motorcyclists do it. (The survey also found that 7 percent of drivers say they've tried to block bikers as they ride between lanes.)

California is the only state that permits lane-splitting, and while there is no law that deals directly with the practice, police warn of it's hazards.

"While lane splitting is legal, it can be very dangerous, especially when motorcyclists are splitting lanes at an unsafe speed," said Lieutenant Pat Halleran of the .

"Our officers have, and will, stop motorcycles if they are splitting lanes at an unsafe speed or in an unsafe manner. Our traffic officers often need to get to an emergency scene quickly and will split traffic, as needed.  It takes a high level of skill and an abundance of caution to do it safely, even at city speeds," added Halleran.

There are more than 1.2 million motorcycles on California roadways today - twice as many as a decade ago.

In recognition of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, electronic freeways will display the message, "Share the road. Look Twice for Motorcyclists."

What do you think about motorcycle lane-splitting? Are you a motorcyclist? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below and take our poll.

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Mamavarg May 08, 2012 at 05:00 PM
As a baseball mom in a minivan, I'm all about safety. And I get that many motorcyclists try to be careful. When we're stuck in slow moving traffic, go for it! I move over for them. But the last thing I want to do is injure--or heaven forbid--kill a motorcyclist because they're trying to blow past me when I'm trying to weave my way through fast moving congestion on 101 or 280.
Donald Garber May 08, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I was younger when I lived in SoCal and rode a motorcycle all the time. The ONLY time you lane split is when there's a great advantage to doing so, and that is when you're in bumper to bumper traffic. If traffic is any more than 10mph, lane splitting is foolish. You're telling me you'll put your life in the hands of the car drivers around you, and hope THEY don't change lanes without looking first? Three words: Future Organ Donor.
Patty Sambrailo May 08, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I know it is legal, and I understand the air cool engiine bit ( not good to sit still). Once traffic is moving fairly quickly, that rules out the air cool engine reason. So I wonder at what speed would a officer determine the cyclist was unsafe in splitting lanes. Because when I am driving anything over 45 it seems not neccesary for cooling, and would be just for passing. Which I am fine with most motorcyclists as they do it safely. It's the ones who weave in and out without any reguard to themselves and leave it up "fate" it seems, that worry me. I don't want to hit anyone, so at least give us a chance to know you are coming by!
CQ May 08, 2012 at 09:38 PM
No on lane-splitting. It is generally done in an unsafe turning maneuver weaving back and forth between lanes, narrowingly squeezing between adjacent vehicles, without turn signalling. Even worse when done with wide MCs or saddlebags. My vehicles have been damaged twice by these drivers, once by scraping the doors and another time dented when the driver decided to use his fist forcefully against the doors at 60 MPH!--Neither stopped after causing damage. It's way past time for CA to join the other 50 states and prohibit lane-splitting for motorists' safety!
lola carr May 08, 2012 at 11:11 PM
i no longer ride, but i am totally okay with lane splitting (and expect it) in traffic moving 35mph or less. just as motorcyclists should be expected to take a safety class before getting their M1, i think drivers should be educated on how to spot motorcyclists and share the road with them.


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