Lane Splitting or Brain Splitting
by Ramblin' Kinda Guy
If you ride a motorcycle, you have had the experience. You are on an Interstate or a controlled access multiple lane highway, and there is a traffic backup. There’s no way to see far enough ahead to discern the cause of the delay. Minutes pass and there is still no movement, and no indication there will be any before your level of frustration makes you crazy and cranky.
So, why not get the hell out of there?
You’re on a motorcycle. Wheel over to the shoulder and roll out of the mess, or, if your bike has a narrow profile, slip between the stopped vehicles and run on ahead to where you can figure out the problem and what to do about it instead of sitting in motionless traffic. Just be careful but, according to a report by the American Motorcycle Association, you’re safer moving in that unorthodox manner than if you were sitting in backed up traffic.
Riding your motorcycle past unmoving cars and trucks is referred to as lane-splitting, or filtering to get forward. In the U.S., it’s only legal in California. There are efforts to change state laws around the country, but the process has been slow, which is unfortunate because the AMA report indicates a rider is 54 percent safer than if they are sitting still and leaving their fate to other drivers.
In the rest of the world, filtering is considered a way of life. If you’ve ever been to Europe or Mexico or Asia, motorcycles are buzzing past on both sides of cars. Hell, it’s almost considered a human right to be able to ride your motorcycle out of traffic jams by filtering. The video below will show you what happened when the transportation minister in France let it be known he was thinking of citing bikers for lane splitting.
Be careful, whatever you do. I am relatively comfortable moving over the shoulder and riding out of traffic backups but I am always worried that some frustrated driver is going to wheel their car over to the right and run down the shoulder just as I pass, and in more than 50 years of riding motorcycles, I’ve never filtered forward between vehicles.
I keep having frightened visions of some clown opening the door of his pickup to stand up and look to see what the problem is just as my bike I come up next to him.