Lane Splitting Isn’t Bad, but Some Motorcyclists Are
Lane splitting, or lane filtering, is a bit of a difficult topic to discuss with motorists. Car drivers seem to, on the majority, loathe motorcyclists and their ability to split lanes. Motorcyclists love the added benefit of getting through traffic and not being relegated to the annoyance of a stop and go commute.
I live, ride, and drive in the city of Los Angeles, in the great state of California, where lane splitting is not illegal.
However, there is no defined law in the state of California regarding this practice, and as a result, issues can arise. Take, for example, Corvette Forum member defaria‘s story of a beautiful blue Corvette, which upon making a legal and signaled right turn into a parking lot was side swiped by a motorcyclist splitting lanes between the car and the curb. Because there is no defined law governing lane splitting, a motorcyclist is technically allowed to be in that space. However, I would never condone the action, because it’s simply a hazardous place to be.
Defaria says that the actions of the motorcyclist were illegal, but he is in fact incorrect, based on the gray-area of the law. Neither party is right or wrong, legally speaking, and that’s unfortunate, because Defaria is now faced with $8,300 in repairs for his ride, because his insurance deemed him responsible for the collision. You can read all about it here.
As a journalist / blogger, I have to delineate between reporting news and offering opinion pieces. This article is the latter. I firmly believe in lane splitting. I have been doing it ever since I learned to ride, but it is entirely a privilege and not a right. There are real dangers and risks involved, but when practiced safely, lane splitting is the best feeling in the world and reduces the stress of bumper-to-bumper traffic. I have never had any serious issues lane splitting, however I have had a few close calls. I ride at a speed that is manageable, which allows me to negotiate approaching hazards. I am not totally without fault, as I have nicked a mirror, but I have the ethics and morality to stop and check with the motorist. I am a model motorcyclist and there are many more like me, I can assure you.
However there is a problem in our ranks. We have inexperienced jerks on motorcycles that are not as awesome as I am and the people I surround myself with. If these jerks were in a car, they’d be cutting you off or veering into your lane, or something else entirely that could also result in an accident. The damage to your car would be far more extensive.
I have ridden behind motorcyclists who possess an entitlement complex as they speed thorough lanes, bang on the side of vans, and engine rev to let motorists know they are there instead of just using their horn—seriously, use your horn, it’s an action you can do as much as you want and it’s accepted among law enforcement. I’ve even beat-boxed to my horn along the 10 Freeway during rush hour, and it’s saved my ass; motorists do move out of the way. This is not a lane splitting issue but an operator issue.
There is no doubt in my mind that lane splitting is good for everyone on the road. It relieves congestion, it keeps motorcyclists safer from dangerous rear-end collisions in stop-and-go traffic, and it is simply one of the best reasons to have a motorcycle in a busy urban center. The positives only come when the action is exercised with discipline though, and sadly it’s a trait a small population of motorcyclists lack. But we’re working on making those people a bit less jerk-ish. You have my word.