Lane-splitting about to become enshrined in California law, get guidelines

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Motorcycle lane splitting is legal in california

After years of law enforcement turning a blind eye towards lane-splitting, and even offering tacit approval, the practice will soon be established in California law.

For decades, California has been the only jurisdiction in the US where lane-splitting (a.k.a. “filtering”) is common. In other words, motorcyclists are allowed to ride between lines of cars on the street, and to ride ahead to the front of the line at stops. While this is common practice around the rest of the world, traffic legislators in the US and Canada have long frowned on the practice, and in jurisdictions without clear laws against the practice, police are often happy to issue tickets anyway.

But despite lane-splitting’s popularity in The Golden State, motorcyclists have been concerned lawmakers would mobilize to legislate against the practice. When the public found out the State Assembly had decided to address the issue, many riders were afraid they’d just see a ban on lane-splitting. Such has not been the case, however, and now California’s State Assembly has passed a bill asking the highway patrol to establish guidelines for lane-splitting. In other words, the state government is officially okay with it.

So what next? The California Highway Patrol’s  moves could end up influencing policy in much of the rest of the US; motorcyclists across the country are starting to petition their leaders to allow lane-splitting (Washington and Oregon both recently looked at the issue). If the practice is given legal guidelines in California, it may make other jurisdictions look at the practice more closely.

And what about Canada? For now, as far as we know, nobody’s putting any serious work into bringing lane-splitting forward, even in major cities where it would reduce gridlock. Nobody, except for us, of course; we’re still telling people it’s time to move ahead and legalize this practice, getting in line with the rest of the world.

 

50 COMMENTS

  1. Why would you ever trust a driver in the first place? You know better than that.
    If you don’t want to split, sit. You are taking a chance every time you get on a bike anyway!

  2. Hook me up to some petitions. I want to join the fray. I live in Vancouver and I see no reason not to take advantage of my acceleration and small size while getting ahead and assisting traffic flow.

  3. I used to ride in Toronto years ago and split lanes/filtered all the time with no issues. I saved a ton of time & reduced congestion for everyone.

    Got into some arguments with cagers and one lunatic tried everything to prevent me from “getting ahead” of him. Pretty scary when I could actually see foam coming out of his mouth while he’s going nuts. Total freak

    Lane splitting is called riding a motorcycle in the entire world. It’s the norm everywhere besides North America (California being the lone exception). It reduces congestion for EVERYONE and is the easiest win/win to improve traffic flow. It will never happen in Ontario. Too bad

  4. I was stuck in a long line of traffic on the 400 in Ontario. I was riding an air cooled bike and it was hot out. The bike was getting very hot. Traffic was moving then stopped then would move again. I couldn’t shit the bike off.
    So I moved to the shoulder and slowly rode the paved shoulder to the front of the traffic jam. I was moving just fast enough to keep some air flowing across the motor. During this illegal ride on the shoulder I had people trying to block me from getting a head of them.
    It’s one thing to lane split in Europe where people are used to driving in close quarters. And here where they think they can drive.

    • I had a similar scenario happen on Hwy 11 between Hunstville and Gravenhurst back in the mid-to-late ’80s. It was a late Sunday summer afternoon and the vacation traffic heading back to TO was insane. I mean Red Level VII insane. It took about an hour of stop-and-go to get from Huntsville and I hadn’t even managed to get to Bracebridge yet. Meanwhile, I lived in Gravenhurst. I was dying in black leathers on a high-strung RD400 Daytona Special in 35-degree weather. It was brutal.

      About 800 metres away from the Bracebridge turnoff, I finally decided that enough was enough and moved over onto the gravel shoulder to slowly find my way to the 118 turnoff so I could take the old Muskoka Beach Road towards home. A cager honked his horn at me as I passed and I just ignored him. Within about 20 seconds, I noticed a rising column of dust and a car rapidly approaching from behind on the shoulder.

      It was said cager. The chase was on and I was FREAKED.

      Needless to say, an RD on sticky street rubber on a gravel shoulder is NOT a happy place. That said, I genuinely felt fear for my life and I nailed it. It was a fairly close race to get to the turnoff, at which point I was on roads I knew every crack and bump and I peeled it for home. Honestly, it was one of the scariest moments of my life. WTF was that guy thinking taking up chase simply because of a traffic infringement?

      Some people and their idea of what’s okay. A vehicle chasing a bike for ‘getting home faster than me’ is insane.

  5. I posted in fb about this already but I wanted to share that I have lane split several times in the past. Once I was is gridlock traffic on highway 5 between oakville and burlington. The second time, same situation but the cause was all the construction on Brant street in Burlington when they were revamping it. My buddy got blocked by a truck driver when we tried to lane split. We had been sitting in 30+ degrees for over 10 Min’s that day.

  6. Here is a great idea. When drivers renew their license every 10 years rather than just a new photo how about them taking another driving test? The laws and cars changes so far too often for drivers on a 40 year license to be current with their skills.

  7. I split lanes in the US and Europe and it makes a hell of a lot more sense than to sit, taking up room between cars and having douchebags on your tail (I got rear ended once by a distracted driver). Of course, there are plenty of giant stinky butt fuckers who would door riders out of lame jealousy and ignorance because of the perception that something is being taken away from them. Sadly, the riding season in Canada is awfully short compared to other places. Combine that with an impressive number of poseurs on bikes in this country and you get… well… Nothing.

    • “We” may not have to do it; BUT “”We” do have to sit in stopped traffic while the police investigate the accident scene.

  8. Lane Splitting or Filtering, is legal and common practice in most of the world. For people who say ‘lanes are too narrow’ or ‘there’s too much traffic’, check out RoyalJordanian on youtube. Riding around London UK which has narrower lanes and more traffic than pretty much anywhere in Canada. For those who say ‘would you trust car drivers?’, do you trust them now? If it were to be made legal, riders wouldn’t HAVE to do it if they didn’t feel like it but do you enjoy waiting for 3 changes of lights in 30c + temperatures, or the pouring rain, when you could just drive to the front and be gone?

    • As you note, the you tube videos are of a guy filtering in downtown London traffic. In a dense, slow moving urban road situation it makes sense.
      In a dense, slow moving 400 series highway on a 30C day it might be tempting, but there’s a good chance it wouldn’t end well.

      • Dense, slow moving London traffic is different to dense, slow moving Canadian traffic how exactly? If you think Londons’ drivers are a happy go lucky, laid back bunch, you’re seriously mis-informed.

        • No John I’m not misinformed, seriously, comically or otherwise. As I noted, URBAN roads with a speed limit in the 40-60km range are very different from the 401 across the top of Toronto, or the numerous highways in a place like Montreal.
          An anthropologist could explain the societal differences between European cities and Canadian cities and how these differences relate to the interactions of the citizens on the roads; I can’t.
          If you want to place yourself between the truck driver in his 12th hour of operation on his seventh strait day and the “Volvo drivin’ soccer mom” texting the nanny at 4:55 on the 401 (Toronto) at the 400 interchange go ahead.

          • The Speed limit of the road is irrelevant if the traffic is, as noted by yourself, slow moving. You don’t think London has tired truck drivers, texting and otherwise distracted cagers? Not to mention crazy cab drivers, oblivious pedestrians and a huge number of tourists used to traffic coming from the opposite direction. If we’re no talking about filtering at 60Mph, that is a very different idea to filtering at 30 and generally not recommended..

  9. I would certainly split lanes if allowed here but……. can’t see it happening for a long time. I have come across many traffic jams in Europe and filtered my way,sometimes for miles, out of it and on my way.
    I don’t understand the sudden interest in riders health from many people who don’t normally give it a second thought…. sounds more like jealousy most of the time. If I’m stuck so should you be!
    As usual I don’t need the government to protect me, I can do that just fine.

  10. Lansplitting is here already.

    Last night 410 Highway heading North between Derry & Courtney. Approx 12:15am. Squid lansplitting…. 130km++

  11. I think the width of the existing lanes is pretty important for this discussion, as California standards are wider:

    Canadian minimum – 2.8m (9’2”), Canadian Maximum – 3.6m (11’9”)

    California highways, “travel lanes depending upon the type of highway can vary from 10′ (3 m.) to 15′ (4.57 m.).”

    Lane splitting in Ontario seems unnecessarily risky to me. Also there’s not a snowballs chance in hell that gov’t is going to re-engineer the highways to make lanes wider.

    • Europe has much narrower lanes than Canada, even taking the generally smaller cars into consideration. Check out RoyalJordanian on youtube.

  12. I think the width of the existing lanes is pretty important for this discussion, as California standards are wider:

    Canadian minimum – 2.8m (9’2”), Canadian Maximum – 3.6m (11’9”
    https://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Engineering%20and%20Construction%20Services/Standards%20and%20Specifications/Files/pdf/Road%20Design%20Guidelines/Vehicle_Travel_Lane_Width_Guidelines_Jan2015.pdf

    California highways, “travel lanes depending upon the type of highway can vary from 10′ (3 m.) to 15′ (4.57 m.).”
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/paffairs/faq/faq92.htm

    Lane splitting in Ontario seems unnecessarily risky to me.
    Also there’s not a snowballs chance in hell that gov’t is going to re-engineer the highways to make lanes wider.

    • Ed March how the hell are you! Did you make it to Argentina? Lane splitting in Canada will never happen. People drive like they own the roads here. They don’t signal, check their blindspot, drift into lanes, cut corners…and the list goes on. It’s more of a leisure thing riding a bike here. However in the larger cities people obviously commute on bikes.

    • It’ll never be as unobservant as in India, so Canada will be fine (should your politicians listen to logic and science instead of opinion of course).

      But I’m fine thanks Ricky. I’m currently in Mexico. The trip ended up a lot longer than expected with us doing 26,000 miles (40,000km) in the USA and Canada along. Argentina is about a year away.

  13. And you think in LA drivers are better??

    The few replies here demonstrate why it will never happen here in Canada, people always have some concern, whether they are forced to do so or not. Free choice never seem to be the common logic in Ontario.

    How is filtering in dead slow traffic dangerous than riding over all??? Wake up people …

  14. If the political will to make this happen ever occurs, we would also need some serious effort ($$) to educate the driving public. We should anyways – it could help slowly change some of our terrible driving trends. When I lived in Manitoba years ago, MPI (prov. vehicle insurance) partnered with CTV locally to produce a series of driving educational spots called the “60 Second Driver” (https://www.mpi.mb.ca/en/Rd-Safety/Tips/60-Sec-Driver/Pages/60sec.aspx).Should be a national campaign…

  15. The problem here is not legalisation. It’s whether car drivers will accept it. Most Canadian car drivers don’t like lanesplitting because it doesn’t seem “fair” since some rider may actually get ahead in traffic and that offends their petty sensibilities. So some drivers will actively move to block riders who are lanesplitting, or open doors or throw stuff at lanesplitting riders.

    As long as most Canadian cagers don’t like lanesplitting, it will remain dangerous no matter what the law says. You can’t legislate attitude!

    • Would you really trust the drivers if it were to be allowed for bikes to filter? Personally I don’t there is not enough respect on our roads for this to be a safe move by riders – even if allowed by law!

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