As a 66 year old long distance motorcyclist and Southern California native, I am
convinced that lane splitting is safe--particularly when compared to staying in
a lane boxed between two vehicles in stop-and-go traffic. Distracted and
bone-headed drivers are hazardous to motorcyclists. I prefer to watch and react
to the vehicles beside me and ahead of me rather than being at the mercy of the
driver behind me. Lane splitting guidelines of the California Highway Patrol
recommend that motorcyclists maintain an overtaking relative speed of no more
than 15 mph and that they maintain an absolute speed of no more than 45 mph.
Most sensible California motorcyclists practice just that and ride for years
with no incidents. Having the option to lane split in heavy traffic makes a lot
of sense to those of us that practice it. Tight quarters, rough pavement and
areas where drivers tend to change lanes (near transition ramps, for instance)
are examples of where lane splitting shouldn't be practiced. You must also
ride un-distracted, un-impaired and cool-headed. Lane splitting really does
work in California's big cities--as it does in many European and Asian
I agree that lane-splitting can work, but I also think that the hesitation on
the part of legislators has merit. Most of that hesitation comes from concern
for the safety of motorcyclists. Drivers often change lanes in slow
traffic, and do so quickly and without looking for traffic approaching from
behind at a higher rate of speed. A law allowing for lane-splitting will make
drivers more responsible under the law for improper lookout, but it won't
help the poor motorcyclist who dies or is seriously injured. The
period from when the law is passed until drivers come to appreciate it, will be
a very dangerous time for motorcyclists who are brave enough to lane-split.
I too am an old California biker (ala SCMA Chair). We got to be Old Bikers by
realizing (among other things) that motorcycles are invisible, except to
ticket-writing LEO's. I feel the need to loudly proclaim
that, in Utah, a green light does not mean "go". It really means
"look in all directions carefully and go if you dare". Actual LEO
presence doesn't seem to change the behavior -- I've seen them
participate in the red-light-running. Utah needs to allow lane
splitting as a defensive escape route for bikers, if nothing else.
I often wonder what % of red-green blindness exists there.