Lane Splitting: Laws, How to Do it Safely and What to Know

selective focus photography of people riding motorcycles on road

First and foremost, let’s start with the fact that lane splitting is not for riders with a faint heart. It is a technique that many experienced riders put to use in order to move between the lanes if the traffic is pretty slow or if it has stopped entirely on a multilane.

In those situations, some riders split the lanes and travel sometimes at more than 10 MPH than the other vehicles that are present in the same lane.

Before we dive deep into the intricacies of lane splitting, let’s start by knowing exactly what it is!

What is Lane Splitting on a Motorcycle?

Lane splitting is the riding technique where you ride through the narrow gaps between the cars and motorcycles.

Normally, two-wheeler riders do not like to sit in stopped traffic and prefer either of these  2 conditions:

Lanes that are slow-moving or lanes that have come to halt entirely on a freeway.

When any of these hold true, then it becomes safer for motorcycle riders to split the lanes and move ahead without any hindrance.

What are the Laws Regarding Lane Splitting?

While some states such as California allow this practice with certain limitations while some other states across the USA don’t allow lane splitting at all.

So let us start by learning about California’s laws regarding lane splitting so we can get an idea about the same –

What Are The Laws Regarding Lane Splitting In California?

In California, a motorcycle rider can split lanes in any situation when the speed of traffic is going below 50 miles per hour.

This circumstance is considered ideal since riders will be able to move into a lane when there’s not much traffic present and at the same time not have to struggle much to join back with other vehicles.

Only these two things are allowed when it comes to splitting lanes in this state –

You can not travel beyond 20 MPH from the speed of surrounding traffic and you can only split lanes if you are at a speed less than 10 MPH than surrounding traffic.

This part has been added recently in order to avoid any major accident that might occur if a rider comes into the opposite lane at high speeds and collides with another vehicle.

Also, we want to point out that only motorcycles are allowed to split lanes in California and not any other vehicles.

So while cars and trucks can maneuver through traffic by driving close to other vehicles, motorcycles will have to go ahead and find a way of their own.

What Are The Laws Regarding Lane Splitting In Washington DC?

In Washington DC, there is no law implemented regarding lane splitting –

As long as you don’t pose a threat to yourself or others on the roadways, you can do it without any hassles whatsoever.  

To us, this law sounds absolutely ideal since it allows riders from all across the globe to come to this city and enjoy splitting lanes just like they have been doing for a long time.

Just don’t try to hit high speeds while splitting lanes since that might cause an accident somewhere down the line.

Where is Lane Splitting Illegal in the US?

In some states, lane splitting is completely banned.

If you live in a state that does not allow lane splitting, then we would suggest performing this technique with utmost caution since it could lead to an accident.  

In any case, if you are riding a motorcycle and need to move between lanes due to slow-moving traffic or stopped vehicles up ahead, try going ahead and split the lanes at a moderate speed so chances of an accident occurring are minimized.

Even when the law permits it in California, most riders prefer going extremely slow when they have split the lanes since there’s no sure shot way of knowing what kind of vehicle has taken over that particular space.

What to Know About Lane Splitting?

The Four ‘ R(s) or ‘BE-Attitudes’ of Lane Splitting that every rider should know before attempting to split –

Be Responsible

Be Reasonable

Be Respectful

Roadways can be Dangerous

Be Responsible

This is the most important step since this essentially means that you are taking full responsibility for yourself and your actions.

If you split lanes at high speeds, then accidents are guaranteed to happen.

You need to make sure that you are only splitting lanes at a speed that is lower than surrounding traffic but still sufficient enough for you to maneuver your way through without any hiccups.

Don’t think that it’s necessary for everyone who rides on roadways should know what lane splitting is; there are several riders who might not know about this practice and end up jeopardizing the safety of both themselves as well as other riders on the streets.

Be Reasonable

Riders have different opinions regarding how fast they need to ride when they have entered into a lane that is moving faster than the one they were previously riding in.

For example, take a 100cc motorcycle and a 600cc motorcycle; it’s extremely difficult for the latter to match speeds with surrounding vehicles due to its size and weight.

However, if we go by logic and assume that both motorcycles travel at speeds lower than what surrounding traffic is running at, then those two riders should not have any problems splitting lanes together as long as neither of them rides too fast or slow.

The same rule applies when you are lane splitting with other motorcycles – keep your speed parallel with your own surroundings and all will be well!  

Be Respectful   

People might find traveling through congested roads annoying but you need to respect their opinions since not everyone might agree with lane splitting.

Depending on how you behave on the road, you might either gain respect or lose it – so be sure to act in a way that is conducive to others around you!   

Roadways can be Dangerous

When people talk about their fears of riding motorcycles, most would mention the danger they think comes along with having two wheels.  Lane splitting can also be dangerous if not performed correctly and riders should take every possible precaution before they attempt this practice.  

For example, try splitting lanes at night instead of during peak traffic hours as your visibility will be severely limited if there are no street lights illuminating those particular roads.  

Additionally, from a safety standpoint, passengers should always wear helmets when someone else is driving a motorcycle as there is no way of knowing what one might encounter on the roads!

Guidelines for Lane Splitting

Always Travel at a Speed No More than 15 MPH than the Surrounding Traffic

Do Not Split Lanes When the Traffic Flow is 50 Km/hour or Faster

Typically it’s Safer to Switch Between Lane 1 & Lane 2 than Other Lanes

Consider Width of the Lane, Surrounding Vehicles, Roadway, Weather, & Lighting Conditions

Always Stay Alert & Anticipate Movement from Other Road Users

Always Travel at a Speed No More than 15 MPH than the Surrounding Traffic

Riders might be tempted to increase their speed when they split lanes but it is important that they resist this urge and stick to the 15 mph rule.  

This regulation provides riders with a safety net since most vehicles will travel at speeds of 40-50 mph on major roads and 65-75 mph on highways and freeways.  

However, keep in mind that you need to switch from one lane to another carefully as speeding around other vehicles might cause them to crash into your motorcycle if they aren’t paying attention!

Do Not Split Lanes When the Traffic Flow is 50 Km/hour or Faster

As mentioned earlier, some motorcycles can go up to 100+ km/hr which gives them an advantage over surrounding traffic.

However, it’s not advisable to split lanes at speeds higher than the average speed of surrounding traffic as this will make other riders uneasy.

Additionally, if you are splitting lanes with another motorcycle, then it is best that you go at a similar speed – do not go faster or slower since that can lead to accidents, especially considering how crowded our roadways are now!

Typically it’s Safer to Switch Between Lane 1 & Lane 2 than Other Lanes

As far as being safe goes, splitting lanes between the first and second lanes is one of the better choices.  

This isn’t always great news for riders who prefer to ride in between cars instead but keep in mind that fewer riders travel through these two lanes during peak traffic hours.

However, if you see that most of the traffic is traveling between the second and third lane then it would be best to use this space instead.   

Consider Width of the Lane, Surrounding Vehicles, Roadway, Weather, & Lighting Conditions

Lane splitting definitely has some limitations but riders can still make good use out of this practice by considering all these factors beforehand.  Specifically, they should consider how much room there is before switching lanes as well as whether or not it’s safe to do so.

Additionally, if any upcoming curves look particularly sharp then it would be best to wait until after those turns are cleared before trying to switch lanes again.  

Always Stay Alert & Anticipate Movement from Other Road Users

As tempting as it may be to zone out after splitting lanes for a few minutes,  riders should always remain alert and anticipate movements from other road users.  

For example, they might spot pedestrians at crosswalks who are about to step off the curb so it would be best if they stopped their motorcycle until those pedestrians clear the area entirely.

Tips for Doing Lane Splitting Safely

Cover Your Levers

Pick a Channel & Stay There

Try to Maintain a Straight Line

Keep the Chasis Taut

Respect Turn Signals

Always Wear Proper Protective Gear

Cover Your Levers –

It can be difficult enough to navigate between traffic without having to worry about getting your hands or feet caught in anything.  This is why riders should consider covering their levers before splitting lanes, especially if they have brake and clutch levers that stick out.

Pick a Channel & Stay There

For the sake of being safe as well as respectful, motorcycle riders should pick a lane and stay there at all times.  

After all, it might take them longer to get through the other lanes if they are constantly switching lanes throughout their ride.

Try to Maintain a Straight Line

While splitting lanes might not always be straightforward, you want to ensure that you are traveling in a relatively straight line whenever possible since this will make avoiding accidents easier.   

Keep the Chasis Taut

Finally, make sure that your motorcycle remains taut when you are splitting lanes.  

This will allow it to maintain its balance between automatic speeding up and slowing down, which in turn makes switching lanes much easier.

Respect Turn Signals

It’s easy to forget about other drivers on the road but riders should always respect turn signals since this shows them courtesy as well as clues them in on what they might do next.  

Always Wear Proper Protective Gear

Lastly, ensure that you are wearing proper protective gear before splitting lanes or commuting through busy traffic areas! This will keep you safe from harm during your ride.

Conclusion

The information above should help riders learn more about how to split lanes in the safest manner possible.  However,  just remember that it is always best to consider all factors when commuting between lanes.

Specifically, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for potential hazards that could sneak up on you at any time!   

Also, be aware of how much room there is before attempting to switch lanes.  

This way, you will avoid running into anything or anyone by accident while also keeping yourself safe from harm!  All in all, lane splitting can be done safely if riders take the necessary precautions beforehand.

So, Be Safe & Happy Riding!

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

Hi, I’m Daniel and behind me (in the photo) is my wife Sarah.

We are both travel addicts who love Motorcycles, Rock-Climbing and Camping.We love to explore everything the world has to offer

We will continue to provide even more valuable content that keeps you riding safely! Keep the rubber side down :-)

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