Splitting Lanes

February 11, 2013

All Posts, News

Sometimes California gets it right. For example, for years only the Golden State has allowed lane sharing, which permits two motorcycles or a motorcycle and a car to ride or drive side by side in the same lane. And now, for the first time, California officially allows lane splitting.

White lining or lane splitting, which for anybody who has just surfed in here by mistake is the practice of riding on the white line that separates lanes, has always been either legal or a crime depending on the cop who sees you do it. California traffic regulations have specifically addressed only lane sharing.

So, a million tickets have been written because some police departments have insisted that splitting lanes is illegal and only sharing lanes is allowed. Lane sharing lets riders in a pack to ride side by side and lets bikers pass cars without changing lanes. But some local departments have routinely cited riders for an unsafe lane change for occupying two lanes at once – even if the rider is stopped at a red light with his tires in one lane and his left foot in another.

Survey Says

About half of all drivers in Los Angeles seem to feel personally insulted by bikers zipping between lines of cars in a traffic jam. Anybody who has ridden for any length of time has had drivers intentionally try to cut them off. And, a California biker will always get ticketed if they hit anything. But a press release issued by the California Office of Traffic Safety last May indicated that state officials might finally be giving the subject some thought. The release began:

“The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) today released results of the first-ever survey of California motorists and motorcycle riders on the subject of ‘lane splitting,’ where motorcycles travel between two lanes with other vehicles travelling the same direction…. “Lane splitting has been a subject for controversy and confusion for years. The OTS survey showed that only 53 percent of vehicle drivers knew that lane splitting is legal in California. Eighty-seven percent of motorcycle riders say they lane split, while seven percent of vehicle drivers admit to having attempted to prevent it.”

The New Guidelines

Last week the California Highway Patrol finally issued a document titled “Lane Splitting General Guidelines” that explains when you will and when you won’t get a ticket for splitting lanes. You can read the full set of guidelines here.

Briefly stated, you won’t get ticketed if you don’t split lanes going more than ten miles an hour faster than other traffic; if you are not going faster than 40; if you only split between the far left lanes and if you use reasonable care.

The new guidelines also provide a couple of references for motorcyclists who sometimes find themselves explaining traffic laws to traffic cops. “Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal (California Vehicle Code 22400)” and “opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is illegal (CVC 22517).”

If you don’t live in the land of tangerine sunsets you’re out of luck with your local cops. Do what you feel.


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22 Responses to “Splitting Lanes”

  1. Grumbler Says:

    @stroker & uncle don – During a road trip from San Jose to Fortuna in ’99, we ran into road construction near Redcrest on Avenue of the Giants.

    We filtered up to the front which pissed-off the ignoranus flagger (he was prolly from out-of-state) and led into a verbal dispute with that shithead. Called him a wanna-be cop among other pleasantries. That guy wasn’t a trained, professional flagger. He was a biker hatin’ asshole working for the road construction company.

    Then, when we noticed the road was free and clear, he refused to let us nor the other vehicles go ahead and yelled for his supervisor up the hill to call the cops. We had enough of his crap, and roared off flippin’ the bird.

    Glanced in my right mirror just before we rounded the uphill curve, and he was starring back at us with another guy. Got onto northbound 101, and hustled out to our motel in Fortuna by the Eel River Brewing Co. Got to admit that we were a little concerned about being pulled over by the CHP, but nothing came of it.

    It was a long day as we had zig-zagged up via Golden Gate Bridge, Coast Hwy, Russian River, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Boonville, Willits, Fort Bragg and Leggett.


  2. uncle don Says:

    @Grumbler & stroker

    I always go to the head of the line at construction stops and never bothered to ask anybody. No one has ever said anything to me. Once we get moving they know I’m not going to hold them up. I never thought anything about it and I guess I never came upon anybody who gave a shit.

    much respect

    uncle don

  3. stroker Says:

    I agree that guy was riding purposely in the far right lane, I guess to show off his riding prowess. The far left lane (HOV?) was noticeably lighter.
    Agreed also. I have much of the time, gone to the front, asked the lead car if ok, and usually they gave me the go ahead. Of course, just as many times I didn’t but only had a problem once.
    What was that one time you ask?
    Ok, ya didn’t ask, but I’m gonna tell ya anyway!
    Coming back from redwood run one year, south on Hwy 1, near Salt Point.
    Traffic stopped for construction. Me and about 10 other bikes meander up to the front. Whoops! Was that a CHP we just passed? Yup, sure was.
    Soon as the last bike made went by, he pulled out, and hit the red n’ blue blinkies! Pulled us all over up by the little stop sign gal, proceeded to paper us. We kept our cool during this process, and as we had our ol ladys w/ us, he sort of relaxed, and just got down to biznezz writing tickets. Whilst he wuz engaged in this procedure, I happened to look at his right rear window. He had about 20 little motorcycle stickers, running all along the bottom of the glass, and one airplane in the top corner. I asked him what the mc’s were there for, and he admitted they were his “kills”, that is mc’s he’d ticketed! OK sez I, what’s the airplane for? He sorta chuckled and said: “low-flying motorcycle.”
    Nice to know he enjoys his work I guess!
    At that point he had about finished with our “certificates of participation”, and we were done, and my ol lady had surreptisously(?) given him another sticker, one of our support stickers, affixed to the front of his outside right side rear view.

    Doubt he found it right away.

    He’s probably waiting for us again at Salt Point!

  4. Base Says:


    Oh,that was you? I’ll have you know we were riding at a respectable 48 mph and when you blasted by spooked me so bad soiled my Docker shorts,my flip flop came off my foot and had to restart my Whitney Houston Cd and get back into my mellow.

    “Damn your lane splitting ways!!!!”

    OK, all jokes aside!

    Liked the video’s, get on you-tube and watch them. Some of those people have way more balls than brains. I actually like the chopper/V-Twin riding in pack videos a little bit more, something about a mob of bikes traveling together has always been visually appealing to me.

    I do split lanes although it is frowned upon by J-law here. You know come to think of it, not many things I can think of J-Law doesn’t frown upon.

    Oh well that would be another post.

    In my younger full of piss & vinegar days lane splitting was a constant, seems like I was always in a hurry to get some place, running red lights also. We all did it! Come to think of it when young and full of the piss & vinegar my friends and self were probably hated by many cager’s!

    Don’t believe any of us loss sleep over it.

    Now days, don’t split lanes all the time, but if the situation calls for it? Hell yes! I have noticed I am more likely to split lanes on my Shovel, it’s a stripped bike and have to admit when I ride it compared to the TC, I am a little more aggressive. Of course have over ga-gillion miles on that shovel, so perhaps some of the energy from the past possesses me and I relive my youth full O piss & vinegar days!

    Over the years have been witness to but not directly involved in a few collisions white lining. Sometimes it was a mis- calculation on the riders part, more often it was a pissed off cager.

    Once 1987-ish a big brawl started when a guy attempted to cut off one of us, he & his passengers jumped out chest pounding. Their day took a turn for the worst. It started out I was just as pissed as everyone else and was in the mix but I have to really have some hate for a person to continue to stomp them once it is obvious they are done.

    Of course I had to put up with friends calling me hero & Dudley Do Right for a couple days for breaking up the fight. I did get their point, that ass wipe could have maimed or killed my buddy. But he didn’t, so figured he learned his lesson, maybe, getting his and friends collective asses handed to them by 3 scooter tramps at a stop light in full few of J-Q public might wake him up. Don’t know never saw him again after that day.

    Guess no good deed goes un-punished!

    Head on a swivel,

  5. Warrior Says:

    The rider in the 405/10 video was stupid or trying to show off. He could have gone to the HOV/car pool lane and ridden faster without weaving through slower vehicles. (Did you notice the car pool lane traffic was moving faster than him?) Plus, it’s almost always easier to lane split on the lines between the HOV lane and the #1 traffic lane. I do it and I don’t have narrow bars or a skinny bike. I have hit mirrors in the past but only when riding like shown in the video and I’ve ridden the freeways shown plus most others in the LA area.

  6. Grumbler Says:

    There’s another aspect to lane-splitting that’s more pragmatic while on road trips in Kalifas (Hi Stroker!) and everywhere else. Road construction stops with flaggers and, sometimes, pilot cars. When I lived in CA, we’d usually ride up to the head of the line. Here in ID that’s not an encouraged practice.

    Was enroute to Lower Stanley on Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway to meet friends coming down from Missoula that day when I encountered a road construction stop with pilot car east of Lowman.

    Parked, walked over to flagger, and found out it’d be a 20 minute wait. Politely asked if I could bring my bike to head of line. Flagger said it’d be cool with her *if* the first vehicle in line was okay with it.

    I then approached the couple in that 4×4 peekop, and explained that I’m to meet friends in Stanley, and had to make-up time asap before asking if they’d mind if I moved my bike in front. No problem!

    Common courtesy and a good attitude go a long way in these parts.

  7. Phuquehed Says:

    I kept hoping to see the dumbshit wipe out when he’d do one of those stupid wheelies.

  8. PigPen Says:


  9. Dirty Dingus McGee Says:

    Lane splitting Russian style.


    Pucker factor @ 12, and thats just watching the video.

  10. Wretched Man Says:

    Its good to see that you get to lane split now.
    Lasr year i visited Arkansas, was given a loan bike & thankfully warned NOT to lane split. been lane splitting since the early 80’s here in South africa, very risky in our bigger cities, but over the years the cagers have become more accostomed to us.

    Note: cagers are not “stuck in traffic” THEY ARE TRAFFIC!

    Wretched Man

  11. Mick Says:

    Lane Splitting Paris style


    Nutter died on a later run apparantly

  12. Erudite Hillbilly Says:

    I can’t imagine not being able to lane split. I’ve actually thought about changing my bars for a little bit of tighter fit up high. But, it’s not like I smack mirrors *that* often. That little bit of wiggle that I have to do in tight spots kinda gets a little shot of adrenaline dumped into the bloodstream. Now if they would just let us alone about get-back whips. “Sling weapon”? Yeah, so what is the problem?

  13. Va. Bob Says:

    That’s one helluva video,and I know it’s everyday stuff for that rider.I like flattrack-type bars for control,but they’re a little bit wide.Respect.

  14. stroker Says:

    I’ve been riding and lane-splitting/sharing in Cali since 1968. Lived those early years in SoCal (El Lay as Rebel sez)….back then people were a LOT “less tolerant” than they are now. I have stories, many stories from back then of bouncing off cars, kicking mirrors off those that came too close, hitting doors and hoods with my fist, and kicking in doors and fenders with my steel-toed engineer boots. The one I remember the most happened on the 710 or Long Beach Fwy one morning as I was splittig lanes on my 53 Triumph on my way to work. I was between the far left lane, and the next one to the right of it, when a yahoo in a Mustang up ahead of me either saw or heard me coming, and decided he’s scare me, or fake me out by opening his door, and closing it real fast. That would’ve maybe worked, but when he threw it open, it got away from him and before he could catch it, I was there! I hit the brakes and slid right into the v of the door, knocking his arm away, and stopping when my front wheel hit his door hinges! For one long moment (probably 2 seconds) we sorta looked at each other, until I threw my right elbow into his jaw, paddled backwards, and when my wheel just cleared his door, I reached far forward, grabbed the door and slammed it as hard as I could, found 1st and blasted outta there. I know, I know, that was assault, but damn, I felt good after that one.
    I like to think I “edumacated him” to maybe think twice about opening doors in traffic.
    Ya know, public service and all.

  15. Jim666 Says:

    assholes around here would open a door on ya

  16. sherides Says:


    That was a fun video to watch – thanks for sharing.


  17. Giri Says:

    Thank the State of CA for logic and efficiency once in a while? Now if they could get the assholes out of the passing lane we would have some real progress. Saw a bumper sticker the other day near Stockton “Caution: Asian driver” and of course going slow in the passing lane! I laughed for another 30 miles! At least her sense of humor was solid.

  18. PigPen Says:

    shit. that cat’s handle bars are perfect for splittin’

  19. Grumbler Says:

    Why do we ride skinny choppers in SoCal?


  20. OC VAGO Says:

    Ah yes, the thrill of splitting lanes in Orange County. Watch out for Soccer Mom who is busy screaming at the kids, the jack-ass talking and texting on his cell or the commuter putting on her make-up and worst of all the fuckhead that tries to cut you off.

    Be careful out there!

  21. Sieg Says:


    White line fever all the way-I can’t even imagine not hitting the lines!

    Couple years back I blew through a pack of RUBS on a back road here, about 12 of em, all doing maybe 50 mph with their radios blasting…didn’t even see me coming, and I went thru em at about 80 per. I know, I know, not the most mature move, but damn! Sometimes a man’s gotta do…

    5 to 1

  22. PigPen Says:

    I don’t care what state I move to, I lane split. I am not a dick in normal traffic, i don’t haul ass anymore, i’ll get there when i get there. But in rush hour traffic, sitting on top of an air cooled engine, screw that. I am not tearing up my bike or roasting my nuts if i don’t have to.
    my high bars and extended trailer mirrors don’t mix well, but i’ll figure that out when it when happens again.

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