Can Motorcycles Split Lane?In the great US states, cyclists, and motorcyclists have become “the little black of rice”, among the thousands of cars that circulate daily on the highways. It is not a secret that many motorists see them as the enemy to defeat, especially when motorcyclists do not respect the articles of the traffic regulations that concern them. That is why we set ourselves the task of reviewing some of the most important points of this topic, particularly the one that tells us when yes and when not a motorcyclist can go between lanes. As of December 2022, lane splitting is currently only legal in California, however, there are some states where it isn’t explicitly declared as illegal. Many have been asking about the legality in their own states so we scoured the statutes for each and put together this chart below. Note that it’s up to the Highway Patrol to determine if your act is unsafe, which means you can still get a ticket, even though your state may not have a law forbidding it.
The Legal Definition of Lane SplittingAccording to the State of California’s AB-51, lane splitting is now legally defined as, a ‘motorcycle ridden between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.’ California is currently the only state to officially recognize lane splitting, so its other pseudonyms (such as filtering, lane sharing, and white lining) have different definitions in the other 49 states.
The Difference Between Lane Filtering, Lane Sharing, and Lane SplittingLane filtering refers to a motorcycle picking its way through slow-moving or stationary traffic, such as at a stoplight. Lane sharing covers two riders in the same lane, either side by side or a staggered formation. Lane splitting aka white lining refers to a motorcyclist weaving between moving traffic at a higher speed, usually staying predominantly on the lane dividing line. (This type of riding is considered bad practice and one that lane splitters would normally condone.) “As a general rule of thumb, lane splitting do’s and don’ts are best governed by a healthy survival instinct. More importantly, if you don’t feel confident enough to do it, then you don’t have to.”
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Lane Splitting Legality by StateWhere is lane splitting legal? We have done some research to find out the legal aspects of lane splitting in each state. Here are the
Is lane splitting legal in Oregon?House Bill 2314 is currently undergoing consideration. If approved, motorcycles would be able to travel between cars on roadways where the speed limit is 50mph or greater, and traffic is moving at 10mph or slower. It’s also safe to assume that more regulations will be implemented if any form of lane splitting becomes legalized.
Is lane splitting legal in Utah?Utah has legalized its regulated version of lane-filtering as of May 14, 2019.
Is lane splitting legal in Maryland?Maryland currently has House Bill 917 on deck, however, no real movement in the direction of legalization as of yet.
Is lane splitting legal in Connecticut?Connecticut has Senate Bill 629on deck, however, like Maryland, there doesn’t seem to be much movement yet.
Is lane splitting legal in Hawaii?Even if permitted, lane splitting and conventional lane filtering are not optimal for Hawaii’s picturesque drives and extremely congested roadways. 2018 saw the adoption of a new regulation in Hawaii that permits shoulder surfing as an alternative to lane filtering. Motorcycle riders may utilize the road shoulders in certain spots to pass stopped vehicles. Only highways having at least two lanes in each direction and a shoulder lane large enough for the vehicle to fit comfortably are permitted for shoulder riding in Hawaii. Only stopped traffic may be passed
Is lane splitting legal in Washington?Currently has Senate Bill 5254live in an effort to keep the lane splitting dream alive in Washington (A previous bill to legalize lane splitting had died before making any traction). There’s been little to no movement on this bill to date.
Is lane splitting legal in Montana?Montana was the third state to adopt lane splitting in some capacity in 2021. The following conditions must be met for motorcycle riders to be permitted to split lanes and pass stopped or slow-moving automobiles under Montana Senate Bill 9:
- The road and traffic circumstances are safe, the motorcycle is not moving faster than 20 mph.
- The lanes are wide enough
- The motorcycle keeps within 10 mph of the ambient traffic speed when splitting lanes.
Safety Guidelines for Lane SplittingGuidelines from the CHP’s Motorcycle Safety Program suggest that a motorcycle should travel no more than 10mph faster than the traffic it is passing. It is also not advisable to do this when traffic starts moving at 30mph or over. The faster you pass, the less time you have to react to an adverse situation. “Lane splitting keeps riders safer by eliminating their exposure to rear-end collisions, and it helps ease congestion by effectively removing motorcycles from the traffic lanes.” The lanes that are safest to split are between lanes one and two, which are the furthest left. The lanes furthest to the right see the most movement regarding traffic adjusting for on-ramps and exits, making it a lot more dangerous to lane split. By using the far left lanes, you will be clear of trailers and semis, meaning that you will be able to see over the top of most vehicles, giving you a heads-up of traffic flow ahead. If you see a rider splitting a lane to your right, ease back. Don’t attempt to stay parallel as you could be pushing traffic into each other’s path, as drivers move over to avoid you. Much like motorcycling in general, lane splitting can be a daunting prospect for the uninitiated. If it doesn’t look like you’ll fit through the gap, don’t attempt to do so. Similarly, if you find two long vehicles running parallel to each other, wait for them to re-position. If they close the gap when you are halfway through, you’re out of options.
Safety PrecautionsOn the subject of tight spaces, take a look at your bike from the front. Do you have wide bars, fairing, panniers, forwards, or engine bars? The object of this exercise is to give you a better appreciation of physical size. Now add two feet on either side. That’s the minimum that you will need if you take into account vehicle wing mirrors and the lateral movement of your bike from potential buffeting or raised line markings.
The Four R’sWhenever the subject of lane splitting is up for discussion, the four R’s will come into play. These refer to the following: Be Reasonable, Be Responsible, Be Respectful, and Beware Roadways. Be Reasonable with your speed, as going too fast turns you into a liability to yourself and others. Be Responsible. You are solely responsible for your safety, so make sure your decisions and actions convey this, as it also affects the people that surround you. Be Respectful to other road users. Safely acknowledge someone who gives you extra room prior to lane splitting. Remember, although you may be legally allowed to split, other road users aren’t legally obliged to make space for you. Beware of Roadways, for when it is combined with traffic, it can equate to potential danger. You need to be super aware of poor and uneven surfaces, wide vehicles, inattentive drivers, and poor weather while riding in heavy traffic. It, therefore, stands to reason, that it’s important to stay focused at all times in order to respond to any potential dangers. Remember to stay alert, be sensible, and if it feels wrong, ease back.
Do’s and Don’ts of Lane SplittingWe’d like to preface this section with the notion that we encourage you to always abide by the laws of the road in your respective State.
- DON’T make drivers over-react. If you ride too fast, all they’re going to see is something flash-by in their peripheral vision.
- DO stay in a gear that keeps the revs low. Both of these actions may cause a distracted driver to swerve.
- DON’T be physically prepared without being mentally prepared for riding between traffic. Yes, your survival instinct needs to be on full alert, but do ride with a positive, mental attitude.
- DO be aware of splitting in wet conditions. Riding on painted lines reduces grip when it rains.
- DON’T think that the law protects you from riding badly. Bill AB-51/21658.1 makes the physical act of lane splitting legal under set circumstances and CVC 22400 makes it illegal for drivers to block or impede a motorcyclist. These facts, however, don’t preclude anyone from extending common courtesy to other road users when executing the maneuver, so do be courteous!
- DO watch out for lumps, bumps, and uneven surfaces as they can upset the handling of your bike.
- DON’T lane share at night or in the dark. Lane sharing in the dark could confuse divers into making them think you are a four-wheeled vehicle rather than a two-wheeled vehicle.