California is the only state that permits motorcycle riders to "pass other vehicles proceeding in the same direction within the same lane." That's a shame. Lane splitting relieves congestion and even appears to be safer than riding in line with traffic. A 2013 UC Berkeley study concluded that lane splitting reduced fatal collisions and rear-ending mishaps. But it's still a game of inches; get careless and your odds of a collision increase greatly, and if an accident occurs, you will likely be found at fault. Here are some tips for sharing a lane responsibly.
Risks go up markedly when speeds edge above 50 mph—as well as when the speed differential between your bike and the surrounding cars goes above 15 mph. A good rule of thumb is to wait until traffic has slowed to 30 mph before sharing lanes with our caged cohorts.
Mind the lines
In such close proximity to lane markers, it’s tempting to use them as a safety buffer, but keep in mind paint and Botts’ dots aren’t famously grippy. The lines can be slick or grimy compared to the surrounding asphalt and can dramatically increase braking distances.
Refine slow-speed control
Smooth and steady clutch and throttle control is key to maintaining low-speed stability. Keep your eyes up and try to relax your arms to allow for fluid movements and calm riding.
Always be scanning for sudden changes in traffic. Subtle cues—a slightly turned wheel, a glimpse of eyes in a rearview mirror—can suggest that a driver is about to cross your path.
Plan an escape
Visualize your options. Ask yourself: What would I do if…? Evaluate the situation and remember that you can always merge back with traffic if you don’t like the vibe.
Drivers are more likely to be polite if they can see you, but filtering means riding through drivers’ blind spots. Get through the area just ahead of the rear wheel as soon as possible. Lingering where a driver cannot see you is asking for trouble.
Tucking in a few bike lengths behind an experienced splitter will often provide a little more comfort zone as cars edge over to let them past. If they’re going too fast for your taste, don’t push yourself to keep up.
Drivers expect riders to split the left two lanes, and it’s common to ride the gap between the left and HOV lanes. Many drivers in the HOV lane will ease to the left to accommodate you.
Cover the brakes
Keep two fingers poised on the front brake lever and your right foot over the rear brake pedal. This puts your mind and muscles at the ready and allows reduced reaction time and immediate response.
Courtesy goes a long way toward a stress-free ride. If you give drivers plenty of room, ride friendly, and move at a speed they expect, you can expect to be beating traffic in no time. And a friendly wave never hurts.