Lane-splitting in California - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 11:57 AM Thread Starter
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Question Lane-splitting in California

I'm planning on riding from Phoenix to San Luis Obispo, CA on Saturday.
Can anyone help me with any "rules" or good practices about when or how to lane-split? (I've never been anywhere that it's legal or practiced.)
Thanks for any advice!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 12:36 PM
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Lane Splitting

Okay I personally have never rode in California, but i just spoke with someone who lived and rode there for many years.
He said that in traffic, and its california so that happens alot, you can split in between cars. Again this is slow traffic, i would say 30 MPH and under. The lanes are 1,2,3,4 depending on size of highway. Motorcycle riders are in lanes 1 and 2, fast lanes.
In town riding, at a stoplight, if you are not at the front of the line, you can ride between the cars, so you are in front of the line.
Best explanation i can give, since i have never actually practiced this.
This is not legal nor illegal in California, its basically an unspoken rule within the borders of California.

Hope this helps you out.

Have fun and keep the rubber side down.

Last edited by Longhorn79; 02-18-2009 at 12:43 PM.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 12:37 PM
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Please take photos of your trip and post them, Ed. Here in the frozen north we want to live vicariously through you.

On a side note, does anyone know where to rent a bike around the central coast? I'm thinking of flying down there for a few days in April.

Sorry Ed, I don't mean to hijack your thread...
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 12:58 PM
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Longhorn pretty much got it right. Two vehicles are allowed to occupy the same "lane" provided that it is wide enough. This is how we interpret "lane splitting" in CA ... it's actually lane sharing.

On the freeway if I lane split, it will be between lanes 1 & 2 (the far left lanes). It can be done on the other lanes but the risk is much higher that someone will change lanes on you trying to get to an exit.

The rule of law that you have to consider is that you can't ride faster than the flow of traffic. So lane splitting 5 to 10 mph (max) over the speed of traffic is ok. Also, you can still get ticketed if the officer feels you're doing it in an unsafe manner, by saying that you're making unsafe lane changes. Savvy and polite drivers on the freeway will often move over in their lane to give you plenty of room to pass. Some won't though, and may even try to crowd you out. Best get past them asap.

Also, most car pool lanes (if not all) in CA are ok for motorcycles.

Have a safe trip, and good luck!

2009 Kawasaki Versys, "Dr Doom"
2009 Suzuki Burgman 650, "StormTrooper"
2003 Suzuki Burgman 400, "Yoda"

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 01:04 PM
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Thanks DarcyM, for clarifying.......

Wish we could do that here in Texas, but it takes awhile for good ideas to get here.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 02:18 PM
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I regularly lane split in CA in the Palm Desert area.

Coming up to stopped traffic lights, I filter up to the front, slowly. If I think lights are about to go green, I hang back-cagers wander around when they set off.

In slow moving (under 30mph) freeway or two lane side road traffic, I'll slowly filter through. Sometimes you'll get an Ahole looking in his rear view mirror and he'll deliberately move over to try and make the space to small. I change lanes and keep out of his way. When coming up to construction and a guy with a stick or pilot car-I'll again slowly move to the front.

Same with boarder crossing in Mexico and in Canada, coming back into the US, filter slowly to the front and choose a nice old lady, wave and smile, pull in front of her. Many Mexican crossings have a bike filter lane that allows you to go to the front of the line.

Both Canadian and Washington state ferry's allow you to go to the front of the line-first on first off.


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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 02:39 PM
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The law is mute on lane sharing in that it doesn't allow it or disallow it. It's merely acceptable with one major caveat: it's at the officer's discretion to determine if you're engaged in an unsafe activity. There is no limit on how much faster than traffic you can be going. If traffic's crawling along at 35 you could, technically, go 70 (assuming that's the freeway's limit; it's 65 in much of the state), but by most standards that'd be unsafe and ticketable. I have done 25-35 between the HOV (carpool) lane and the #1 lane with both lanes stopped, while following a CHiP. The HOV-1 gap tends to be much larger.

I regularly split at freeway speeds to get myself into open spots away from other traffic. I also filter on city streets, particularly to and away from stoplights. I'd recommend you experiment with the latter first. If you do split lanes on the freeway, stay away from the HOV-1 and 1-2 gaps to begin with as you might find yourself with several guys stacked up behind you due to the relative experience levels; you don't need the extra worry factor. The size of the gap and the speed you're comfortable with will change as you become more comfortable splitting. I've unintentionally scared the ever-loving crap out of passengers in cages I've been driving by putting the car into a spot that they wouldn't have thought it would have gone (most often when making a right turn at a stoplight and filtering to the front to do so); I've been splitting for my entire driving career (first vehicle was a bike).

Keep in mind that while our awareness as motorcyclists is necessarily heightened (if it isn't, consider stopping riding), you really have to turn it up to split. Guy dropping coffee in his lap and jerking the wheel a tiny bit can turn a great day into an ugly one. A good amount of awareness (constant scanning, including other vehicles' mirrors to see if the car that's crowding the line is using his mirror [changing lanes] or is just completely oblivious to his lane position), covering the front brake, careful throttle control, and tending to stay in a higher gear than you normally would (to allow for increased engine braking and faster acceleration if you need it) are all good practices.

BTW, lane splitting, lane sharing, and filtering are all the same, though filtering tends to connote that traffic's stopped, at least Stateside.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to all of you who took the time to write up an answer for me - should be a GREAT trip!
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-19-2009, 12:39 AM
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Word to the wise fasteddie...If you have never lane shared, don't do it. You have to build up to it. The Gorilla and Mac have been doing it a long time and it takes a certain skill set above and beyond normal riding. I rarely do it and if I do traffic is either stopped or 5 mph or less. But I don't do much freeway time. 90% of all freeway accidents on Bay Area freeways are from cagers doing in bikers lane sharing or bikers going to fast and the cager pulls a lane change, intentional or not, and blamo. Check out youtube if you wanna see what lane sharing can do to your day...Have a great trip and beware that Ca drivers favorite pastime is, no not talking on the cell, but texting...

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-19-2009, 12:52 AM
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Ed - I see some good responses that are worth emphasizing a little.

For those who grew up in places where lane-splitting/filtering is common practice it may seem trivial, but I know a lot of people here in the US who like the idea, yet when they get to California they find out it's outside their comfort zone to be so close to other traffic. If it doesn't feel comfortable in a particular situation, just wait for a better opportunity to pass.

In addition to all those good tips Gorilla gave above, keep in mind that there is almost always another (local) rider behind you and he will likely want to go faster than you are (especially if he happens to be a CHiP moto officer ), so now you have to check your mirrors to see what's about to lane share with you as you make your way between lines of car traffic. Some people are nicer than others when they overtake you. Keep an eye on the mirror so it doesn't startle you.

One more point worth mentioning, lane splitting does not mean weaving back and forth between lanes, that will lead to a ticket. Remember to signal when changing lanes, even if you are splitting.

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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-19-2009, 11:56 AM
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I've been lane-spitting in California for at least 30 years now. I can't imagine what it would be like to ride here without lane splitting! You can't imagine the freeway traffic in the Los Angeles area (24 -7)!! If you sit there in traffic on a bike you may as well hang it up, because it's a waste of time to ride in that case.

As for how to do it --- total concentration! No day-dreaming, anticipate the idiocy of most drivers (eating, talking, text-messaging etc...) leave room for a quick out, be good on your brakes (FRONT brake can be up to 100% of your stopping power) and generally don't split at more than about 10mph faster than what traffic is doing.

It's not as crazy as it sounds -- and all the Highway Patrol do it -- and for some reason they never wear leather jackets but always seem to wear only short-sleeved shirts, even if it is 40 degrees outside!? What's with that?
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-21-2009, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Kawcon View Post
I've been lane-spitting in California for at least 30 years now. I can't imagine what it would be like to ride here without lane splitting!
I hate sitting in traffic....lane splitting is one of the few things I miss from LA.

1. Don't go too fast, maybe 15-20mph faster than traffic.
2. Best place to split is in the carpool lane, less lane changes.
3. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's smart, there are a lot of places and times where splitting just isn't a good idea.
4. watch out for idiots...Not just cars. There's always someone who thinks they can ride a 70mph wheelie through stopped cars. These same people usually aren't very good with the brakes.

Be careful, but have fun........And if a car starts merging into you take off his mirror and use it to destroy him.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-21-2009, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by darcym View Post
...Also, most car pool lanes (if not all) in CA are ok for motorcycles.
HOV lanes are open for motorcycles across the US. Federal law covers it and if a state gives you a ticket, you can easily have it overturned. See this article:
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