Mixer: Lane-splitting motorcyclists

Written by


I don’t have to tell you how much time we spend in our cars here in Southern California. You’re probably reading this in your car right now.

I hope not.

Because it’s hard (and illegal) enough to take your eyes off the road to avoid crunching the guy in front of you. You also have to look left or right to make sure you don’t cause another disaster: causing a motorcycle mishap.

See, motorcycles not only fill our LA freeway lanes, they also line our lanes, most times zooming in and through traffic like a hot knife through butter.

But not as tasty. Or popular.

There’s actually been polling done by the California Office for Traffic Safety, and they asked drivers how they feel about motorcycle lane splitting. Most interesting, perhaps, is that a small number of people in the poll actually swerved on purpose to get in the way of a motorbike.

The DMV driver handbook said: “Lane splitting should not be performed by inexperienced riders,” before advising on safe and unsafe lane-splitting techniques.

But even with those wise words of DMV advice, lots of folks I know would say it’s still truly dangerous and downright crazy. Defenders say it’s safer for everybody – especially cyclists.

You’ll be interested to know that California is the only state that does not outlaw the practice.

Could that change? Maybe.

The California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles used to issue guidelines on how to split lanes safely, but recently have withdrawn them.

Joe Mathews and Charles Fleming talked to us about the lane-splitting practice on this week’s Mixer.

Joe is California Columnist for Zocalo Public Square, and Charles covers transportation for the LA Times, and is a rider himself.