California is the only state in the union who has made lane splitting, when a motorcycle straddles two lanes of traffic, officially legal.
“I only lane-split when traffic is stopped or crawling, and I don’t go more than 10, or 15 miles per hour faster than traffic, I’m pretty conservative.” said motorcyclist of 15 years, Danae Zoule. While California has made this legal, in 37 states it is illegal, and the rest have a large grey area on the legality of the practice.
“It’s not really safe for cyclists to crawl along with the rest of the traffic,” Joshua MacAran, motorcyclist for the last 2 years, says, “other drivers don’t seem to understand how fast a motorcycle can brake, and they don’t leave enough room to not crush us during a fast stop.”
“One time I had to bail out when I was on my bike,” said Sean Vansnickel, motorcyclist of 12 years. “The car behind me didn’t allow enough time to stop, so I jumped in the bed of the truck in front of me.”
According to one of the very few studies on motorcycle behavior and safety, lane splitting has been found safe, when traffic is going up to 50 mph, and the motorcyclist does not exceed 65 mph. This UC Berkeley study also found only 17 percent of motorcycle accidents occurred during lane splitting, and less than 2 percent were fatalities.
The California Highway Patrol declined to be interviewed at this time.
“I do get mad at other motorcyclists I see speeding recklessly through traffic at high speeds, they give the rest of us a bad name.” Ms. Zoule said.
All the motorcyclists agreed that the best thing drivers can do for motorcycle safety is to be aware and give them more space than you think they need. The best thing motorcyclists can do is take a motorcycle safety course, wear your protective gear, and be conservative when passing.