Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Do You Like Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is done by motorcycles when they ride on the dotted line between the lanes to overtake two vehicles that are driving side by side in two separate lanes. Southern Ontario is not a lane splitting place, probably the closest place where you can lane-split is California.  So I don't have a lot of experience with lane splitting, but I do remember being in California about 25 years ago, on a bike, and being in heavy freeway traffic I saw some motorcyclists pass me by lane splitting.  I was going to try the same thing, but as I gradually moved onto the white line, I narrowly missed being hit by another lane splitter who came from behind, at what I thought was a very high speed.  For the rest of my two days in California, I stuck to one lane.

Even in California, lane splitting is not completely accepted.  According to Wikipedia, less than 60% of car drivers in California think that lane splitting is legal.  Apparently, it is not fully protected in the highway code, and it is also not completely illegal.  It is tolerated by the police, but if a motorcyclist has an accident they don't have much legal protection.

Here are some of the problems I see with lane splitting.  Cars and trucks tend to move somewhat erratically from one side of their lane to another, and if the two vehicles on ether side of you randomly move closer to each other while you are trying to get between them, you may get trapped.  So lane splitting is more safely done when the traffic is stopped.  But many motorcyclists do lane splitting at high speeds, even above the speed limit in some cases, and even if the traffic is actually moving along quite well.

I could not begin to list all of the stupid things that some motorcyclists can do while lane splitting, but I know that not all the dumb moves are done by people driving cars.  But apparently there has never been a study done to prove that lane splitting is dangerous, and some studies seem to indicate that motorcyclists tend to get hit from the rear less while lane splitting. (common sense, really)

If I was to actually do some lane splitting, I would want to do it where it was legal, where all the car drivers knew about it, and where the lanes were a bit wider (like California). I would also want a different bike, with narrow handlebars (like 24" instead of my current 36" handlebars), and no saddlebags sticking out.  Hooking a car or truck with your handlebars is a sure way to lose control.

But getting back to Ontario, it seems Ontario has a culture of lining up.  Go to Tim Horton's and see what I mean.  Also, if there is a closed lane ten miles ahead, everybody lines up immediately and frowns at the occasional car that continues to drive in the "closed" lane.  I think of that as just about the complete opposite of lane splitting.  You have an entire legally marked lane there for ten miles until it is closed down by safety cones, but most people don't think you have the right to use it.

Lane splitting brings up all kinds of legal grey areas.  For example this next video features a motorist making an illegal lane change - because it is an HOV lane with a solid line where you are not allowed to change lanes until the line turns dotted.  But then is a motorcycle allowed to lane split on a solid line that cars are not allowed to cross?

Now from Cyril Huze motorcycle blog, three motorcyclists try to convince us that lane splitting should be allowed everywhere. I don't agree with everything they say, but one point in particular I think is wrong, and illustrates that maybe some of them slept through math class. A Toyota Prius does not get 0 mpg sitting in a traffic jam.   To get 0 mpg, you must be using some gas.  But a Prius has the engine turned off, and so mathematically you have zero divided by zero which is   "Undefined"

Picture: From this blog Motorcyclephilosophy.  Another thing I would not do while lane splitting is take pictures. But then I have a  handheld camera.


  1. 'When in Rome ...'

    I tend to look at this issue pragmatically.

    Although there is no specific provision against lane-splitting in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, riders have been convicted under Section 172 ('Stunting') ... c.f. R v Bunda 2009 ... as well as under other sections (including Section 132 - 'Careless Driving').

    But the practical reality is that, in Ontario, automobile drivers simply do not expect motorcycles to lane-split. Couple that with the generally poor levels of road courtesy and lack of attention among Ontario drivers, and one lane-splits at one's peril.

    Even 'filtering ahead' in Ontario is likely to result in minor expressions of road rage and menacing behaviour from automobile and truck drivers. One is almost guaranteed angry behaviours from some drivers when, as you point out, one does a 'late merge' from a closing lane.

    Lane-splitting may be part of local 'customs and usage' in other jurisdictions; it is not in Ontario, and the arguments for efficiency and safety become rather moot here.

  2. wow, you're pretty much a useless pussy and shouldn't ride at all. lane splitting SHOULD be legal everywhere.

    as someone who grew up in Southern Ontario and then moved to CA later and learned to ride motorcycles, I can tell right away from your little cute story about "almost getting hit by someone splitting lanes at a high rate of speed" that you're pretty much the reason why cars hate motorcyclists in Ontario. Morons that hold up traffic, are scared on their bikes, and generally make nuisances of themselves...that's pretty much motorcycles in Ontario in a nutshell.

    I returned home for a visit and borrowed a bike, and I lane split the entire time in Ontario without issue. I had afew incidents of butthurt retards getting angry, but if you learn how to do it properly in an area where it is legal (like California) you won't have problems doing it anywhere else safely.

    1. I am not sure whether Anonymous is referring to me as the reason car drivers hate motorcyclists, but I am a courteous driver. I often get truck drivers flashing lights to thank me for my help. I rarely if ever get car drivers honking, waving fingers, chasing me down the road yelling. At least not any more.

      Anonymous, you did not "move to California and learn to ride a motorcycle", you are in a long and continuous process of learning to ride a motorcycle, just like the rest of us. And with your attitude and lack of patience and immaturity, improvements may be slow.

      To recap my story about almost being run down by a lane splitter, I was not blaming the lane splitter for that incident, if anything I was blaming myself. I always try to look at how I could have averted a situation instead of blaming others. I was in an unfamiliar situation, and I failed to check for motorcycles lane-splitting behind me before moving into a lane splitting position myself. It was my first day in lane splitting territory, and I probably should have spent a bit more time observing how people were driving before trying something new myself. That's all.

      Now my suggestion for you: if you really like speed and want to improve your skills, take it to the track instead of on a public road. Much safer for you, and for others. If you behave badly on the track, you will have a chance to reason it out with other drivers face to face instead of engaging in honking and yelling matches on the road. And it is a great outlet for your hostility while acquiring more respect for people who know more than you.

  3. BTW the "few" incidents were 3 in over 4000kms of actual riding...

    - one tennesee truck driver moving over trying to block me on the 401, and actually other drivers in the left lane moved over so I had room to go past in spite of this
    - some guy honked at me in London, ON when I filtered to the front, but then nothing else came of it
    - a fatass and his fat girlfriend chased me in their little Geo Storm or similar in Kitchener, ON, yelling out their windows...ohhhh so scary!

    it was shameful how incompetent, scared, and pathetic most of the other riders I encountered in Ontario were! Big groups of cruisers going exactly 80km/h on backroads, holding up big lines of cars...slowing way down for curves they could negotiate at 180km/h if they wanted to, and just generally embarrassing me for even being on two wheels just by their existence.

  4. Another stupid posting from 'Anonymous' ...

    Really, you lane-split in Ontario ... because you can do it in California? So? Do you pass on the right in Quebec ... because you can do it in California? Do you drive on the right when you're in Britain ... because you can do it in California?

    Stop acting like such a 'useless pussy' and take some responsibility on the road, 'Anonymous'. ;-)