refers to a two-wheeled vehicle moving between lanes of vehicles that are proceeding in the same direction. More narrowly, it refers to passing stopped or slower moving traffic between lanes at a speed greater than surrounding traffic.
It is also sometimes called lane sharing
Lane sharing is the practice of operating a vehicle in a traffic lane in a manner that allows other traffic to use the unused portion of the lane, or to pass slower traffic in the lane by using an unused portion of the lane. When lane sharing is done for the purpose of passing slow or stopped...
, whitelining, filtering, or stripe-riding.
Alternatively, lane splitting
has been used to describe moving through traffic that is in motion while filtering
is used to describe moving through traffic that is stopped.
Lane splitting by motorcycles is generally legal in Europe, and in Japan and several other countries, and is illegal in many U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...
s, but is considered lawful in California (see list below).
The legal restrictions on lane splitting for bicyclists can be the same, such as in California.
In some jurisdictions, such as Nebraska, lane-splitting is prohibited specifically, and only, for motorcyclists.
In the developing world
In population-dense and traffic-congested urban areas, particularly in the developing world, the space between larger vehicles is filled with a wide variety of different kinds of two-wheeled vehicles, as well as pedestrians, and many other human or animal powered conveyances. In places such as Bangkok, Thailand and in Indonesia, the ability of motorcycles to take advantage of the space between cars has led to the growth of a motorcycle taxi
A motorcycle taxi is a licensed form of transport in some countries. Typically, they will carry one passenger , who rides as the pillion, behind the motorcycle operator.-Cambodia:...
industry. In Indonesia, the motorcycle is the most common type of vehicle.
Unlike typical developed nations that have only a handful of vehicle types on their roads, many types of transport will share the same roads as cars and trucks; this diversity is extreme in Delhi, India, where more than 40 modes of transportation regularly use the roads. In contrast, New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
, for example, has perhaps five modes, and in parts of America a vast majority of traffic is made up of two types of vehicles on the road, cars and trucks.
It has been suggested that highly diverse and adaptive modes of road use are capable of moving very large numbers of people in a given space compared with cars and trucks remaining within the bounds of marked lanes. On roads where modes of transportation are mingled this can cause a reduced efficiency for all modes.
, or filtering, is a technique used by bicyclists and motorcyclists to pass a stopped or slow-moving lane of congested traffic by traveling in unused lane space. When the space used is between two lines of vehicles, this is also known as lane splitting, but filtering can be accomplished by using space on the outside edge of same-direction traffic as well. There can be a significant saving of time by bypassing what otherwise would be obstructions.
Lane splitting is controversial in the United States, "It scares me when they come zooming up between lanes," said Liz Martin of El Cerrito. "You look in your mirror and go to change lanes and suddenly there's a motorcycle right there. I try to be cautious, but it just doesn't seem safe."
|date= 19-JAN-2007 | first=Kelli | last=Phillips | work=Contra Costa Times
}} and is sometimes an issue in other countries. Questions are debated as to whether or not it is legal, whether or not it should be legal, and whether or not it should be practiced regardless of legality. Bills to legalize lane splitting have been introduced in state legislatures around the US over the last twenty years but so far none have been enacted.
In Australia a furor erupted when the transport authorities decided to consolidate and clarify the disparate set of laws that collectively made lane splitting illegal. Because of the very opacity of the laws they were attempting to clarify, many Australians had actually believed that lane splitting was legal, and they had been practicing it as long as they had been riding. They interpreted the action as a move to change the law to make lane splitting illegal. Because of the volume of public comment opposed to this, the authorities decided to take no further action and so the situation remained as it was.
Filtering forward, in stopped or extremely slow traffic, requires very slow speed and awareness that in a door zone
The door zone is the space spanning about four feet from the sides of parallel parked cars. It is hazardous to ride a bicycle or motorcycle in a door zone because if a door is suddenly opened, the cyclist must either crash into it , brake suddenly, or swerve into the adjacent lane of traffic...
, vehicle doors may unexpectedly open. Also, unexpected vehicle movements such as lane changes may occur with little warning. Bus
A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are...
es and tractor trailers require extreme care, as the cyclist may be nearly invisible to the drivers who may not expect someone to be filtering forward. To avoid a hook collision with a turning vehicle at an intersection after filtering forward to the intersection, cyclists are taught to either take a position directly in front of the stopped lead vehicle, or stay behind the lead vehicle. Cyclists should not stop directly at the passenger side of the lead vehicle, that being a blind spot
A blind spot in a vehicle is an area around the vehicle that cannot be directly observed by the driver while at the controls, under existing circumstances...
There is no safety research in the United States which has directly examined the question of lane splitting, in spite of the opportunity to compare similar populations of riders in the US who lane split in California but do not (legally) do so elsewhere. The European MAIDS report
The MAIDS report is a large-scale, comprehensive study of Powered Two Wheelers accidents carried out across five European countries, using both accident and exposure cases, as was done in the Hurt Report, and following the standards of OECD...
studied the causes of motorcycle accidents in four countries where it is legal and one where it is not, yet reached no conclusion as to whether it contributed to or prevented accidents.
Proponents of lane splitting state the Hurt Report
The Hurt Report was a motorcycle safety study conducted in the United States, initiated in 1976 and published in 1981. The report is named after its primary author, Professor Harry Hurt.Noted motorcycle journalist David L...
of 1981 reached the conclusion that lane splitting improves motorcycle safety by reducing rear end crashes. Lane splitting supporters also state that the US DOT
The United States Department of Transportation is a federal Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with transportation. It was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, and began operation on April 1, 1967...
Fatality Analysis Reporting System was created in the United States by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide an overall measure of highway safety, to help suggest solutions, and to help provide an objective basis to evaluate the effectiveness of motor vehicle safety...
database shows that fatalities from rear end collisions into motorcycles are 30% lower in California than in Florida or Texas, states with similar riding seasons and populations but which do not lane split. No specifics are given about where this conclusion is found in the FARS system. The database is available online to the public. The NHSTA
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an agency of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, part of the Department of Transportation...
does say, based on the Hurt Report, that lane splitting "slightly reduces" rear-end accidents, and is worthy of further study due to the possible congestion reduction benefits.
Lane splitting is never mentioned anywhere in the Hurt Report, and all of the data was collected in California, so no comparison was made between of lane splitting vs. non-lane splitting. The Hurt Report ends with a list of 55 specific findings
, such as "Fuel system leaks and spills are present in 62% of the motorcycle accidents in the post-crash phase. This represents an undue hazard for fire." None of these findings mentions lane splitting, or rear end collisions. The legislative and law enforcement advice that follows this list does not mention lane splitting or suggest laws be changed with regard to lane splitting.
In Europe, the MAIDS Report was conducted using Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...
(OECD) standards in 1999–2000 and collected data on over 900 motorcycle accidents in five countries, along with non-accident exposure data (control cases) to measure the contribution of different factors to accidents, in the same way as the Hurt Report. Four of the five countries where data was collected allow lane splitting, while one does not, yet none of the conclusions contained in the MAIDS Final Report note any difference in rear-end accidents or accidents during lane splitting. It is notable that the pre-crash motion of the motorcycle or scooter was lane-splitting in only 0.4% of cases, in contrast to the more common accident situations such as "Moving in a straight line, constant speed" 49.1% and "Negotiating a bend, constant speed" 12.1%. The motorcyclist was stopped in traffic prior to 2.8% of the accidents.
Preliminary results from a study in the United Kingdom, conducted by the University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is a public research university based in Nottingham, United Kingdom, with further campuses in Ningbo, China and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia...
for the Department for Transport
In the United Kingdom, the Department for Transport is the government department responsible for the English transport network and a limited number of transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are not devolved...
, show that filtering is responsible for around 5% of motorcycle Killed or Seriously Injured
Killed or Seriously Injured is a standard metric for safety policy, particularly in transportation and road safety.-United Kingdom definitions:...
It also found that in these KSI cases the motorist is twice as likely to be at fault as the motorcyclist due to motorists "failing to take into account possible motorcycle riding strategies in heavy traffic".
Debate over safety and benefits
Proponents state that the practice relieves congestion by removing commuters from cars and gets them to use the unused roadway space between the cars.
In the US, transportation engineers have suggested that motorcycles are too few, and will remain too few, to justify any special accommodation or legislative consideration, such as lane splitting. Unless it becomes likely that very large number of Americans will switch to motorcycles, they will offer no measurable congestion relief even with lane splitting. Rather, laws and infrastructure should merely incorporate motorcycles into normal traffic with minimal disruption and risk to riders.
Potentially, lane splitting can lead to road rage on the part of drivers. The California Highway Patrol's official policy is that lane splitting is "permissible but must be done in a safe and prudent manner".
California's DMV handbook for motorcycles advises significant caution regarding lane splitting: "Cars and motorcycles each need a full lane to operate safely. Lane sharing is not
safe. Riding between rows of stopped or moving cars in the same lane can leave you vulnerable. A car could turn suddenly or change lanes, a door could open, or a hand could come out of a window. Discourage lane sharing by others."
The Oxford Systematics report commissioned by VicRoads
VicRoads or the Roads Corporation of Victoria is a statutory corporation which is the state road and traffic authority in the state of Victoria, Australia. It is responsible for maintenance and construction of the state arterial road network, as well as driver licensing and vehicle registration. ...
, the traffic regulating authority in Victoria
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....
, Australia, found that for motorcycles filtering through stationary traffic "No examples have yet been located where such filtering has been the cause of an incident.
In the United Kingdom, Motorcycle ROADCRAFT
Roadcraft refers to the system of car or motorcycle control outlined in two books Roadcraft: The Police Driver's Handbook and Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider's Handbook.- Overview :...
, the police riding manual, is explicit about the advantages of filtering but also states that "The advantages of filtering along or between stopped or slow moving traffic have to be weighed against the disadvantages of increased vulnerability while filtering
After discussing the pros and cons at great length, motorcycle safety guru David L. Hough
David L. Hough is an American writer on motorcycle rider safety, education and training.He has been, or currently is a columnist for Motorcycle Consumer News, Sound RIDER! and BMW Owners News magazines, and has several published books...
ultimately argues that a rider, given the choice to legally lane split, is probably safer doing so, than to remain stationary in a traffic jam. However, Hough has not gone on record as favoring changing the law in jurisdictions where it is not permitted, in contrast to his public education and legislative efforts in favor of rider training courses and helmet use.
A literature review of lane-sharing by the Oregon Department of Transportation notes "a potential safety benefit is increased visibility for the motorcyclist. Splitting lanes allows the motorcyclist to see what the traffic is doing ahead and be able to proactively maneuver." However, the review was limited and "Benefits were often cited in motorcyclist advocacy publications and enthusiast articles."
A frequently asked question by motorcyclists is "Is lane splitting legal?" The legal confusion in Australia described above is not exceptional. In California no law explicitly and clearly prohibits lane splitting, and significantly, it has become the traditional policy of law enforcement, the courts, and the public in California to tolerate it when it is done safely. However, those engaged in unsafe behavior, including unsafe lane splitting, can still be cited for violating certain sections of the vehicle code.
Other jurisdictions have similar or identical legal codes on the books, yet their authorities have, over time, interpreted the law as prohibiting lane splitting in all cases, even when done safely, and so riders are cited for it.
Colorado and Nebraska are examples of jurisdictions where the law does explicitly prohibit lane splitting, while permitting motorcycles to ride two abreast, and making an exception for police officers.
Lane splitting is permitted in the following countries:
- Netherlands (jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...
assigns responsibility in case of accidents to the car driver )
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- United States
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...
has no laws explicitly prohibiting lane splitting, and is the only U.S. state for which official statements state that lane splitting, when done safely, is legal. California is not the only state for which there is no traffic law that explicitly prohibits lane splitting, but officials rely on other laws to regularly interpret lane splitting as unlawful. For example, New Mexico does not address lane splitting by name, but has language requiring turn signals be used continuously for at least 100 ft (30.5 m) before changing lanes, as well as other codes which may be cited by an officer. Many other states have identical codes, derived from the Uniform Vehicle Code
The Uniform Vehicle Code is a privately prepared set of United States traffic laws prepared by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, a private non-profit organization. Most of the members are state governments, in addition to some related organizations. The extent to which...
Sweden was previously listed as a country where it was legal but in a recent query to the department of transportation a number of chapters and paragraphs (specifically chapter 3, paragraphs 31 and 33) were quoted as to affirm their standpoint that lane splitting is illegal in Sweden.
The legality of lane sharing in Mexico will depend on the local transit rules. Mexico City has specifically banned the practice (chapter 3, article 86). Lane splitting is also illegal in Guadalajara (chapter 3, article 36)
All available from the United Kingdom Department of Transport websites (executive summary
), and the Transportation Research Board Record publication:
- WSP Policy and Research UK, Motorcycles and congestion: the effect of modal shift: Phase 3 policy testing. 2004, WSP for Uk Department for Transport: Cambridge UK. p. 44.
- WSP Policy and Research UK, Motorcycles and congestion: the effect of modal shift: Phase 2 - Modelling Methodology. 2004, WSP for Uk Department for Transport: Cambridge UK. p. 47.
- WSP Policy and Research UK, et al., Motorcycles and congestion: the effect of modal shift: Summary Final Report. 2004, WSP for Uk Department for Transport: Cambridge UK. p. 26.
- Burge, P., et al., The modelling of motorcycle ownership and usage: a UK study. Transportation Research Record J Transportation Research Board, 2007(2031): p. 59-68.