53 percent of drivers unaware of lane splitting, 7 percent try to block motorcycles

Dailies -



According to a survey conducted by the California Office of Traffic Safety, the majority of car drivers are unaware that lane splitting is a legal practice. A small minority, seven percent, admitted to researchers that they’d actively tried to prevent lane splitting. Despite that, the vast majority, 84.4 percent of riders, have never had an incident while splitting.

A lot of what’s in this report is statistical confirmation of common sense and what you and I observe every day:

- The vast majority of riders are male (93.4 percent) and middle aged (30.4 percent are 45-54).
- Most riders use motorcycles only for leisure (45.9 percent), but plenty use them for both commuting and leisure riding (30.8 percent).
- More riders lane split on freeways (77.6 percent) than on surface streets (63.9 percent)
- You’re more likely to be hit by a car while lane splitting on the freeway (11.7 percent) than on surface streets (8.3 percent
- Only 1.7 percent of riders admit to splitting while traffic is traveling at 70mph or faster.
- 10mph above the speed of traffic is the most popular splitting pace (42.1 percent).
- Distracted drivers (30.0 percent) and drivers not bothering to check mirrors before changing lanes (32.5 percent) are seen as the biggest dangers.
- You’re more likely to lane split the more often you ride.

The study is timed to coincide with the launch of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, in which the state will pay lip service to driver awareness, but the drivers will be too busy texting to notice.

“OMG, did u watch Idol????”

“Totez. Just hit a bike. LOL”

It’ll be ignored, but the OTS issues the following advice to motorists on how to avoid hitting a biker while texting:

- Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering
or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
- Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not
self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is
going to turn before you proceed.
- Allow more following distance – three or four seconds – when behind a motorcycle so the
motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
- Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
Never drive while distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Helpfully, there’s also advice for keeping yourself alive:

- Avoiding riding in poor weather conditions;
- Wearing brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-compliant helmet;
- Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it;
- Combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves;
- Using reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity;
- Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers; and
Never driving while impaired.

Hand signals and reflective tape? Yeah, some bureaucrat is still convinced it’s 1962. For better advice, check out our comprehensive guide to lane splitting. And watch out for all those intercept surveyors out there.

  • NitroPye

    “Only 1.7 percent of riders admit to splitting while traffic is traveling at 70mph or faster.”

    Looks like I sometimes fall into the 1%.

    • The other Wes

      I’m still not interested in wearing my 1% patch.

      • NitroPye

        Its not like I’m flying down the road. I just find it much safer to be “in the split” so when traffic slows down dramatically as it so often does I’ll be in a safe spot.

    • sanjuro

      Why would I admit that?

      • NitroPye

        Read my above comment. Splitting when traffic is going 70 during rush hour isn’t uncommon or particuarly daring.

  • pplassm

    “Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a car – car drivers are sometimes idiots who forget to turn them off.”


  • Coreyvwc

    Sounds pretty accurate, but it’s the 53% that aren’t aware of lane splitting that scares me. Most urban drivers seem to be aware that lane splitting is legal but as soon as you leave the city shit gets scary really quick…

  • tomwito

    I live in Florida, pretty sure its not leagal here. But anyway when there is an accident on I-95 I will split lanes. I had a couple incidents of a-holes swerving at me. Well this year on our way to Daytona there was an accident with a 4 mile back up. I was with my wife (brand new rider).I had a Semi swerve at me and my wife said she had several cars do it to her. She’s new somewhat timid so she stopped and just sat in traffic. After we finally got through her bikes voltage regulator fried. We managed to get the bike to run and made it to Daytona where it died again. The fucked up thing is, whats worse? Seeing somone pass you on a bike and you’re stuck in a car? Or you swerve and accidentally kill someone because you’re in a car and stuck in traffic?

    • robotribe

      One would think that letting motorcycles filter through and out of a congested road or highway would be good for everyone else in a car: fewer vehicles in your lane. Shorter line. That’s one or more fewer people creating traffic.

      • tomwito

        Well you would have to first “THINK”. Obviously they are not thinking because what they are basically doing is shoting a gun at you to teach you a lesson. But it’s a car so they don’t think of it as a weapon.

    • Gene

      Florida drivers are clueless assholes. They don’t even know the rules for a 4-way stop. I’ve also stopped at a stopsign and had oncoming traffic stop for no reason and wave me through, to the point I had to give them the “you’re #1″ sign to get things moving again. This has happened a couple dozen times.

      I have helmetcam footage of a dozen folks just swerving over w/o bothering to look, as I was passing them in my own lane, not even splitting lanes.

      So I can chalk it up to “they’re ALL dicks”

      And no, it’s not legal here, I got a ticket for losing my temper and lanesplitting around a guy that cut me off… right in front of a Sheriff. Oops. “Don’t lose your temper & situational awareness”

      In Florida, you can kill a couple bicyclists or motorcyclists, and only get an $80 fine and 100hrs community service, if they bother to even charge you. So people don’t have any incentive to drive well.

      • tomwito

        Yeah, that pretty much sums up any morning in sunny Florida.

      • robotribe

        THIS, plus the annoyance of the speed limit seemingly changing every mile. WTF is up with that? 535 has 3 different speed limits inside of 4 miles.

        • Gene

          Shoot, go up to Sanford… there’s a bunch of roads that are 20mph one direction/45mph the other direction. I beat a ticket on one such about a year ago when I pointed this out to the judge and had pics to back it up.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Survey says: majority of drivers are idiots. Watch the fuck out for them.

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      They did the same one in europe, same results.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub Sean MacDonald (the other Sean)

    living in la, i didnt realize how bad this was til a video was posted on here a while back and i followed a few links.

    mind blowing what people think is an appropriate reaction for being frustrated by someone else being allowed to pass them.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      A couple years back some fool DJs in SF encouraged drivers to open their doors on lane-splitters. They got slapped and had to apologize, but their excuse was they didn’t know splitting was legal. All-in-all the ruckus they caused probably led to a lot more people knowing it exists.

    • dan

      Had that this morning in Manhattan filtering up at red light. Who knew Volvo drivers could be so enraged. Better than Friday when in bumper to bumper a (NYC) express bus was following too close on highway. I waved him back a little nicely. He then proceeded to purposefully push my motorcycle forward with his bus.

      • Ankur V

        Driving in Manhattan, I can only conclude that bus drivers are 2nd in craziness only to the taxi drivers.

        • dan

          Actually I find Manhattan traffic better to ride in. The streets are all one way and you assume everyone is trying to kill you from the outset. Its the suburbs and soccer moms that scare the shit out of me.

  • stephen

    How many car drivers would know what the hand signals really mean?

    • Sean Smith

      Kicking a foot out in the direction you’re about to change lanes is a good way to get your point across. The traditional hand signals for ‘stop’ and ‘right’ probably wont.

  • Gene

    Man, I hate that shitty reader… can you guys just embed PDFs like normal people?

    • Jeromy

      Glade someone else said it, I don’t even try to use it any more, just not worth the effort.

    • stefano

      works really well with crome and 10.7

      • Gene

        Well, it means I have to go up and enable flash, then I have to open it full screen, then I have to figure out/remember how to select “single page” to make it a readable size.

        Then I read a couple pages and get an IM or important email popup.

        This means it closes the window. This also means it forgets which page I was on. And it forgets that I selected single page.

        So to keep reading, I have to go back, reset the mode again, and go find the page I was on.

        As opposed to an industry-standard PDF that I can read using Acrobat Reader, FoxIt, xpdf, GhostScript, or whatever blows my skirt up and works best on my OS/phone/tablet/touchscreen-embedded-penis.

  • Scott-jay

    Lane splitting is permitted in: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, California, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, U.A.E., and United Kingdom.
    Stupidity is permitted globally.

    • Campisi

      It’s allowed in Korea, mainly because they won’t bother to stop you. The roads can be narrow, though, so watch your mirrors.

    • filly-fuzz

      In Australia I have split past many coppers and have never been stopped, freeway or otherwise.
      Although i think WA actually has a loophole that allows splitting.

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      It’s also tolerated in france. You still get tickets sometimes, usually in big cities, but more often than not it’s okay, i’ve been lane splitting in paris for 3.5 years and never got pulled for that.
      It’s not specifically banned in france so they usually use others (3!) infractions to ticket you, if memory serves it’s improper distance, passing another vehicule on the right and cuting a line (when applicable). They love to combine tickets here, if you make to much noise it’s usually 3 tickets (with a grand total of $230).

      They’re actually studying the results in belgium to decide this year (supposedly) to make it fully legal.
      Fingers crossed it’s not like the 100hp law and actually gets done.

      • JMcMahon

        We are all aware of Le Filtrage.

        • Campisi

          Maybe soon he will finally be able to end his exile to Albion…

        • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

          If you want to impress your french moto counterparts, it’s actually called L’interfile (literally “between lines”).

  • Holden and Annette

    Wes, you crack me up.

    My wife was driving the minivan over the weekend and I was in the passenger seat and we stopped at a red light. I pointed at the car next to us: “Texting,” I said. I pointed to the car behind that one: “Texting.” I pointed to the car behind THAT one: “Talking on a cellphone.”

    “Really? How do you know that?”

    “Oh, you’ll be aware of all of that after you’ve ridden a few thousand miles on South Florida roads.”

    • robotribe

      Same crap in Central Florida. People drive with their phones glued to their fucking ears here like it’s required.

      • Gene

        Plus we have Disney tourists in Orlando. “What’s worse than a tourist with a GPS? A tourist without one!”

        Since I work by the int’l airport, about once every 3 months, some Limey’ll come down the road on the wrong side.

  • james

    Moved to Dallas, tx after 30+ years in CA.
    I have had more than one conversation with drivers who admit that they would open a door on a motrcyclist to prevent them from passing.
    Suggesting possible homicide to satisfy their not being passed, the answer is usually a pause and a yes….
    F the other 49 states.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

      When it’s not clearly legal and communicated to drivers as such, psychotic reactions aren’t surprising to me. Hell, if someone taps their brakes for no apparent reason, most people seem to get a bit outraged. It’s just not surprising.

      So, like the motto goes, don’t mess with Texas.

    • filly-fuzz

      Opening doors to prevent moto’s passing is NEVER an acceptable reaction, EVER.
      It’s an ego thing and is utter bullshit.

      I mean if you saw a bloke huffin’ a joint, you would have no right to spear tackle/beat him would you?

    • pplassm

      Just curious, if someone actually did do that, wouldn’t 700 lbs of bike/rider moving at 20 MPH just take the door right off?

      Anyone have any experience, or observations of this?

      • tbowdre

        i would love to know the result of car door versus bike as well

    • Stefan

      Texas seems like the place it would be legal to shoot someone in response to this.

    • sanjuro

      If someone said to me they open car doors on motorcyclists, I would just respond with, “You might be joking, but since I ride, you have just threatened my life. Prepare to be beaten.”

      Maybe I’m joking too.

  • $Lindz$

    Yeah being a bike enthusiast outside of CA must SUCK!

    For real, NYC is a fucking jungle but that pales in comparison to riding in Quebec/Montreal. We tripped up there one summer and those fuckers literally tried to kills us with their family-full minivans just for filtering through stopped traffic and later when LEGALLY passing like a normal person.

    I’ll deal with LA traffic on a bike any day… wide lanes, legal to split, good weather… Thank You!

    • Scott-jay

      Yeahbut, it’s enduring moto-media that seemingly blooms only in California. It sours the other-state riding experience. : )

  • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

    The peninsula seems way cooler than the east bay about lane splitting. Every [non tourist] car that sees you coming including COPS will move out of your way even when its totally unnecessary for you to pass. I’ve been CLEARLY blocked by a couple SUV’s and hit off my bike by a jetta before in the Concord area. The jetta claimed she didnt see me but this Expedition in the left lane deliberately blocked me from passing him on the right, so I took the shoulder and he WENT INTO THE CENTER SHOULDER to block me. Nothing but cunts in that area.

    • Gene

      THIS is why I switch my gopro helmet cam on EVERY single time I ride.

      What is strange is since I’ve had it, people do drive noticeably better around me. It used to be every day I had a dickweed-driver story, but since I started using the ‘cam, it’s down to about once a month.

      • Gregory

        Maybe you ride more conservatively when your cam is turned on.

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

      Its funny you mention that, because if I’m cross the BB in the afternoon towards the east bay, people are dicks.

      But if I’m crossing the BB in the afternoon towards SF, people pull over to give me room, and usually give a friendly wave.

      • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

        I think your average driver just hates the feeling of driving on the lower deck. They hate the top deck too but theyll rarely if never move out of your way on the bottom. Plus bottom deck traffic is tired and going home. Tops a lot of tourists in the afternoon.

    • NitroPye

      I ride 880 from SJ up to the Oakland area every day and have no problems. Its mostly a parking lot anyways so no one really gets in my way.

      • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

        I dont remember the last time i was on 880 down past San Leandro, but i dont recall any major incidents either. Between SL and the Maze it’s just a cruddy looking road so people seem to spread out across all lanes and go the same speed. In a car you have to deal more with “tetris traffic” than anything. 680′s where I’ve been racking up the close calls.

        America needs to adopt some autobahn rules because whenever there’s a fast lane and a slow lane, cars will jump into the fast lane without signaling, speeding up, or checking mirrors them for faster-paced vehicles. If cars just stayed to the right whenever possible there’d be no accidents.

  • gk848evo

    Somebody told me once:

    1.)Ride as if you were invisible – Cars don’t even know your there so don’t expect them to accommodate you.

    2.)Pretend if they could see you they would try to kill you.

    I’ve been hit three times at the front of a stoplight with impatient drivers mad that I was able to cruise right up to the front. They try to race me off the line and drifted right into me. WTF?!!!

  • Keith

    “increase conspicuity;”
    OK, who’s idea was it to use a word like conspicuity?
    I looked everywhere for conspicuity sticker or reflectors and all I found were things for better….VISIBILITY.
    Conspicuity? Give me a fucking break…er…brake…er… :)
    Anyway, extra reflecting stickers,driving lights, brake light and hi vis jacket and helemet for me.
    Still invisible…

    • M

      conspicuousness would be the preferred noun. conspicuity is secondary, though actually older. if anyone needs verification that the former is preferred to the latter, see which of the two gets flagged by chrome or firefox as misspelled.

    • Gregory

      I started wearing an ugly, 1970s style orange/ yellow reflective vest because you’re not allowed on base without one. Or, at least without some sort of retro-reflective item on your upper body.

      Most punks just wear a thin diagonal stripe. I went with full-on reflective vest.

      It matches my Kareem Abdul-Jabbar glasses.

      No one has ever changed lanes into me while I was wearing it. But, then again, maybe I’m just a better rider when I wear it. Who knows?

  • markbvt

    And all of this is just part of why I hate big cities. I’ll stick to my rural state where lane splitting isn’t legal but we also don’t have much traffic, so there’s no need for it.

    • pplassm

      Bravo. Good point!

    • MotoRandom

      I’m in Minnesota. I know of 2 riders that have been hit by deer in rural areas. They both survived their crashes but got busted up something fierce. Last summer, about 10 miles south of the populated metro area a couple in their 50s were hit by a little old lady turning left into her rural driveway. Both died on the scene. You are never safe, anywhere. Constant vigilance is key to survival on a motorcycle and wear as much gear as you can possibly get on your body to lesson the damage when the worse happens.

  • M

    hopefully as technology improves and the rule of law declines, motorcycles will soon be fitted with lasers that constantly track other vehicles and fire on them if their trajectory is calculated to result in an impact.

  • Justin

    I can definitely confirm there’s AT LEAST 7% that try to block.

  • parkwood60

    Opening doors? bring it on, I’ll take it right off as likely as not. Its when they suddenly swerve that its really dangerous. I used to be an L.A. motorcycle messenger, and I’ve kicked off mirrors for stuff like that.

    If the Gvmt really wanted to stop the intentional stuff they’d have PSAs that point out how if I damage your car with my bike or boot, that’s a civil matter for the insurance companies. If you hit me with your car on purpose that a case of assault with a deadly weapon and you could do some real jail time.

    That being said, traffic, just like all other matter, is mostly space, you just have to know how to use it.

  • Kristopher Burham

    Whine whine whine…
    Comments here seem to be out of touch with the other 99% of the population. Everyone in the community agreeing with each other and ignoring the rest of the world. Here’s how it sounds “those people are stupid for getting mad at me when I break traffic laws and cut in line in front of them”. It’s incredibly hypocritical to talk about cars not obeying traffic laws (cell and drive, no shoulder check, etc…) while you admit to speeding and illegal lane splitting. Drivers feel the same way about you as they would someone driving a cars that speeds past them and illegally passes on the shoulder. Motorcyclists want to be treated as a car when it suits then (I deserve my own lane, don’t try to share it) and as something special when it doesn’t (I should be able to lane split and jump the queue). I have 4 bikes and no car. Ride is all I do. Everywhere, every day. I don’t have much problem with angry or aggressive drivers. Maybe that’s because I don’t ride like an ass. When you’re driving much faster than surrounding traffic and then put your bike where people don’t expect it to be, what do you expect the result to be? Biker ‘I am special’ mentality is a large part of the problem. They are a very small amount of the traffic but want rules and roads optimized for them. Keep telling the 99% that they are wrong and should adapt to you. Let me know how that works out for ya!

    • Kristopher Burham

      NOBODY wants to wait it out in slow traffic or a jam. That guy in a Mini or Smart car, you think he wants to be there? Definitely there’s room for him to get out on the shoulder and just pass everyone. That would be ok, right?
      A sense of fairness (I’m waiting so you should wait) is human nature. Even monkeys knows that!

      • M

        i don’t think people are saying it’s unjust for motorists to get mad at them, they’re saying it’s unjust for motorists to try to murder them. it’s a difference with distinction.

        • KB

          To say that they are TRYING to murder them is a huge exageration. It’s a difference of scale. Exactly how many bikers have actually been killed in this way (someone trying to teach them a lesson about lane splitting)? I also think a lot of what bikers ascribe to malice is actually done without intent. Drivers may change their lane position for many many reasons and don’t expect anything to be between them and the car in the next lane. If lane splitting is legal somewhere, do it. If it’s not and you do, don’t be surprised that people aren’t looking for you and it’s dangerous.

          • M

            exactly how many? precisely how many are enough?

            malice without intent is negligence, i’d say. yes, you take your life into your own hands when you break the rules. another rule is being aware of the surroundings of any vehicle you’re driving/riding and maintaining control. the simple fact of the matter is that a motorcyclist’s bias is necessary for his or her survival.

            and, as was pointed out, this is an article based on statistics from a jurisdiction where splitting is perfectly legal.

    • Campisi

      “Sure, I destroyed the door of my own car while making an widow of that rider’s wife and orphans of his children, but hey, he was going to get ahead of me. Petty anger and ignorance warrants murder, right?”

      • KB

        Yes, murder, no exageration there…
        Please oh please send me a link to anything that shows someone opening their car door to a lane splitter has resulted in even ONE death in the last year?
        But hey, keep on thinking you’re right. By your own account, the results are obvious. You’re dead, your wife and kids have no husband/father, and the other guy has to replace his car door (probably covered by insurance). Boy, you sure showed them!

      • KB

        Bikers are putting THEMSELVES in danger by riding where they are not allowed and not expected to be.

  • Devin

    California, where the study is done, allows lane splitting.

    • KB

      Agree that it’s legal in Cali. Most of the comments however are coming from places where it is NOT legal.

      • luxlamf

        The places that its Not legal Suck to ride in. I wouldn’t have 89,000 miles in 6 years on my bike if weren’t allowed.

  • LawBreaker

    I ride daily here in Los Angeles.. home to the worst traffic AND drivers in the nation. Lane splitting is the norm for me and I have close calls daily.. from distracted drivers, drivers HUA and drivers who get pissed ‘cuz you’re getting to your destination before they are. A rider needs to be “heads-up” and constantly look for for signs of eff’ed up drivers and avenues of escape from them..

    It’s still better than cagin’ it !

  • luxlamf

    If it where not for Legal Lane Splitting here in CA I doubt I would own a Bike. Traveled to Dallas for work and borrowed a friends bike while there, no fun what so ever sitting there waiting to get rear ended in the blazing sun etc… You think LA is bad, try Dallas Traffic.

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  • http://www.cidpusa.org Dr Imran Khan

    some go by you like a bullet others slow down and give you a chance to move to one side of the lane