The CHP’s official line on lane splitting

Dailies -



Turns out this whole lane splitting shebang is totally legal and, if you do it right, it’s a safe and efficient way to travel. As an officially-sanctioned activity in the state, the California Highway Patrol even chimes in with some helpful advice.

Lane splitting in a safe and prudent manner is not illegal in the state of California.

The term lane splitting, sometimes known as lane sharing, filtering or white-lining, refers to the process of a motorcyclist riding between lanes of stopped or slower moving traffic or moving between lanes to the front of traffic stopped at a traffic light.

Motorcyclists who are competent enough riders to lane split, should follow these general guidelines if choosing to lane split:

1) Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic – danger increases at higher speed differentials.

- A speed differential of 10 miles per hour or less allows an alert, competent rider enough time to identify and react to most dangerous situations that can occur.

- The greater the speed differential, the less time a rider has to identify and react to a hazard.

2) It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster — danger increases as overall speed increases.

- At just 20 mph, in the 1 or 2 seconds it takes a rider to identify a hazard, that rider will travel approximately 30 to 60 feet before even starting to take evasive action. Actual reaction (braking or swerving) will take additional time and distance.

- Braking and stopping distance varies greatly based on a multitude of factors (rider, machine and environment).

- As speed increases, crash severity increases.

3) Typically, it is safer to split between the #1 and #2 lanes than between other lanes.

- Other road users are more accustomed to motorcycles splitting between the #1 and #2 (furthest left) lanes.

- Avoid splitting in lanes near freeway on-ramps and exits.

- Avoid splitting lanes when another motorcycle rider is splitting between other nearby lanes as cars may make additional room for one rider and accidentally reduce space for another.

4) Consider the total environment in which you are splitting, including the width of the lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, as well as roadway, weather, and lighting conditions.

- Some lanes are narrower than others, leaving little room to pass safely. If you can’t fit, don’t split.

- Some vehicles are wider than others — it is not advisable to split near wide trucks. If you can’t fit, don’t split.

- Know the limitations of your motorcycle — wide bars, fairing and bags require more space between vehicles. If you can’t fit, don’t split.

- Avoid splitting on unfamiliar roads to avoid surprises such as poor road surfaces.

- Seams in the pavement or concrete between lanes can be hazardous if they are wide or uneven.

- Poor visibility, due to darkness or weather conditions, makes it difficult for riders to see road hazards and makes it more difficult for drivers to see you.

- Help drivers see you by wearing brightly colored protective gear and using high beams during daylight.

5) Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users.

- Be very aware of what the cars around you are doing. If a space, or gap, opens up next to your lane, be prepared react accordingly.

- Always be prepared to take evasive action if a vehicle changes lanes.

- Account for inattentive or distracted drivers.

- Riders should not weave back and forth between lanes or ride on top of the line.

- Riders should avoid lingering in blind spots.

- Never ride while impaired by drugs, alcohol or fatigue.

- Constantly scan for changing conditions.

The Four R’s or “Be-Attitudes” of Lane Splitting:

Be Reasonable, be Responsible, be Respectful, be aware of all Roadway and traffic conditions.

- Be Reasonable means not more than 10 MPH faster than traffic flow and not over 39 MPH.

- Be Responsible for your own safety and decisions.

- Don’t put yourself in dangerous positions.

- If you can’t fit, don’t split.

- Be Respectful — sharing the road goes both ways.
Don’t rely on loud pipes to keep you safe, loud pipes often startle people and poison the attitude of car drivers toward motorcyclists.
Other vehicles are not required to make space for motorcycles to lane split.

- Be aware Roadways and traffic can be hazardous.
uneven pavement
wide trucks
distracted drivers
weather conditions


These general guidelines are not guaranteed to keep you safe.

Lane splitting should not be performed by inexperienced riders. These guidelines assume a high level of riding competency and experience.

The recommendations contained here are only general guidelines and cannot cover all possible combinations of situations and variables.

Personal Safety: Every rider has ultimate responsibility for his or her own decision making and safety. Riders must be conscious of reducing crash risk at all times. California law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers wear a helmet that complies with the DOT FMVSS 218 standard.

Risk of getting a ticket: Motorcyclists who lane split are not relieved of the responsibility to obey all existing traffic laws. With respect to possible law enforcement action, keep in mind that it will be up to the discretion of the Law Enforcement Officer to determine if riding behavior while lane splitting is or was safe and prudent.

When is it NOT OK to split?

You should NOT lane split:

- If you can’t fit.

- At a toll booth.

- If traffic is moving too fast or unpredictably.

- If dangerous road conditions exist — examples include water or grit on the road, slippery road markings, road construction, uneven pavement, metal grates, etc.

- If you cannot clearly see a way out of the space you’re going into (for example, if a van or SUV is blocking your view).

- Between trucks, buses, RVs, and other wide vehicles.

- Around or through curves.

- If you are not fully alert and aware of your surroundings.

- If you are unable to react to changing conditions instantaneously.

- If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation.

Messages for Other Vehicle Drivers
1) Lane splitting by motorcycles is not illegal in California when done in a safe and prudent manner.

2) Motorists should not take it upon themselves to discourage motorcyclists from lane splitting.

3) Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal (CVC 22400).

4) Opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is illegal (CVC 22517).

5) Never drive while distracted.

6) You can help keep motorcyclists and all road users safe by:
- Checking mirrors and blind spots, especially before changing lanes or turning
- Signaling your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic
- Allowing more following distance, three or four seconds, when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency

These guidelines come from the CHP’s official website.

  • Ben Wipperman

    Thumbs up for this.

  • Robotribe

    California. THIS is how we roll.

    Extra props for the sweet Ponch & Jon pic.

  • David Patlak

    You guys need an intern? I’d trade Boston for LA in a heartbeat…

  • socalutilityrider

    Just saved me about 30 min on the way back from work. So awesome gliding past dozens of creeping cars.

  • Dave Hargreaves

    Interestingly- I just spoke to an SDPD officer on the subject… He told me that SDPD views “lane sharing” as 2 motorcycles in the same space as a car. Lane splitting, as we all know and love it, is considered illegal, as only ONE vehicle can occupy any given space (with the exception of 2 motorcycles in one car-equal space) and they will write a ticket accordingly… Interestingly enough, that goes to another comment he made- And I quote: “Some officers are ‘inventive’ on the subject- and will write down the tag # of the motorcycle, and “attach” it to some other infraction… and visit said registered owner later, at home, and issue a citation” Just wanted to let this out there- Some officers’ do NOT view lane-splitting as legal.. Reason is: In Cali, it is NOT legal, per se- BUT it is NOT expressly Illegal.

    • RT Moto

      I’ll take my chances… Getting fined over getting smashed by some driver in a huge SUV because they were Facebooking/Instagraming/Tweeting/sexting/internets surfing/making a call on the celly/eating a samich/puffing on a splif/skiing. Ain’t got time fo dat.

      • Kevin

        Ain’t nobody got time fodat!

        • motoguru.


      • Blake Harrison

        I’m in GA and I tend to filter and lane split when traffic is stopped completely. I’d rather get a ticket than die.

    • huh

      if something is not expressly illegal, it is not illegal at all, which means it is legal.

      • Dave Hargreaves

        Not true. In something like the CADOT Vehicle Code, if it is NOT specified as being ‘legal’ it is up to the interpretation of ANY Law Enforcement Officer. Lane sharing is accepted, but NOT legal per Vehicle Code. However, several things that we, as motorcyclists equate with ‘lane splitting’ DO fall into prohibited categories. Point is: be smart about it.

        • Dave Hargreaves

          ie: The CHP tolerates it, and even tries to educate riders about being smart about it.. Interstates are their domain. Surface streets, on the other hand, are the domain of municipal police… Their rules, their interpretation. Don’t hate me for trying to be informative… I didn’t write the laws, or even endorse them- Just letting you guys know the truth of the subject.

          • Ceol Mor

            You would be quite wrong if you believe the jurisdiction of the CHP is limited to “interstates” or that they do not patrol surface streets. You might be correct to say municipal police officers have primary traffic jurisdiction within their city – but no where else. Last I checked there was far more unincorporated real estate in California than incorporated cities.

        • Ceol Mor

          Since there is no vehicle code section declaring its legality, I guess I won’t pick my nose while driving anymore; after all, it may be interpreted by some law enforcement officer as an “illegal” act. Dave’s logic is totally flawed. “huh” had it 100% correct.

          I don’t know how much more clearly this has to be spelled out. It’s legal to lane split in California. If you lane split recklessly or commit some other violation while lane splitting, then you may be ticketed. The act of lane splitting is not a violation in and of itself. Many moving violations are essentially subjective in nature and require the citing cop to testify in court as to the reason why something was unsafe and warranted a ticket.

    • Kr Tong

      I was taught how to ride by motorcycle riding CHP at msf and that is complete bullshit. Lane splitting is legal. They insisted that we do it, but as this says, 10mph above flow of traffic and not exceeding the speed limit, and if you can take a whole lane take it.

      Just remember that cops suck at remembering the law, hence why they have DA’s to look over citations and make sense of their nonsense.

      • Dave Hargreaves

        Last time, For information purposes: CHP ALLOWS lane-splitting. It is NOT expressly illegal, as it is in other states. (actual laws/codes against it) BUT- CA vehicle codes Div 11, Chapter 4, 21703, 21704, 21750, 21751, 21754, and 21755 are all infractions that APPLY to common lane-splitting practice. CHP allows it, if done in a responsible manner. Just use your head, and be safe about it.

        • Kr Tong

          Too many double negatives. It’s just easier to understand by saying it’s legal, but unless a car crosses a line in the process of hitting you, you are at fault.

          • Dave Hargreaves

            There you go. As long as that point is understood.

        • Ceol Mor

          Ha! The CHP “allows” lane splitting because it’s not f***ing illegal. Holy crap you are one misguided dude, Dave.

    • Fizzy Fox

      Lane-splitting is legal on freeways in CA. Every town will have it’s own rules for surface streets.

  • Dave Hargreaves

    Also, I may add: “filtering” on surface streets carries a $460 fine in San Diego. DO NOT “filter” in the city here. ‘Lane sharing” in Cali does NOT apply to surface streets. Reason it is not expressly illegal: In the 60′s/70′s almost ALL motorcycles were air-cooled, and California recognized that, like a shark, lack of movement killed bikes… and caused MORE traffic. It is one of those ‘things’ that has slipped through the cracks in CA DMV regulations… ALOT of officers despise motorcycles, (thanks, Squids) and will find ANY reason to hassle you.

    • socalutilityrider

      Interesting. This hasn’t been my experience at all in San Diego, and I filter every day, sometimes all day when I’m out in the field for work. My guess is that if you’re not being reckless and wearing gear (unlike squids), you don’t get bothered.

    • Fizzy Fox

      “Officers despise motorcycles”

      That hasn’t been my experience in Los Angeles. Don’t ride like an asshole, and they’re totally cool.

  • TestSalad

    Lot of safety caveats for something that’s supposedly safe.

    • 80-watt Hamster

      Eh, a good portion of it is simply restatements of good driving habits in general, whether car or bike, and another chunk applies to motorcycling as a whole. I think it just sounds scary when it’s all applied at once to filtering specifically.

  • JB

    For once, I’m reading laws and wishing they applied to me.

    • mugget man

      Haha, I hear ya…

  • Khali

    Nice bunch of useful tips.

    When I startet commuting on my bike, it took me an hour to get to my office (70% of the route was street). Now it takes me 20 minutes of super-careful filtering (very narrow spaces, I even changed my mirrors from the fairing to the handlebar to make them lower and pass below car’s mirrors). Its tyring but its fast and reliable.

    Now I have to go to another office, which is 35km away, in a car it takes 1h30m to get there, plus parking really far from the office. In the bike, riding safely, its just 40min and I park at the entrance.

    Really willing to see more of your states with pro-motorcycle traffic laws. Your lanes are way wider than what I have here in Madrid, here you need micrometric precision to lane-split, you guys waste a lot of space!!

  • Core

    You know, this actually sounds alright. Their must have been some common sense individuals who helped come up with the lane splitting law.

  • combat77

    This is what I learned when I got my California license. The top
    statement is from the CA Driver Handbook and the bottom is from the CA
    Motorcycle Handbook. Who goes to the DMV website to brush up on their
    traffic laws? I get people pissed at me every day I ride.

    “Although it is not illegal to share lanes with motorcycles, it is unsafe.”

    “Vehicles and motorcycles each need a full lane to operate safely. Lane sharing is not safe.”

  • Charlie Red

    Out of all the stupid laws in California, this one needs to be taken up by all states.

  • tonyw

    I wish we had this in Texas, however, I am concerned about how the drivers would approach this. They do like to block and unlike California, you see people driving around with their phones talking and paying little attention to their driving. I am just glad we have laws against texting while driving but I still see someone on a weekly basis doing it.

  • kentaro

    What can we do to promote new legislation in other states that will legalize lane splitting?

    • thegreyman

      Work a proposal via the American Motorcycle Association and various Police organizations. Change is always easier, if it comes from “within”.