Learning How to Lane Split in One of America's Most Congested Cities


Categories: Skills, Safety, HFL, Real Riders

[After Anna's brother passed away she decided to do their dream road trip in memory of him. Buying her first bike, she headed out with little experience and little in her wallet to ride from her home in Virginia to Alaska and back. Read her first installment at the link below. On her journey home she got  a job and lived in San Francisco for a few weeks. - Edit Note]

READ MORE: Journey To Alaska | RideApart

Although my first big-city riding was just north of the border in Vancouver, the idea of riding in San Francisco was still looming in my head. A dark cloud followed me, creating anxiety with every mile. Luckily just like my first time in Vancouver, I had a tour guide, Lena, to help me determine my route from Oakland to the Zoo and back again.

From the house I was staying at, up in the hills of Piedmont, we rode 5 minutes to the closest BART station, parked at MacArthur and rode the train under the bay all the way to Glenn Park. From there, we hopped on a bus and arrived at the Zoo, where I had a temporary job for the next six weeks. It took us two hours to get there, and I began to quickly feel overwhelmed with the commute.

I thought I'd better learn to lane split.

My first week commuting to the Zoo, I’d ride my Radian to the BART, and nervously leave it parked for the day. I never felt good about leaving it for long periods in a public area. Luckily, nothing ever happened and it was nice that I never had to pay to park like the rest of the cars in the lot (this is where two wheels are better than four.

In contrast to my experience with public transport in Canada, I quickly became depressed spending hours on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit for those unfamiliar with the Bay Area) and the buses in San Francisco. My commute was twice as long in a city twice as big. I watched the majority of folks plugged into their ear buds, mesmerized by their smart phones, oblivious to the world passing them by. I didn’t find the enjoyment in this different mode of transportation, instead I dreamt of being on the bike for my own sanity.

MUST READ: How To Lane Split | RideApart

Billy picked me up from the Zoo and took me back to Oakland to get the Radian. Doubled up on his GS, we split lanes through rush-hour traffic and it only took us 45 minutes to get to my house. It was way more intimidating riding on the back of a bike, but I watched and learned and was determined to start riding to the Zoo the following week.


My First Time Splitting Lanes

Some decisions require a giant leap of faith—learning to lane split is one. The next week by myself I was determined to do it.

My first attempt—before actually diving into the middle of traffic—took forty minutes filled with anxiety, heart arrhythmias, sweat, and almost tears while baking on asphalt in bumper to bumper traffic. I suffered, with angry cagers trapped in their cars, suffocating in fumes and cigarette smoke while confident, experienced riders whizzed past me.  I was envious of the cool breeze they had flowing through their jackets.

Anger finally overcame my fear.  (Ok, Ok, you got this, you pussy). I watched my mirror, waiting for the next rider. Here he comes. Clutch in, one foot up. I was ready.

A rider passed. I opened throttle, slipped the clutch and pulled out.

The wind in my face was an instant relief like I was held under water and just inhaled my first gasp of air (Haha, you damn cagers, I’m free!).

MUST READ: Top 10: Motorcycle Myths and Legends | RideApart

Following the rider between cars at a steady 20 mph, my arms were tight, hands were clenched, and my jaw was locked. But the more I rode, the more I relaxed. Twenty-miles-per-hour felt like 60, when sailing between lanes of stopped traffic. It was liberating.



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