The Throttle Stop – June 2022: Riding the Line – Thoughts on Lane Splitting

CA Study Highlights Advantages of ‘Safe’ Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Interestingly, there are only a precious few times that I’ve used my illustrious position as Senior Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling as a soapbox to share divisive opinions. Today, I’m pulling the pin and going for it—lane-splitting should be legal in all 50 states.

Lane Splitting in California | Bill AB 51 Amended

I’ll also apologize for the bait and switch routine regarding something that many of our readers benefit from or agree with in principle. For those living in civilized parts of the nation where lane-splitting is allowed, that was a bit unfair and probably anticlimactic for anyone who enjoys riding motorcycles on underutilized bits of road between cars. Arizona, California, Montana, and Utah all have laws that formally legalized lane-splitting or lane-filtering in the past few years, and more states are likely to follow. Things are changing.

In my utterly unfounded opinion, lane-splitting is one of the significant hurdles that would benefit the greater motorcycle industry and increase sales. Perhaps it isn’t the roadblock facing a two-wheeled gold rush for dealer networks that I imagine it to be, though I think it will help in a few ways.

As it stands, motorcycling is often described as a pastime in the United States and, by that logic, is firmly placed in the luxury item category. Sunday rides, road trips, and diversionary entertainment seem to be where the motorcycle lives in the eyes of many observers. The motorcycle simply isn’t viewed in the same light as in other nations, where a random scooter or small-displacement machine is often someone’s first mode of transportation. Two-wheeled vehicles aren’t integrated into American culture the way four-wheeled counterparts are, and that is a crying shame, I say.

America is a nation of car drivers. We have The Motor City, for Pete’s sake! Yet, not too far down the way sits Harley-Davidson, a prominent motorcycle manufacturer and cultural icon in its own right. The potential has always been there, yet it is unrealized potential, and that’s the worst kind!

All of this pseudo-analysis slightly deviates from the initial argument—lane-splitting should be legalized. I agree with that statement for two simple reasons. First, lane-splitting studies suggest it is safer for riders than sitting in traffic when practiced responsibly. In a world of texting automobile drivers, I’ll take all the help it can get. The second is that lane-splitting is shown to alleviate traffic congestion. Admittedly, growing up in Southern California, I am sensitive to the issue of traffic, as I’m almost sure that a sizable portion of my life is wasted sitting in it.

AMA: CHP Forced to Remove Lane-Splitting Guidelines from Website

In fact, aside from thinking motorcycles are generally cool, being able to filter through traffic was a major motivating factor for me in buying something with two wheels, which brings up the broader implications of lane-splitting. By nationalizing lane-splitting, a broader incentive would be in place for those who may be currently riding the fence when they could be riding motorcycles.

On a societal front, motorcycles relieve traffic congestion, which should come with its perks. After all, we would be performing a service to the community by not clogging roadways with our four-wheeled monstrosities. Maybe we need to sweeten the deal with cheaper registration costs and dedicated motorcycle lanes in high-traffic or major cities. After all, most motorcycles are far more adept at navigating the urban jungle than any car or truck—having had the rare opportunity to dart around major cities on scooters only solidifies that fact in my mind.

In a sense, I feel that the United States is grossly lagging behind compared to other nations. Lane-splitting is practiced safely in European countries, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Moving through Asia, the South Pacific, and other areas with some of the most densely populated cities globally, lane-splitting is an absolute must.

States such as Arizona, California, Montana, and Utah have cracked the seal by codifying varying forms of lane-splitting into law, which could spread to other states. Here’s to hoping a few brave souls in other states start pushing through their lane-splitting laws. Anyway, come back next month for more commonsense and uncontroversial hot takes.

Nic de Sena

Senior Editor

Ultimate Motorcycling