My previous article on best practices for motorcyclists provoked some reactions. Is lane splitting and filtering a good or bad practice? According to Sabrina Giacomini from Rideapart.com it is all a question of speed.
Globally there are discussions about the possibility of making motorcycle lane splitting or filtering legal. Utah officially became the second US state after California to pass a bill allowing riders to engage in some form of lane sharing maneuver. However, while California has allowed lane splitting since 2017, Utah has instead passed a law allowing lane filtering. While “lane splitting” has been a widely accepted term in the US to refer to most of these maneuvers, there are actually subtleties that differentiate them. So, what’s the difference between lane splitting and lane filtering anyway?
The great state of California defines lane splitting as “A motorcycle ridden between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.” If we’re going to oversimplify it Sabrina says, it’s pretty much turning the dotted line into a temporary, miniature express lane for motorcycles.
Obviously, there are conditions to lane splitting and contexts in which it represents a safe maneuver. In California, for instance, riders should not lane split faster than 10 mph above the speed of the surrounding traffic, simply because a higher speed differential represents a safety hazard. Because of this, lane splitting is discouraged when the flow of traffic is faster than 30 mph (50kmph).
Lane splitting becomes a fuel-saving, rider-protecting maneuver especially in instances of stop-and-go or rush-hour traffic. While in California, lane splitting is allowed on all roads, some states that are currently considering legalizing the practice have an additional clause regarding the type of road the maneuver will be legal on. For instance, the State of Oregon recently submitted a bill that suggests lane splitting be allowed on roads with a posted speed limit of 50 mph and above.
Lane filtering, the stop-light solution
In Mexico City lane filtering is allowed when there is a red light (which does not mean much), and although it pisses off many drivers it is a great success because we get to move a whole lot faster than cars. Meanwhile, north of the border Utah recently passed a bill that allows riders to lane filter in very strictly described conditions. The State of Utah now allows “lane filtering if a motorcycle is overtaking a vehicle that is stopped in the same lane of travel and there are two or more adjacent traffic lanes in the same direction of travel.” For the State of Oregon’s recently submitted bill, lane filtering is allowed when “Traffic is stopped or has slowed to a speed of 10 miles per hour or less.”
Unlike lane splitting that allows a motorcycle to navigate between rows of vehicles circulating at regular speeds, lane filtering allows the motorcyclist to trickle down between rows of stopped/slow-moving vehicles. This maneuver is usually observed at stop lights and allows riders to navigate towards the front of the line, which in turn allows them to take off swiftly and safely without being sandwiched between two vehicles.
The difference between splitting and filtering all comes down to the speed of the surrounding vehicles and the context in which they are best practiced (rush hour traffic versus intersections). In both cases, it is up to the rider to analyze the situation and engage safely.
A good or a bad thing?
Good practice with lane splitting or filtering is that a rider needs to make sure they have enough space between the vehicles to travel without ripping off mirrors along the way, and it is their responsibility to travel at a speed that affords them enough time to react should a car suddenly change lane in front of them.
Fellow motorcycle enthusiast CycleCruza comes from Ohio and has clearly shared his opinion that lane splitting and filtering is dangerous merely because cars in his neck of the woods are simply not accustomed to it. More on that in this vlog.
So what do you think? Are lane splitting and filtering privileges or should they be God-given rights? What is your opinion on this matter?