Should lane splitting and filtering be allowed for motorbikes? - Scenic Skip to main content

Should lane splitting and filtering be allowed for motorbikes?

By 11.03.20205 Comments

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 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?

Lane filtering in practice in Bangkok, Thailand.

Lane splitting

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?



  • john krim says:

    Rode in Europe and it works beautifully. Trouble is once you start it there will be lots of accidents until car drivers get used to it. Some, however, will be like their attitude with guns, they will fight it to the death.

  • Eric says:

    I lane split as its not technically illegal in the UK as far as I am aware, or is rarely enforced if it is.
    However, other motorists are the main problem, especially the the traffic is stationary or very slow moving as it often is on our motorways. Some motorists here (not all – some are very good and make a deliberate attempt to create space and let you through) are quite selfish at times. I have seen and been in many situations where they deliberately pull across to prevent bikes from lane splitting. Some leave it until the last moment to do so, presumably to make a point. I ride a cruiser so am particularly aware of size of gap. There seems to be a mentality here in the UK of “if I can’t go anywhere, why should you”..
    I think the crucial point has already been made.. speed of split must appropriate to ensure safety..

  • Dave says:

    The debate continues, just like helmet laws. The big difference is the participation of ALL motorists. Bikers, who exercise caution by properly sizing up the situation before lane splitting, and drivers that respect the law and cooperate with behaviors that keep riders safe will make the difference.
    When I visited China I was amazed at how traffic ebbed and flowed with lots of horn honking, but no road rage or behavior typical of driving/riding in the US. It was the “give & take” and the willingness to “share” the roads that made it work.
    If drivers can embrace that idea, be ever courteous and watch out for motorcycles as we do for cars, and riders use common sense with a dose of courtesy, lane splitting will be safe and practical for everyone.

  • Brent Spencer says:

    Lane filtering/splitting saves motorcyclist lives, reduces congestion, reduces fuel consumption, creates a more efficient relationship between cars and motorcycles and reduces global green house emissions. It not only creates reduced traffic congestion for motorcycles but also for cars too because the motorcycles are not holding another place in traffic thereby reducing congestion for automobiles. The key to successful implementation of lane splitting/filtering laws is education. Automobile drivers need to understand all of the aforementioned benefits many of which directly benefit them as well. Without education drivers believe motorcyclists are “cheating”, they are “Cutting in line”, they see it as “unfair”. This ignorant American belief needs to be addressed through education.

    The system works beautifully in California. If you do it in Arizona (Yes, I know it is illegal) many automobile drivers will try to swerve into you on purpose and run you off the road or into another car because you are “cheating” them.

    Anyone can get a motorcycle license. If car drivers want the same benefit of lane splitting then they can get out of their 10mpg SUV and get on a fuel efficient bike. Hey if Lane Splitting/Filtering causes more people to want to ride that is a further benefit of lane splitting. More people on motorcycles will further create all of the above mentioned benefits!

  • Teo Risquez says:

    I have ridden in lane splitting locations in California and several places in Latin America for the last 54 years.It all boils down to being safe and cautious. I have never had an accident while lane splitting, but instead at locations wherelane splitting would have made a difference.
    California has a great example of lane splitting in the US, and it works fine for riders and drivers as well.

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