To get things started, in the United States, lane splitting, lane sharing, or filtering in technical terms, is not legal, but it is not illegal either, it is considered not unlawful in the state of California, although you will hear everyone say it is legal. For the 49 other states, it is 100% illegal.
The CHP (California Highway Patrol) has their own guidelines on how to maneuver a motorcycle like this through traffic in a safe/acceptable manner.
1. Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic – danger increases at higher speed differentials.
2. It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster – danger increases as overall speed increases.
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. Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users.
Under these guidelines motorcyclist actually have a better chance at surviving in heavy traffic, because it completely removes the possibility of being rear-ended by a negligent driver, which does happen more often than a person realizes, and with driving while texting statistics are blasting through the roof, all the more reason for you to watch your own back, or split between lanes. People on the road are also "programmed" to look out for other cars, not other motorcycles, and a motorcycle is a much smaller object than that of a car, it really is easy to miss if you are not paying full attention, which these days.. who really gives 100% of their attention to the road in front of them?
Now if a motorcyclist chooses to lane split, thus removing the possibility of getting rear-ended, the rider now opens up the possiblity of a car merging into him. This is where CHP guidelines truly come in handy, if you are a responsible rider, apply common sense, and focus on your surroundings, 100% of the time you will not have a car merge into you.
- If its bumper to bumper at a dead stop then most likely no car is going to switch lanes when there is no room.
- If cars are travelling at slow speeds (15-20mph) then check ahead and see if there is enough room for a car to try and switch lanes that you are about to pass, if there is not then they will not attempt to switch.
- If rate of speed is 30 mph+ then you really need to just get back into a lane and overtake properly instead of lane splitting between other cars.
- If a car is approaching dead stop traffic in their lane and you see their brake lights illuminate then WATCH OUT! The driver may quickly try to switch lanes to avoid coming to a complete stop.
Keeping an eye out for these things will help keep you safe whilst filtering. The rider in this video below was obviously splitting too fast for traffic conditions, but the example is a good one for what to look out for. Remember, the slower you travel, the more reaction time you have.
Lane splitting is also beneficial for traffic conditions overall because it decreases traffic congestion on busy highways and roads. So it is not only beneficial for the rider, but for other people on the road waiting in traffic. A motorcyclist waiting behind a car is just another person waiting to go, adding more time to clear up.
Now everyone knows there are very disrespectful and reckless riders out on public roads, and these riders give responsible riders a bad image. If you are ever confronted with a reckless rider, honestly, just let them have it. They will be gone before you know it and you can just continue with your day. Trying to interfere with a person who is already reckless is not a good idea, and if you piss them off they will most likely take your mirrors with them. Avoid confrontation at all cost if you can. There is an asshole around every corner, and it's just not worth it. 9.9 times out of 10 the rider will get away with vandalism because its quick and easy, pull up, smack mirror, ride away. You can't chase the rider down because they will either filter to escape or... motorcycle vs car... simple power/weight ratio. The rider in the video below is very reckless, illegaly lane splitting in the carpool lane at high speeds, the second driver did just enough to piss him off and they lost their mirror.
I want to make a clear point to people who see a motorcycle approaching them quickly from behind, this is an extremely risky scenario because you can never tell if the rider is not paying attention or if they are just going to pull a dangerous maneuver to overtake/cut you off. I can tell you it usually means the rider wants to cut you off closely, which is not cool, but it happens a lot.
Honestly, in this case, pay attention to the rider approaching you, if they seriously look dazed and confused or if it is obvious they are not paying attention then either honk your horn or switch lanes quickly! If you decide to switch at the last possible second and the rider as well, switching to the same direction you are, then they just rear ended you and now you both have a traffic collision to deal with.
One way to tell if they are paying attention to cut you off, increase your speed, if they increase as well and keep up then they are definitely paying attention. If they are not paying attention then you will be creating more distance between you and the rider. Pay attention to the front and the rear though, seriously don't just stare at him through your rear view mirror, you need to know what is in front of you as well, remember that. Best thing you can do if you see a rider approaching you way too fast from behind, switch lanes as quickly as possible and give them the entire lane, or else this could happen..
All of the videos showed besides the first one are representations of reckless riders, unfortunately Law Enforcement can only do so much and can't stop every single reckless person out on the road, so I hope this helps to keep yourself safe and to rely more on yourself than others on the road when dealing with reckless people.
If you ride.. DO NOT EVER split like these guys. Way too fast, cars are unpredictable at that speed, and I can't believe the officer let him off with a warning. The video below is a clear example of the misuse of lane splitting.
Stay safe and use that common sense! It has the potential to save your life, as well as others.
I am not sure about the laws/rules of lane splitting in other countries, but if you ride in another country and decide to filter, apply these guidelines, they will help regardless.