Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Lane Splitting 101.
May 10, 2002 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Lane Splitting 101. Do you ride? Do you commute on your bike? Are you insane enough to split lanes? Or... Do you drive? Do lane-splitting bikes piss you off? Do they give you heart attacks?
posted by badstone (51 comments total)

 
On my bicycle, in Manhattan, certainly. And aggressively so. If that pisses any drivers off, they can park in New Jersey and use mass transit. Too many cars in town anyway. Screw'em.
posted by HTuttle at 10:13 AM on May 10, 2002


My Confession:
About once every week or two, I have to ride to work instead of taking the train. Since I live in the Bay Area, I have to deal with some of the worst traffic jam generators in the world, drivers who slam on their brakes every time they see a shiny object in the breakdown lane or whenever the road makes a slight bend. To cope, I've become an evil lane-splitter. It's the only way to get off the road in under an hour and, with all the SUVs, it's the only way to actually be able to see anything. I don't mind pissing off the SUVs, but I do feel guilt about freaking other people out, or should I? What's the car driver's view of this?
posted by badstone at 10:14 AM on May 10, 2002


I don't mind lane splitters as long as they realise that I'm not expecting them to be there and should act accordingly.
posted by zeoslap at 10:18 AM on May 10, 2002


yeah, i guess this thread does apply to both kinds of bikes. although I'm curious, as a sidenote - when, if ever, do motorcyclists piss off bicyclists?
posted by badstone at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2002


i haven't had any good experiences with bike riders while driving. sometimes they obey the rules of the road and stay in their lane, but sometimes you have people who split lanes, which is dangerous and pretty nerve-wracking to me (and maybe others). i sit in my car thinking, oh please god i don't want to hit you. i've seen a few selfish assholes such as tuttle; guys who bang your hood and tell you to fuck off because you started to drive before they drive between your car and another past you. but what can you do? assholes abound; i'm only a man.
posted by moz at 10:21 AM on May 10, 2002


The car driver's view is this: You are alive solely by virtue of our charity and belief in the sacredness of human life. We certainly have every right to crush you, but we do not. We do not even gloat when you crash. But taking advantage of us this way is what makes your lane-splitting immoral. You shouldn't do it. (As for bicyclists, get yer scrawny butt out of the street and onto the sidewalk. You are immoral becuase you make it so likely that someday I'm going to accidentally kill you, and have that on my conscience for the rest of my life. Thanks a lot!)
posted by Faze at 10:23 AM on May 10, 2002


--but what can you do?--

Stay home!
posted by HTuttle at 10:24 AM on May 10, 2002


a few things:
bicyclists on the sidewalk may fly where you live but in new york that's possibly one of the dumbest things a bicyclist could do.

as for the attitude towards motorcyclists: yeah, some of them are assholes splitting lanes and such in heavy traffic, but i've dealt with more dangerous and asshole-ish car drivers who will try to pass me on the right on busy city streets, basically pushing me into oncoming traffic despite the fact that i'm going 5 to 10 over the speed limit. for some reason a lot of car drivers assume a motorcycle must be going too slow and will do damn near anything to pass (and try and kill) the rider.
posted by m@L at 10:29 AM on May 10, 2002


The bike driver's view is this:
You are stuck in traffic because you need to drive a road hogging heap. The roads are plenty wide for many more human sized vehicles with little congestion. It's your lazy-fat-ass cans of gas which cause the tie-ups to begin with so lean on your horn some more and give yourself a heart attack.
posted by HTuttle at 10:29 AM on May 10, 2002


it's nice that we can all calmly and objectively discuss this issue.
posted by moz at 10:33 AM on May 10, 2002


I can't believe this is illegal in the U.S. In the UK we do this all the time - it's expected - I'd never get to work otherwise. How do they catch you to enforce this stupid law?
posted by grahamwell at 10:39 AM on May 10, 2002


My primary mode of transportation these days is my motorcycle, i've only put about 50 miles on my car in the past month. I don't lane split because I ride a cruiser, so my bike is pretty wide, and drivers here in Austin already suck, I don't want to give them anymore opportunity to kill me than they already have.
posted by jbelshaw at 10:39 AM on May 10, 2002


To your question, badstone, I'm a daily bicycle rider and can't recall ever getting annoyed at a motorcyclist.

And sidewalks are for walking. Riding bikes on them is most definitely not safe.
posted by transient at 10:40 AM on May 10, 2002


This is a country where cars are the norm, and bicycles are an eccentric luxury indulged in by a privileged few (myself among them). Bicyclists shouldn't expect to force their little hobby down the rest of our throats. It's not like they're poor people who can only afford to commute by bicycle. Most are middle and upper middle class. REAL poor people will take the bus, or execute the most desperate expedient to get their hands on a car. Never a bike.
posted by Faze at 10:41 AM on May 10, 2002


Been there, done that.

Time flies, or something.
posted by ebarker at 10:43 AM on May 10, 2002


I don't mind, but if you are buzzing past past my car, remember I like to open my car door at random times while stuck in traffic.
posted by corpse at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2002


I used to split lanes all the time when I lived in Bayaria. It's legal, but within some pretty strict parameters (you're not allowed to go faster than 15 MPH, I believe). I seems to me that most of the anti-splitting rhetoric is just envy directed toward the only thing moving on the Bay Bridge.

That being said, motorcyclists (myself included) have a deathwish, and lanesplitting is quite the rush.
posted by chino at 10:45 AM on May 10, 2002


As a motorcyclist, this is the way I think to survive:
Every single car driver out there can not see me, or
if he can see me, will pull out in front of me while
signalling to go the other way. We must assume this
to be able to take the proper action when in does happen. If you think this all the time, you can lane split
without being killed. However, get distracted for even
a second and all bets are off.

People who ride motorcycles are,
for the most part, the most alert and safest people on
the road (and that includes pedestrians) because we
have to be in order to live.
posted by greasepig at 10:49 AM on May 10, 2002


It depends on the situation. A friend of mine rides and after I cursed him and his generations for lane splitting, he explained why he does it. Many motorcylces (at least until very recently) are air-cooled. They can't sit still in heavy traffic -- like the 101 between San Fran and San Jose -- or even maintain a really slow speed without overheating. This is actually why lane-splitting is legal in those places where it is.

Also, while lane splitting is illegal in many places, few cops will try to ticket someone for it because it is even more dangerous and disruptive to traffic to try catching up with a lane splitter. (this, again, is what I've heard. I'm no expert.)

If you want to split lanes on your little sport bike and will be careful doing so, I'll survive, grudgingly. If you are riding a big cruiser with huge suitcase-size bags on the bag and you try to fit between me and another car, you're an idiot, and I might tell you so.
posted by jewishbuddha at 10:52 AM on May 10, 2002


One good argument for lanesplitting: Go to a car body shop. Compare how many cars have dented sides vs. how many cars have crumpled front ends and back ends. Then consider the consequences of bumping mirrors with a bike squeezing by you, and consider the consequences of rear-ending a motorcyclist because you were following too close or not paying attention. I've been in both situations - one involved a wave and an apology, the other involved $4000 in medical bills and $14000 worth of damage to the vehicles involved.

Lanesplitting doesn't hurt car drivers in any way - it makes traffic flow better. It's safer for everyone involved. All that we motorcyclists ask is that you a) use your turnsignals and b) try to keep a relatively consistent position in your lane.
posted by jaek at 11:11 AM on May 10, 2002


Bikers on I-10 in New Orleans sometimes do this with everyone going 70. Fools.
posted by mblandi at 11:23 AM on May 10, 2002


Yo, Faze:
You're not likely to kill me on my bicycle. You drive with too much skill to do that. Unless you drive with a cellphone in one hand and a beer in the other.
As for riding the bicycle on the sidewalk: Look at the second half of that compound word -- walk. A sidewalk is for walking. I'll ride my bike on the sidewalk when it's illegal for people to walk, jog, rollerblade or walk their dogs on it, and when motorists routinely stop before crossing where a sidewalk crosses the road, look both ways, then cross the sidewalk and stop at the stop sign.
None of those things are gonna happen, so you'll just have to cope occasionally with the annoyance of sharing the road with cyclists. Or you can join us bicycle commuters, get some exercise going to and from work, and yell at stupid cyclists who ride on the wrong side of the road, run stop signs and stoplights, weave into traffic and do other dumb stuff that makes us all look bad.
Oh, yeah: Lane splitting on a bicycle is too dangerous.
posted by Holden at 11:24 AM on May 10, 2002


--This is a country where cars are the norm, and bicycles are an eccentric luxury indulged in by a privileged few (myself among them). --

That arrogance is what all bicyclists have to deal with constantly.
posted by HTuttle at 11:26 AM on May 10, 2002


Although our freeways aren't congested enough to make it an every day occurrence, I have seen it done here, even though it is against the law: [Utah code 41-6-107.2. (3) No person may operate a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.]

In the fifteen years I've ridden street bikes, I'm happy to report that I have never had the inclination nor the opportunity to attempt it. The way Utahns drive, our freeways are frightening enough in a car.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:33 AM on May 10, 2002


In general, I think lane splitters are gambling with their lives. I understand why they do it though.

If I'm in the outside lane and I see a lane splitter behind me, I make a point to move as far outside as possible. This is to say to the motorcyclist behind me: "Yes, I've seen you, and I'm letting you through".
posted by salmacis at 11:33 AM on May 10, 2002


People in cars who jump the line piss me off because they actually cost me time, only a bit, but lots of jerks do it. Line-splitters are using a part of the road that I can't use, and therefore not costing me a thing, except that tiny twinge of envy.

I say good luck to 'em, and please try not to end up as my hood ornament.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on May 10, 2002


i don't mind lane splitters as long as it's the right moment, ie, traffic is slow and they can do it at a safe speed.

there is no need for lane splitting when traffic is going 65 miles an hour.
posted by o2b at 11:55 AM on May 10, 2002


in my opinion.
posted by o2b at 11:55 AM on May 10, 2002


all this unwarranted anti-bike hysteria is really making me look forward to the next -- second friday in berkeley (that's right! today!), guys, last in sf! there's probably one in your town too!

see you there!

if you've never been, the berkeley ride is nice and slooooooooow. in fact, you usually have to pedal around in circles to keep from moving too far ahead. drivers in berkeley keep their road rage in check pretty well during the mass, in fact, most are pretty supportive. The SF ride, in myexperience, is large enough that you can pedal a lot faster and still stay with the group, but it's considerably more treacherous then the berkeley one (the drivers tend to get pretty upset.).

i really recommend going even if you're only the occasional bicyclist. it's a lot of fun to ride bikes with a huge group of people. an experience not to be missed.



posted by fishfucker at 12:28 PM on May 10, 2002


apologies, faze.

( dammit, i posted too fast to see your parathenical comment. now i feel like a damn idiot. thanks.)
posted by fishfucker at 12:29 PM on May 10, 2002


Living in the city with more bikes of all Europe (Barcelona) and being a former bike rider myself I can say that is a very dangerous practice, but a great time saver.

Some politicians around here agree that without bikes, the traffic in Barcelona would be terrible.

Now I use public transport and read a lot more.

A useful tip for riding a bike through the city: you are invisible
posted by samelborp at 12:42 PM on May 10, 2002


I coummute daily on a bicycle and pull long training rides after work. I've owned motorcycles and love them. The secret to lane splitting, avoiding car doors, running red lights, etc. is clairvoyance! One other thought ... ever been driving your car and suddenly realized you have no recollection of traveling the last 3 blocks? That doesn't happen on a bicycle or motorcycle.
posted by rotifer at 12:55 PM on May 10, 2002


It used to happen to me, rotifer.

Then I quit drinking so heavily.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:30 PM on May 10, 2002


I don't mind lanesplitting per se, but it startles me pretty good when it happens.
posted by jennyb at 1:35 PM on May 10, 2002


Already pointed out to Faze and a few others that cycling against traffic, or off the roadway is much more dangerous that riding in and with traffic. Even bike paths (shared use, or paths that cross drive ways) are more dangerous than riding in traffic.

What ever the folks in the cars believe, those of us who commute daily on bicycles believe that by getting our asses out of cars, we're doing you a bigger favor than you've ever done us. You should get out of our way. Of course, we're not idiots, so we also behave like road way vehicles to keep from getting run over.

Unfortunately, that doesn't protect us from getting knocked off by some idiot putting in ear rings while crossing intersections (like I was about a week ago). Strangely, she seemed pissed off that she almost killed me.

Thus, our beliefs clash, but we go on our merry ways.
posted by daver at 1:39 PM on May 10, 2002


In traffic, I don't really care about lane splitting. I'd do it too, if I were on a motorcycle.

About the worst feeling I have is a pang of jealously.

But don't do it when traffic is dense, but still moving at full speed. Those are times I'm a little tense anyway without a motorcycle going by me, 12 inches away, at 75 miles per hour.
posted by obfusciatrist at 1:47 PM on May 10, 2002


This is a country where cars are the norm, and bicycles are an eccentric luxury indulged in by a privileged few (myself among them). Bicyclists shouldn't expect to force their little hobby down the rest of our throats. It's not like they're poor people who can only afford to commute by bicycle. Most are middle and upper middle class. REAL poor people will take the bus, or execute the most desperate expedient to get their hands on a car. Never a bike.


Forced down the rest of our throats is an ironic choice of words. Cyclists don't force anything down anyone's throat. Car's on the other hand...[cough] [cough].

As a 4,000+ km a year cyclist the topic of road safety is one that is pretty much always on my mind. I live in a suburb of Toronto where pedestrians of any form are fairly rare and cyclists extremely so (I consider my city, Mississauga, to be a parking lot where the parking spots come with houses). I mix and match my cycling. I ride on both the road and the sidewalk depending on the situation and actively seek out non-road paths where possible.

I am always stunned at the amount of vitriol that drivers can direct my way. I have had cars deliberately force me off the road, beer bottles bounced off the noggin, and rarely a week goes by without getting flipped off for simply existing. I just don't get it. I don't kill people. Very few other cyclists do either. I don't pollute. I don't suck up tax dollars for road construction. I will be less of a health care tax burden. I can't threaten someone in steel box with a seatbelt and airbags. I won't pancake your kids on the way to school. All I can do is get crushed to death if a driver makes a mistake (or I do).

I suspect that the hate comes from some sort of envy.

(On the topic of lane-splitting - they are cue jumping assholes. But then I am Canadian and as a nation we believe in orderly line-ups. Motorcycle lanes in fairer climates seem like a reasonable idea to me though.)
posted by srboisvert at 2:11 PM on May 10, 2002


glad this thread has popped up..I live in Detroit now, so of course I have a car (a jeep, cause if you've been in detroit, you know the roads are like an offroad obstacle course) but I am counting down the days till I head down to Chicago and ditch my car for a bicycle. I've heard what friends have said about lane splitting and such, but it's great to get a more rounded view.
posted by Windigo at 2:32 PM on May 10, 2002


i'm now commuting on my motorcycle, and while i don't have the guts to split lanes on the highway yet, i will split traffic at a light and scoot up to the front of a line of traffic (if it's more than 1 lane)..i'll take off enough faster than the rest of traffic that I don't really impact them in any way.

I absolutely agree with what greasepig said. I considered myself a good driver in my car, but the increased level of concentration and awareness while riding the bike is dramatic.
posted by chacal at 3:27 PM on May 10, 2002


Is it just me or does the term "splitting lanes" mean more or less the opposite of what it should mean based on the meaning of the words that constitute it?
posted by kindall at 5:28 PM on May 10, 2002


I don't mind, but if you are buzzing past past my car, remember I like to open my car door at random times while stuck in traffic.

I suspect that you'll be found at fault and enjoying higher insurance premiums after the accident.

My wife commutes by bicycle. Some dumbshit clown passed her, parallel parked, and then opened his door right into her. Sent her flying, dented the frame hard enough to wreck it, and damn near decapitated her kneecap.

The replacement bicycle came out of *his* insurance. He was found at-fault.

I'm quite sure that you'd encounter the same consequence. You shouldn't be opening your door blindly in any circumstance.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 PM on May 10, 2002


I commute to work just about every day here in a city that probably has one of, if not the highest density of motorcycles, scooters and cars in the world (Taipei). If you didn't go between the cars, the riders behind you would probably express great displeasure by honking and yelling. But everyone here does it, simply because they have to.

I don't understand the idea most car drivers have that motorcycles must be going too slow, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Why do car drivers always have to be out in front, especially if there's a motorcycle to be "dealt with"? Is it a size thing? Arrogance? I don't get it.
posted by Poagao at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2002


I commute to work just about every day here in a city that probably has one of, if not the highest density of motorcycles, scooters and cars in the world (Taipei). If you didn't go between the cars, the riders behind you would probably express great displeasure by honking and yelling. But everyone here does it, simply because they have to.

I don't understand the idea most car drivers have that motorcycles must be going too slow, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Why do car drivers always have to be out in front, especially if there's a motorcycle to be "dealt with"? Is it a size thing? Arrogance? I don't get it.
posted by Poagao at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2002


Why do car drivers always have to be out in front, especially if there's a motorcycle to be "dealt with"? Is it a size thing? Arrogance? I don't get it.

If they're behind you, you don't have to keep your eye on them so much. Having a motorcycle in front of you can be very distracting, since they have a tendency to change lanes without warning, engage in "lane splitting," etc. -- behaviors you don't have to worry about with a car. Also, motorcyclists are much less protected, so you are much more of a danger to them, which can be nerve-wracking in itself.
posted by kindall at 9:28 PM on May 10, 2002


I have never understood why cars like to get so close to my motorcycle. It never dawned on me that they thought I was going slow because I'm usually going at least 10mph over the speed limit. I figured it was because most people have a fascination with my speedy two-wheeled machine and wanted to get a good look at it.

One of the things I love about riding a motorcycle is that if they get too close, I can flip the throttle and be about 10 car lengths ahead of them (as long as there isn't a car in front of me, in which case my head will be 10 inches into the rear of the car).

In Utah it's not legal to split lanes and there's usually no reason to. Traffic jams are the only time I'd want to, but that seems to be the time that most drivers feel the need to switch lanes maniacally. They usually only gain a car length or two and when traffic gets back up to speed they're rarely much better off than the guy who just stayed in his lane and creeped along.
posted by jaden at 9:55 PM on May 10, 2002


I don't mind, but if you are buzzing past past my car, remember I like to open my car door at random times while stuck in traffic.

You know, when I come out there I'm going to cut you. In the meantime, Jenny would you do me a favor and yank his shorts for me?

I've had someone try it, too. Also had someone try to grab my handlebars, swerve at me, and flick their cigarette at me. I understand that you hate your traffic-bound cages, but don't blame me, I'm part of the damn solution.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 11:12 PM on May 10, 2002


I don't ride a motorcycle because the stress of maintaining that hyper-alertness and the anger I feel even when riding a bicycle wear me out. So into the cage I go.

Actually, I walk to work right now, and it's much more relaxing, except when crossing a couple of bad intersections.
posted by mecran01 at 4:54 AM on May 11, 2002


>> I'm quite sure that you'd encounter the same consequence. You shouldn't be opening your door blindly in any circumstance. <<

Agreed on the not opening your door without looking in the mirror to see what's up behind you.

I Am Not A Lawyer, But You Can't Shake My Family Tree Without Getting Rained On By Lawyers Or Judges (IANALBYCSMFTWGROBLOJ), and the immediate reaction to the above is once you parallel park, you lose the right of way, and it's incumbent on you to check things out before opening your door into the right of way. When you're stuck in traffic, in a lane, it's a different story.
posted by ebarker at 10:54 AM on May 11, 2002


I had a lane splitter kill himself right in front of me 2 weeks ago. He was going about 150mph. I stoped, saw his bones sticking out, body quiver and shake and blood pool up. Lane splitting is fun kids!
posted by stbalbach at 3:16 PM on May 11, 2002


That wasn't lane-splitting, stbalbach. That was suicide. Lane-splitting wouldn't have going more than 15mph faster than the traffic.

ebarker: I'm still certain that the lane-splitter would have your ass for reckless endangerment, etc.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2002


Wrapping yourself in the law when you ride a bicycle or motorcycle and thinking it's going to keep someone from opening their car door is foolish.
posted by mecran01 at 6:04 AM on May 14, 2002


« Older All Small:...  |  MillerTime.com... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments