What Does Lane Splitting or Lane Filtering Mean for Motorcycles

Wife, mom, grandmother, motorcyclist, and blogger.

If you have ever sat on a motorcycle in full gear during rush hour traffic, you know why it is a relief to hear more states are adding lane filtering or lane splitting to their rules of the road. First off, let’s define what lane filtering and lane splitting mean. Both have been referred to as “white-lining.” 

Lane Splitting in California

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is riding a motorcycle (or bicycle) between lanes of traffic that are all moving in the same direction. Currently, only in the state of California is it legal. The state of California believes it is a tool to help reduce traffic congestion and freeway volume. 

A California motorcycle commuter can reduce commute time almost in half by lane splitting. A significant time saver when you consider the bumper-to-bumper urban grid-lock that is the morning norm in the larger cities like Los Angeles. What a great benefit to offer motorcyclists.

Lane Filtering 

Lane filtering, on the other hand, is a similar idea, but usually has parameters that need to be met. The state of Arizona recently passed a law allowing for lane filtering. Here are just three of the requirements:

  1. The speed limit on the road needs to be under 45 mph. 
  2. The motorcyclist’s speed is capped at 15 mph.
  3. Traffic must be stopped.
Lane Filtering Guidelines - Utah Department of Public Safety
Utah Department of Public Safety

Other states use similar requirements for lane filtering, so if you are traveling across state lines, it would be smart to check the laws governing that area. For instance, in Hawaii, a rider is allowed to use the shoulder, but they can’t exceed 10 mph and must be moving in the same direction as traffic. Currently, there are only four states that allow for lane filtering.

Benefits of Lane Filtering or Lane Splitting

  1. Reduce commute time
  2. Reduce carbon footprint
  3. Increase safety for motorcyclists
  4. Reduces motorcycle wear

Reduced Commute Time

Lane filtering and lane splitting offer a few benefits for the rider. The first, as we have already mentioned, is reduced commute time. In both urban and suburban areas, morning and evening commutes create grid-lock traffic. What a great way to reduce driving time by allowing lane filtering or lane splitting. That, my friends, would make most of our commutes rather enjoyable!  

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Another benefit of lane filtering or splitting is the reduced carbon footprint. A Belgian research firm has claimed that allowing for lane-splitting cuts down on emissions by almost 6 percent. It seems if more commuters saw the time-saving benefit of riding where white-lining is allowed, the overall carbon footprint could be significantly reduced. Less fuel, emissions, and congestion would follow. 

Increased Safety for Motorcyclists

One of the most common accidents involving a motorcycle is being rear-ended. Numbers showed up to 25% of reported incidents happened when a passenger vehicle failed to see or recognize the motorcyclist in front of them had stopped. Lane filtering or lane splitting could potentially reduce that number significantly. 

Reduced Motorcycle Wear

Many motorcycles have air-cooled engines, and sitting in traffic could lead to overheating. Airflow is important for these types of motorcycles to keep the fuel, oil, and engine cool. Sitting in the heat at a stoplight or in prolonged traffic over a hot engine can be unbearable. Too much heat not only affects the motorcycle but the rider’s reflexes could be delayed. Again, the benefit of white-lining could alleviate both.

The Dangers of Lane Filtering or Lane Splitting

  1. Distracted Drivers
  2. Objects sticking out of vehicles
  3. Pavement between lanes

Distracted Drivers

What are the dangers of lane filtering or lane splitting? It is very similar to what riders experience every day on the road – distracted drivers in vehicles all around them. Every time I throw my leg over my motorcycle, I hear, “Ride like everyone is trying to kill you.” The advice I received as a new female motorcyclist from a seasoned lady rider. It has helped me avoid an accident more than I care to remember.

Objects Sticking Out of Vehicles

Another danger of white-lining is potential objects sticking out of vehicles. Things to be aware of are oversized mirrors, ladders hanging on the side of trucks, or overly packed truck beds. Semi-trucks would fall into this category as well since many are wider than the average vehicle. And if you have two side-by-side the danger of them not seeing you increases. 

Pavement Between Lanes

Consider the pavement you are riding on before deciding to lane filter. Evaluate your riding skills soberly. How safe is it to ride over deep ruts, cracks, or broken pieces of tarmac? Is saving time at the cost of a potential accident or worse worth the danger? I think not. 

Lane Filtering vs. Lane Splitting

Lane filtering or lane splitting have their benefits, as long as you understand the risks involved. In states where weather permits riding all year round and vehicle drivers are accustomed to sharing the road with motorcyclists, these seem to be areas that will embrace white-lining. In mid-western states with snowy winters and fewer motorcyclists, it will be an uphill movement towards lane filtering. 

What do you think about white-lining? Are you a fan? Do you live in a state or country that allows it? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

HelmetorHeels blogger Pam

Thank you for stopping by the Helmet or Heels female motorcycle community! I am always looking for more stories like your adventure in riding. Your experience, knowledge, and insight will encourage women in their motorcycling journey! Fill out the contact form and let’s connect!

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