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The Wheel Thing: Zipping between lanes on a motorbike. It's a California tradition

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A motorcyclist slips between two cars in traffic.  This trick is called lane splitting, and California is the only U.S. state that allows it.
Steven Vance
A motorcyclist slips between two cars in traffic. This trick is called lane splitting, and California is the only U.S. state that allows it.

Motorists, stuck in traffic, watching motorcycles slip by. It's called lane splitting, and California is the only state that allows it.

If you are a California motorist, you've experienced this: stuck in traffic, and glumly watching motorcycle riders slipping by, zipping along in the unused space between lanes.

Anywhere else in the country, this would be illegal. And even in California, it's not specifically legal, there are just no specific laws against lane splitting. 

Is it dangerous? While the answer is almost certainly yes, there's no hard data, and in fact, some lane splitting proponents claim it helps prevent cars from rear-ending motorcycles, which is the most common accident between four and two-wheel motor vehicles. Proponents also say it helps reduce congestion.

While there are no specific regulations governing lane splitting, here are some tried-and-true guidelines for splitting lanes and living to tell about it.

  • Never go more than about 10 mph faster than the traffic around you, and don't even try splitting if the traffic is moving at faster than about 30 mph.
  • On the freeway, confine your splitting activity to the far left lanes.
  • Consider the total environment - weather and road conditions, width of lanes, and over-sized vehicles in your path.


Drivers of cars and trucks should be aware that motorcycles have the same rights on the road as do four-wheel vehicles.

Motorcycle riders should be aware that drivers of cars are generally not expecting a two-wheeler to come slipping by, and may make sudden moves that could prove problematic, or worse.

Take Two host Alex Cohen hops on the back of Susan's Carpenter's motorcycle to get a taste of lane splitting.

Susan Carpenter is auto and motorcycle critic for the OC Register.  She joins us for The Wheel Thing on Thursdays.

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