First I would like to preface this post with the statement that Lane Splitting as discussed is legal in California and this post is only referring to California, specifically San Diego freeways and surface streets.
Also, sorry it has been so long since I posted anything - I started riding motorcycles to work everyday back in 2011 and wanted to have some experience under my belt before I posted my opinions on the matter.
To say I am a fan of Lane Splitting is an understatement. I absolutely love that I have been able to take back my life by scooting past traffic on my way to and from work each day. The commuter traffic from North San Diego
County to and from San Diego proper each day is quite bad.
I learned how to ride first on a quad, then on a dirt bike back in the mid 1990's when I was a teenager. I actually learned how to hand clutch before I had my first car and needed to learn how to foot clutch (but my junk 73
Superbeetle is a story for another time). I loved riding dirtbikes. Living in a small town and located off a dirt road gave me the freedom to travel all over, visit friends, have a secret girlfriend (don’t tell my parents) and
do all the sorts of things one must normally wait until they are 16 to do (if they also have their own car).
When my wife and I first married I convinced her to try out dirt bikes and she had 2 different ones in those first years of marriage. At one point we decided to move from the small town to a larger city and needed the money to
get things going, so we reluctantly sold both the bikes and all our gear to help fund the move. But I never forgot those days and while working in the LA area and while traveling everywhere in a car I always kept an extra eye
out for motorcycles. I was often jealous of them moving by as I sat in traffic. At one point my commute of 60 miles was taking nearly 2 hours to complete, one way.
Fast Forward to 2011, I have been a commuter to work since 1999 and after 12 years of sitting in a automobile in traffic for multiple hours each day I was ready for a change. I had a job change that year that allowed for a more
relaxed dress code, Jeans n a t-Shirt, as opposed to wearing slacks and a polo or shirt n tie and needing to always carry computer equipment with me. We had been living in San Diego since 2003 and noticed that motorcyclist here
rode year round due to the temperate weather. My wife trusted my abilities on 2 wheels and was not opposed when I brought up the idea of selling one of our vehicles to get a motorcycle.
So I started looking for bikes and had already decided I was not sure I wanted to lean forward over a full sport bike, but I also did not want to lay back on a cruiser, a more standard position is what I wanted. I went to the
local Motorcycle Superstore and a friendly salesperson had me sit on a number of different bikes in the showroom which confirmed my initial thoughts.
Being a Yamaha fan I settled on the FZ line, which is a standard sitting position with a sportier motor. The FZ6 is the 600cc version of the bike and are known to get 50mpg+, however not many were made, or at least the used
market did not have many for sale and they held value quite well, so I found a first Gen FZ1, the big brother to the 6, 1000cc motor from the first gen R1 sport bike that had been de-tuned down to 130hp. FZ1's were actaully
more plentiful and slightly cheaper than the FZ6 models at that time. Probably not the best first street bike, but with a number of years experience riding a 2-stroke 250 dirtbike I was sure I could handle it. Please note - I
would never recommend this to anyone else, always start on a smaller displacement bike and work your way up. My story is not the norm.
I live in Oceanside, which is at the north end of San Diego County. I live here because the cost of home ownership is nearly half that of living down in San Diego proper. The commute I had at the time was 34 miles from my home
to the clients site, 12 miles back to my office and 33 miles home each day. The trip to the clients site in the morning took about 60 mins due to traffic and the trip home took anywhere form 60-100 min depending on the day of
the week, wed-fri are a nightmare getting home. On the bike, with splitting lanes at a reasonable differential speed - more on that later - I reduced that time to about 45 min each way on average. This was saving me about 15
min each morning and sometimes as much as an hour in the afternoons, and countless hours when there is a car accident that can make traffic even worse. I noticed my frustraion levels with commuting practically disapeared
because I rarely had to come to a full stop and I could count on needing hte same amount of time to get places no matter what the cars were doing.
Life was good, but in-experience leads to faults.
Like anyone new to motorcycles on the street, I dropped the bike, more than once - usually in a parking lot, but unlike a dirt bike that weighs significantly less, lifting a heavy street bike is an art all it’s own. There are
plenty of youtube video’s on how to best do this without hurting your back and with the proper leverage even a very small individual can lift a large bike off the ground by themselves. I suggest new riders review and even
practice this, also, don’t ever get a brand new bike for your first bike unless you really want some scratches on it. I recently watched a young woman dump her fathers HD sportster because of inexperience. He was not pleased
with her, but hey, he let her ride it.
As you might be able to tell from the tone of my other posts, I have strong feelings regarding the ability of other drivers that are lacking to say the least. Getting on a motorcycle did not help this as I started to notice all
the drivers who have made the decision to distract them-self with just about anything other than driving. I have seen the following since I started riding;
Person with a tablet on her lap, swiping pages or something, traveling 65+ with kids in the back of her mini-van.
Person on the phone sending or reading a text(this happens so much I can’t keep count).
Person eating a bowl of cereal traveling at 70+ with only knees on the wheel.
Person with laptop on her lap, screen on the wheel, presumably her knees on the wheel as both hands were on the keyboard, BOTH HANDS!
Random lane changes without signaling, cutting over the double yellow lines into or out of the carpool lane, the list goes on and on and I have documented much of it using a GoPro camera mounted to my helmet. The point is, when
on a motorcycle never, ever, assume the drivers see you or are even looking for you. On a bike you disappear. Always ride as if the cars around you do not see you.
I experienced an accident in my second year riding, late 2012. I was on a 2-lane road approaching a line of stopped cars at a light and I moved into the “shoulder” area, this is kinda debatable in this location as it could be a
turn lane for the cross street ahead and part of it is painted red to allow vehicles to move down this shoulder as no cars can park there. Anyway, I was scooting along at about 10mph when a car that was in line decided they too
wanted to scoot to the front to turn right at the light and the front bumper of her Toyota punched into my radiator and pushed my left leg and my bike towards the curb. Even moving that slow it happened very fast and had she
waited 1 second I might have gotten past and not learned my lesson. The bike hit the curb and I just rolled off the bike on the dirt patch between the road and the sidewalk unharmed. My insurance put me at ZERO Fault and laid
100% of the blame on her. Her Insurance put me at partial blame and did not give me much for my now Salvage titled FZ1. Moral of this story? Don’t ride on the shoulder. You don’t know when a car is going to pull off the main
highway. Riding on the shoulder is NOT lane splitting and is not legal. In cases like mine, if you are turning up ahead, keep your differential speed way down and expect any car to suddenly pull out and in some cases just wait
in line until there is an actual turn lane or you get to the intersection itself.
So I used the term, Differential Speed. What does that mean? That is the speed difference between yourself and the vehicles you are passing. This term applies whether you are lane sharing or not. This is the term the CHP used
when giving guidance on safe lane splitting before they were required to remove it from the CHP website as it was being confused with actual law.
Now this is my personal experience and opinion, there is not one specific differential speed that is “safe”. Nor can one regulate or legislate what a “safe” differential speed it. One’s differential needs to change based on the
conditions, lighting and lane width. Not all sections of freeway are created equal, some area’s have much narrower lanes than others. On my commute which is mostly on interstate 5, the lanes are about 12 feet wide, and
considering the average automobile is about 6 feet wide, if all vehicles traveled in the center of their lanes a motorcycle would have about a 6 foot wide tunnel to ride in. In reality on my commute the vehicles in the number 1
lane (furthermost left) tend to be more aware of motorcycles and hug closed to the inside of the freeway leaving more room for bikes, and others notice you and make room. Overall San Diego and most of California that I have
ridden in are aware and friendly towards motorcycles after years of legal sharing in the state. That said, there is one section about 1/4 mile before the southbound carpool lane starts where the number one and number two lanes
seem to get smaller and the gap decreases some. When I approach this area I slow down to compensate for it, and sometimes get in line with the cars, though on most days I can continue to split. Everyone needs to practice what
feels safe to them when splitting lanes and this is not always going to be the same speed for every rider, bike and locality.
Some things to keep in mind when splitting that I have seen personally, “Mind the Gap”. What do I mean by this? The most dangerous time to be splitting lanes on the freeway is when traffic is speeding up or slowing down and
gaps start to form between automobiles. Some drivers are always looking to get ahead of everyone else by a car length or two by moving into a “faster” lane. These drivers are looking for these gaps to form and will “dive” into
them quickly, without signaling or checking mirrors for motorcycles who might be lane sharing at the time. So Mind the Gap, keep an eye out for cars that are giving signs they might try something like this.
Also, be ready to stop or speedup at a moments notice. During heavier traffic the chances of cars slowing and stopping is higher and one will need to adjust accordingly, and in cases where a car dives into a gap and crosses
your path you may need to slow suddenly. To deal with this I keep one finger on the brake lever and my right foot hovering over the rear brake pedal when splitting.
Splitting on surface streets changes a riders behaviour yet again. In most cases you are not really splitting lanes, but rather “filtering” to the front of the line when approaching a stop light, and in some cases a stop sign
(though it is very rare to have a 4 lane highway with stop signs at intersections in this state). Surface street lanes are tighter than the freeway so extra caution is needed, some cars share lanes to allow some to make a right
hand turn, some cars stop and block traffic behind them to allow a car in or out of an intersection, these cars can cross your splitting space, so be aware of those situations in your area. Don’t think that because you area
allowed to ride there that drivers will think to look for you there.
I have had the safty of splitting conversation with many people over the years, even before I started riding motorycles on the street. People tend to fall into 2 camps if they are against it;
1> They do not ride, they only drive and in reality have ZERO experiance splitting. Some of thier arguments come from jealously at being stuck in line with all the cars. Everyone has a choice and I choose to ride a motorcycle
and deal with the weather and the increased dangers of being on 2 wheels and without a metal structure around me to keep me safer in a collision.
2> They are riders, but from out of state (not California) and don’t think the drivers in thier state would be open to allowing bikes to split. My repsonce to this is 95% of the globe allows lane splitting along with
California, and most people are able to deal with it on a Global scale, so I am certain those in your state will eventaully get used o the idea of bikes being in between the cars.
One last thing about the safety of lane splitting vs not lane splitting. The most common type of automobile accident by far is the rear-ender. Cases where one car driving along side another car suddenly loses control and slams
left or right into the car besides them are so rare they are not kept track of. That said, no matter where you put yourself, when on the road on a motorcycle you are going to be between 2 automobiles, either front to back or
side to side. I have witnessed enough rear ender accidents over the years to know I would rather have the cars to my sides, not behind and in front of me when traffic suddenly slows or stops.
My wife really enjoyed going on short rides down the coast with me on the FZ1, but the pillion seat and posistion is not very comfortable for longer periods of time. We talked about renting a big Harley Davidson for our
anniversary in Sept of 2014, but our plans changed and we could not do it. The cost was fairly high as well and for a 5-6 day trip it was going to cost clsoe to $2,000. After more discussion we decided to just buy a second
motorcycle and while the wife really wanted a Harley, I was able to convince her we could get as good/if not better of a bike from Yamaha for much cheaper. I April of 2015 we purchased a 2007 Yamaha V-Star 1300 Touring. This
bike came with saddle bags, a rear top bag and a much more comfortable rear seat for her. After a few rides I immediatly got the bug to hit the open road and in June I took my first trip with some friends. We managed 1500 miles
in 4 days, camped 2 nights, crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains 3 times and I just loved it. This was a whole new experiance on 2 wheels and really needs to be exeperianced at least once in a persons life. There is nothing like
seeing the countryside while riding on a motorcycle, feeling the weather change through the day and as the terrain changes, smelling the environment around you, experiancing a sudden rainstorm on a hot day. Just amazing, I was
In 2016 we planned another trip, this time all the way up to Oregon. We did 2200 miles in 4 days this time and pushed 1000 in the first 24 hours to meet a goal for the Saddle Sore challange from the Iron Butt association
(something I still have not turned my paperwork in for yet). The experiance was once again amazing with things like the Cascades, the Oregon Coastal mountains via bear camp road, The Oregon Coast and miles of desert vistas. It
was yet another epic few days spent on the back of a bike and something I plant to do every year from here on out.
I feel like I have finally found the reason for my love of motorcycles, but it seems that I am reminded of why I love them every time I step over the saddle.
My next dream is to get an adventure bike of some sort and take a week to ride to the tip of Baja California, ferry to the mainland and ride back north, camping along the way. It may be a few years before I can afford such an
adventure, but I am a paitent guy.