Last week, the California Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would officially make it legal for motorcyclists to ride between lanes of traffic. It's something that motorcyclists in the state have been doing for years since there was no law specifically against it. But now it's set to officially go on the books as a legal practice. And it's time for every other state to do the same thing.
As it stands, the other 49 states in this country agree that lane splitting is dangerous and should be illegal. And while bills to change that have been proposed in several other states over the years, none have made it to law. Simply looking at how many states are for and against lane splitting, it would look like it's obvious that they're correct. Unfortunately for anti-lane-splitting legislators, the research doesn't back that idea up.
University of California, Berkeley last May. The conclusion? With a few caveats, lane splitting is safe.
Traffic speed was found to be a key factor in rider safety, with no increase in risk of injury until traffic exceeded 50 mph. The other key factor was speed differential. Anything less than 15 mph had no impact on rider injuries. So as long as riders followed those two guidelines, researchers found no evidence that lane splitting was dangerous.
In fact, the study found that lane splitting could even be safer for motorcyclists. Riders who rode in traffic were both injured more frequently and more seriously than riders who lane split, and they were much more likely to be rear-ended. As far as rider safety goes, it looks like the benefit of lane splitting is an open-and-shut case.
But lane splitting doesn't only benefit motorcyclists. It benefits everybody on the road by reducing congestion.
by Belgian researchers found that replacing only 10 percent of cars with lane-splitting motorcycles reduced travel times by 63 percent. That's huge. Obviously, it can be frustrating to be stuck in traffic and watch a motorcyclist ride by, but the research shows that if that rider stayed weren't lane splitting, traffic would actually be moving more slowly.
If you reduce congestion, that means you're not only saving everyone time and frustration, you're also saving them money. That's because they're using nearly as much fuel to get where they're going. And when you reduce fuel usage as a whole, you also reduce emissions.
Allowing motorcycles to lane split probably won't go so far as to reverse global warming, but no one's ever complained that the air they're breathing is too clean. Or that they're not stressed enough during their commute. Or that they're spending too little on gas. Or that they're getting home from work too quickly. Doing that would be almost as crazy as, well, banning lane splitting.
People can try to argue that riding between lanes is dangerous, but when you look at the evidence, the opposite is true. They can also try to argue it's an inconvenience for other drivers, but again, the evidence shows the opposite is true. Really, the only defensible argument against legalizing lane splitting is "I don't care what the research says. I don't like it and never will." At least then they're being honest.
But states shouldn't let their laws be dictated by groups of people who don't like that the available research disagrees with them. It's time for the rest of this country to catch up with California and start repealing anti-lane splitting laws.