It’s one of the great annoyances for any biker when we get the speech about lane splitting. There’s always a finger to wag at us about how dangerous it is, how it could cause accidents, how selfish we are not to just wait in traffic safely like the rest of them.
Part of this is, of course, jealousy. Car and truck drivers just wish they could inch through traffic and get around miles-long backups. The fact they weren’t smart enough to buy a bike isn’t our fault, but they want us to suffer with them.
Still, there has long been an assumption that there’s a grain of truth behind this bitter finger wag. Isn’t it dangerous to split lanes?
Before I answer that, a quick catchup for any of you who don’t know what I’m talking about. Splitting lanes are when a bike moves between stopped cars by making way between the lanes, hence splitting them. It’s a common practice. You’ve probably seen it before, and if you were in a car, you probably wagged that finger at the act. Jealousy, pure jealousy.
And that’s all it is, it turns out. According to a study done by Berkley, lane splitting can be perfectly safe if done correctly, and not just when traffic is at a standstill. As long as it is done careful with traffic moving at less than 50 miles per hour, there’s no evidence it is increasing risk for anyone.
Of course, many of us on those bikes splitting those lanes could have told everyone this years ago, but it’s good someone at Berkley proved it anyway. It’s a handy piece of information to throw back at those giving us a talking to next time.
Beyond this excellent point, there’s a more intuitive one to add: lane splitting speeds up traffic. This is obvious when you think about it. If you have ten cars backed up and one of them, even if it is just half the size of the others, can be removed, then there is obviously less traffic. If bikers don’t get caught in the traffic, it will speed up. When we add this point to the one above, that such activities aren’t dangerous to anyone, the solution seems obvious: just let bikers do it. It’ll speed up your commute every day since that’s the time when bikers are usually doing this anyway.
Such information may also lead to some legal reforms. Lane splitting is illegal in almost all states. In others, like Texas, the law is ambiguous. Whether it is uncertain or outright not allowed, studies like those done by Berkley (and the intuitive point I made afterward) make a strong case to allow bikers to get back to one of the best parts of being on a bike: not having to wait around in slow traffic like the rest of the world.
So let’s change those laws people. Because, who wants to be stuck in traffic longer than they have to be?