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Lane-splitters of the world unite

June 09, 2004|Jeanne Wright | Special to The Times

A recent column on lane-splitting by motorcyclists ("Lane-Splitting: Is It Really OK to Do That?" May 19) triggered a barrage of responses, primarily from angry motorcyclists. Many readers argued it was safer for motorcyclists to navigate through the tight space between two lanes of stop-and-go traffic than to sit in traffic and risk being hit by motorists.

Some cited the two-decades-old "Hurt Report," sponsored by the National Traffic Safety Administration, which found that lane-splitting was the safest place for a motorcycle to be.

For the record, Ken Glaser, spokesman for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, says lane-splitting is not part of the foundation's instructional curriculum for motorcycle riders. "We don't take a position pro or con on the issue," said Glazer. If riders want to get away from heavy traffic on the freeways, "we recommend they use the carpool lanes."

Here's a sample of readers' comments:

There are good motorcycle riders as well as inconsiderate riders. I think it's best that we all try to keep in mind that many types of transportation share the road and they all have their unique needs. Lumping everyone into one category by the faults of others is the easiest thing to do, but really not the most fair. If we give a little consideration it would make a much safer and less aggravating situation for all of us.

-- Cory Iwatsu

San Francisco


I moved here 22 years ago from Michigan and was shocked to see motorcycles speeding in between lanes of traffic. I then bought my first motorcycle and attended the state-sponsored motorcycle safety course.

I'm sure I'd have been a statistic had I not taken that course. The advice the instructor gave on lane-splitting was to only go 5 mph faster than the flow of traffic.

-- Robert Genat


Of course, excessively fast lane-splitting is dangerous. But prudent lane-splitting is a lot safer than stop and go, stop and go, waiting to be smacked from behind.

-- Paul Hobin

San Diego


As a female motorcyclist who lane-splits when traffic is almost at a dead stop or moving very slowly, I realize that this maneuver can be dangerous, but it is legal. What is more frightening and dangerous are the motorists that cross the double yellow lines to get into the car-pool lane: That is illegal.

-- Karyn Imrich


Your knowledge of motorcycles and lane-splitting obviously consists of road rage, upset that people are moving along and you are stuck in your gas-guzzling SUV.

-- Dan Gysel

San Diego


Were you serious about using the quote that "someone could open a car door"? How long have you been driving? Have you ever opened your car door in traffic, or seen anybody else do it?

The likelihood that someone would plow into an unmoving motorcycle in heavy traffic must be immeasurably greater than someone randomly opening a car door in front of a bike splitting lanes -- unless, of course, it was done maliciously.

-- Russ Calisch

San Clemente

You wrote about an interesting niche in the motorcycling community, but I think you missed the real point of danger. I have been a street rider in Los Angeles for decades. I have been splitting lanes on Southland freeways, until I moved to the Seattle area.

I have never, nor have any of my friends, been hurt lane-splitting, but I can't remember a single day without at least one close call. The real problem is in the car drivers' reactions to a motorcyclist making progress through traffic while the driver sits and stews.

People simply get irate and it has nothing to do with scaring them or with safety. I have had folks throw things at me including cigarettes and coffee ... in one case, a shoe.

-- David Stead

Port Orchard, Wash.

Jeanne Wright can be reached at

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