This is a cross post from LD Rider which had it cross posted from the ST1300 forum.
The poster to LD Rider thought it was pretty good and like him, I tend to agree with most of the things said below (but not necessarily all).
Quickie Commuting Tips
Lane Splitting/Sharing: While there are no laws (in California) specifically prohibiting lane sharing or lane splitting, there are many laws that could be applied if an officer wanted to cite you. For instance, proximity to other vehicles, speeding, reckless driving, unsafe lane change, failure to signal, etc., etc.
The key is to be prudent, ride safely and don't draw attention. Also, don't use CHP motor cops as examples. They are generally in a hurry, go too fast, and take risks that you shouldn't. Given that, if you catch up to a CHP, or worse, pass him, you're likely in for a ticket... Anyway, here's some tips to make lane splitting safer. In the end, you'll probably find you feel safer splitting lanes than not...
- Most dangerous situations. While one could argue that lane splitting is inherently dangerous, there are three specific situations to be especially alert and on guard for. This isn't necessarily in order of priority you must balance various factors. But, these are the key situations to watch
1. Gaps between cars in the same lane. Most people think the most dangerous time, when splitting lanes, is when you are between vehicles who are side-by-side in two different lanes. The fact is, that's when you are probably most safe (assuming you didn't try to enter a gap that is too
narrow) you are taking advantage of the awareness that each driver has for the other's vehicle, which makes them unlikely to suddenly change lanes.
Plus, you're right in their windows and mirrors. The real danger is when there is a gap between two cars in the same lane tempting someone in an adjacent lane to jump into that gap. The bigger the gap and the greater the speed differential between lanes (more on that in a moment), the greater the danger. Be very, very cautious as you skirt by those gaps.
2. One lane going appreciably faster than the other. This is another situation that should increase your alertness. When one lane is going much faster than the other, it dramatically increases the odds that someone will try to jump out of the slow lane into the faster lane. Again, remember rule
#1 above, and watch those gaps!
3. Initial slow down for a traffic jam. Unfortunately, many bikers see this as the first opportunity to start splitting lanes traffic is slowing down, but lucky me, I don't have to. WRONG! When everyone starts jamming on their brakes is the worst time to start splitting lanes that's when all those drivers start trying to shift lane positions to gain an advantage. This is especially true when one lane is slowing quicker than another. Go ahead and shift lane position to get ready to split lanes, but wait until everyone settles down a bit before you actually enter that gap.
- Splitting/Sharing lane position. Again, there is no one right way to split lanes. You must balance a variety of factors. However, here are some considerations as you choose where in a lane you are riding:
1. Try to stay in one or the other. This is primarily an issue of ticket avoidance. Technically, you can't "straddle" two lanes. The vehicle code says you must occupy a single lane. Therefore, riding along on the dotted line is a no-no. Also, if you switch from one side of the line to the other, you are technically changing lanes and must signal! Of course, this isn't always practical (you need to switch one side to the other to avoid truck mirrors or something), and most law enforcement officers (LEOs) will ignore a reasonable amount of weaving just don't go overboard. Practice staying in one lane as much as possible and riding as smoothly as possible. The squids you see weaving back and forth between lanes are just asking for trouble...
2. Try to stay in the 'outside' lane in turns. That is, if you're splitting lanes 1&2 and the road is bending to the left, try to stick to the #2
(outside) lane. Similarly, if the road is bending right, stick to the #1 lane if possible. This simply increases the diameter of the curve you are following, gives you better visibility down the road, and gives drivers a better view of you in their mirrors (at least those on the outside of the turn). This isn't a rule! Just something to consider if all else is equal (distance to cars, lane speeds, etc.).
3. Stick with the lane of traffic that is moving quicker. If you have the choice between two lanes and one is moving quicker than the other (regardless of your speed), share the lane that is going faster. The odds are that if someone jumps from one lane into the gap in another, they'll be jumping into the faster lane (makes sense). If they do it at a bad time (e.g., you're right there!), you are at least a foot or two further away from them and have more opportunity to react. This isn't a rule either! I've seen people jump from the faster lane to the slower lane (the temptation to get into a gap is just too great?). But, the odds are in your favor is you stick to the faster lane...
4. If you are splitting lanes and traffic bogs down enough that you have to stop, or a car is blocking your path, consider stopping between lanes rather than trying to get back into a particular lane. You are much less likely to get rear-ended if you stay between lanes. When you are splitting, cars don't give the same distance relative to your rear end as they would if you weren't splitting lanes. That means that if you get back in front of them to stop, they may not have enough time to react and stop themselves (if they even notice you).
- Mind your speed. It's easy to get sucked into going too fast especially when traffic is slowly. The rule of thumb is no more than 15 mph faster than traffic, but depending on conditions, that may not even be safe. I try to gauge my speed relative to the cars around me as though they were stopped and I'm walking or jogging. If my speed, relative to the cars next to me, is faster than a brisk walk or jogging (okay, occasionally running), I'm probably going too fast. Consider also that if one lane is going significantly faster than the other, you may want to stop splitting until they even up. If you are splitting between lane is going 30 mph and another that is stopped, you are already going 30 mph faster than half the surrounding traffic if you merely maintain pace with the faster lane! If someone darts in front of you from that stopped lane, you're not going to stop in time. You must always be prepared to stop NOW. When you are splitting lanes, you are moving side to side as is the vehicle in front of you. That being a reality, you will be frequently tailgating someone even momentarily (distance from their bumper to your front wheel), so you have to be more cautious about your speed. It may grate on you to be "only" going 20 mph when traffic is nearly stopped but that is still 20 mph faster than you would be going in a car!
- Check your mirrors. First, check your mirrors BEFORE you start splitting lanes. You'll be amazed how many times a bike is coming up behind you. I've had several close calls with bikes who pulled out to split lanes in front of me as I was coming up through lanes. If they'd only checked their mirrors...
Then, keep checking your mirrors periodically. Pick a safe time to do so (e.g., traffic is evenly accelerating) and make sure nobody else is coming up behind you. Especially CHPs. They are generally very tolerant of other riders splitting lanes, but they don't like to get held up and are more likely to observe you doing something they don't like (failure to
signal) the longer they are behind you. While some riders are happy to split behind others (better visibility with two bikes rather than one), if another rider comes up behind you quickly, they probably want to pass. Wait for a gap in traffic, make an obvious position change away from the space between lanes, and let them by...
Other general tips: These aren't specific to lane splitting, but will help you overall:
- Avoid target fixation. This is a huge problem for most riders (though they fail to either recognize, or admit it). Fact is, our brains are wired to go where we're looking. It is very hard to overcome this. If you are staring at a pothole, or debris in your path, or a car doing something stupid, you're probably going to hit it. Practice aiming just to the side of obstacles.
Train your brain that the game is to ride right next to things. That trains you to look to the side of an object rather than straight at it. For practice, pick a safe target in the road (with no traffic around, of course) like a piece of litter, or a shallow pothole, or even just a stain, and see how close you can get to it without actually hitting it. Do this over and over... With practice, you'll find that you skirt debris on the road without ever actually looking at it. Your peripheral vision becomes a powerful tool.
??Make yourself visible to drivers behind you when you are slowing for traffic or an obstacle. At minimum, flash your brake lights. In cases where traffic is coming up behind me, I'll even weave back and forth in my lane a bit (like a racer trying to warm the sidewalls of his tires). It makes the car behind you wonder, "What the heck is that biker up to?" Which is exactly the point. If he's wondering what the heck you're doing, he sees you! I've had a couple situations where I didn't think the car behind me was slowing quick enough so I started weaving and they immediately jammed on their brakes. Job done.
- Cover your front brake. Any time you are in traffic or a situation where brakes might be called for, keep at least two fingers on that front brake lever. This dramatically reduces your reaction time to something unexpected.
Again, when splitting lanes, you are much closer to the rear of other vehicles than normal. If one of them switches lanes right in front of you, you need every edge you can get.
- Watch drivers in their mirrors. Get used to watching drivers in their own rear-view and side-view mirrors. You'll get great clues as to whether they see you or not.
- Practice counter-steering. If you haven't already mastered this and use conscious countersteering for all turns and maneuvers in traffic, practice, practice, practice. It WILL save your ass at some point. You simply cannot rapidly turn or change lanes without having this down pat...
- Finally, lane position when not splitting lanes is important too. Stay to the left or right of the lane (generally, in the tire tracks of the cars).
This keeps you out the oil and water that collects there, has less chance of containing debris, and gets you closer to the side of the lane if you need to get out in a hurry (e.g., someone about to rear-end you). But... don't just stick to one position! Move around to enhance your visibility, get a better view of upcoming obstacles, see better around corners, etc. The more you move around, the more other drivers see you. Never stay in one position too long, and NEVER hang out in someone's blind spot. Slow down, speed up, change lane position, whatever you have to do to avoid their blind spot!
Bottom line. Lane splitting is safe and effective if you use common sense and apply appropriate caution.
You can see MUCH further down the road (especially compared to being stuck behind some truck or van), you are much more visible to cars (you are, after all, in the exact spot they aim their mirrors), and you don't spend as much time in dangerous situations such as driver's blind spots, or situations where you might get rear ended. But, you are also increasing risk in other ways (proximity to other vehicles being the primary one). Use good judgment though, and you dramatically mitigate that risk. Practice braking hard, practice avoiding target fixation, practice counter-steering, and have fun!