EDITOR: I read with interest the article by Thomas D. Elias regarding the recent legislation of lane splitting (“Uneasy Riders,” Dec. 6). Just so it is perfectly clear that I am not trying to be objective in any way, I’ll go on record as a motorcyclist who lane splits almost every day. Except that you won’t hear me “roar(ing) from behind” or “rip(ing) past you” because unlike the very few folks who do such things, my motorcycle is quiet and I don’t ride recklessly. If one went over to 101 and had a look at the motorcycles that split there, he would find that courteous, quiet motorcycles are the majority – or you might not even notice them at all.
Likewise, a single study did not cause for lane splitting to become legal. In fact, lane splitting has always been legal in California, though it was not codified. You may call that splitting hairs, but here’s a good example of what that means: it is not illegal to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That means that eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is legal. Lane splitting was under the same rules. It was not illegal, and that makes it legal.
Lane splitting first got the attention of academia in 1981 when the Hurt Report was published. This report studied motorcycle accidents and discovered that rear-end collisions to motorcycles were significantly lower in California than other states. While the Hurt Report didn’t make conclusions about lane splitting it did remark that lane splitting could be the reason for those favorable statistics. The US DOT Fatality Analysis Reporting System contains the exact data that does point to the increased safety of lane splitting. That data shows that rear-end collision fatalities to motorcycles are 30 percent lower in California than in Texas or Florida, which are similar states in riding population and riding season, and who are not allowed to lane split.
The UC Berkeley study merely confirms with their own data and study what we, the motorcyclists already knew. Lane splitting is less dangerous than sitting in stop-and-go traffic waiting for the detached, distracted, phone-using, latte-sipping driver to ram into a motorcycle and kill the rider.
Anyone who is on top of the lane splitting situation has already seen the guidelines that are forthcoming. The Office of Traffic Safety, CHP and other interested agencies, developed a set of guidelines a few years back and published them. However, there was some legal challenge as to the CHP’s authority to publish those guidelines, so the lane splitting law was created to define lane splitting and give the CHP the authority to create and publish those guidelines.
Let’s consider this as well: Every motorcycle that lane splits saves everyone in traffic a little bit of time. Studies out of Europe show that a lane splitting motorcycle is “net zero” in heavy traffic. Essentially, it has no effect on the slowdown. In fact, the studies show that if 10 percent of the travelers on our congested highways began riding motorcycles, most of the traffic would go away. There are also benefits by way of reduced fuel consumption, again, for everyone on the road.
Anyone who is interested in educating themselves about the subject should point their computer to lanesplittingislegal.com or search the internet for an excellent source of all Bay Area motorcycle topics at bayarearidersforum.com.