Q: Why do we use the term, “Lane-Sharing”?
A: Whether you call it lane-sharing, lane-splitting, white-lining or filtering, it’s more or less all the same. We choose to label the practice “lane-sharing” because it recognizes the needed cooperation between the motorcyclist and the other road users for the practice to be successful. Further, “lane-sharing” is a more social term than “lane-splitting” or “white-lining”. “Filtering” is probably more accurate at describing the true action of the practice, but we’ll be using “lane-sharing” on this site.
Q: Why do we need lane-sharing in the first place?
A: As it’s practiced in California, lane-sharing offers a way to reduce congestion by creating an additional lane for motorcyclists to use when traffic is stopped or slow moving. It conserves energy in two ways. First, it keeps the motorcyclist and other traffic, to a lesser degree, moving. A moving vehicle is more energy efficient than a stopped vehicle plus the commute time is reduced further reducing energy use. Second, it promotes the motorcycle as an alternative form of transportation. Motorcycles get between 35-90 mpg which beats the average car, SUV, or light truck by a huge margin. Lane-sharing may actually be safer for the motorcyclist than being sandwiched between two larger vehicles in stop-and-go traffic. Additionally, some motorcycles (particularly air-cooled) don’t do well in a stopped or slow moving environment and must keep moving to avoid engine damage.
David Hough; Moto-journalist
As a veteran motorcyclist and motorcycle journalist specializing in riding skills, I’ll go on record in favor of lane sharing being a viable concept. There may not be as many motorcyclists in the WA traffic mix as there could be, but there are more than a few, and many are year-round commuters. Every person on a bike is one less driver in a 4-wheeler.
These days CA traffic in the LA basin and around San Francisco is so congested that bikes are a definite “alternate vehicle”, and lane sharing allows the same number of 4-wheelers with an increase in the number of 2-wheelers. Puget Sound traffic is rapidly becoming as congested as in LA or SF.
The obvious advantage to drivers in general is that more non-motorcyclists get to occupy the available space. I agree that research is the key to making this a reality. When the “Hurt Report” was done back in the late 1970’s, traffic in CA was milder, and there was less need to share lanes. So, there is little data in the report to give us clues about the “safety” of lane sharing.
IMHO, (and if you need my credentials I’ll be glad to provide them) the risks are not increased by lane sharing, provided that other drivers accept the practice, and motorcyclists understand the “rules.”
Andy Goldfine, organizer, Ride to Work Day
A useful lane-sharing metaphor is a bucket of baseballs. Lots of marbles fit nicely in the interstices between the baseballs and softballs. If we as a culture want increasingly convenient automobility, then lane sharing is one small way to make our world work better. Building ever-larger buckets is very costly. Fitting more balls into the buckets we have might be worth trying. Particularly since this has already worked so well for so long in so many other places.
Filtering to the front at intersections works without problems everywhere that it is done – legally or not. Riders do it every day in both Lower Manhattan and Malaysia.
The principle of encouraging the wider adoption of less consumptive and more efficient forms of automobility is far more important that the actual numbers of individuals benefiting, or any quantification of benefits. (It is not important how many disabled persons use a particular handicapped parking space, just that those spaces be there for the one person needing such a space at a particular moment in time.)
The safety of lane sharing and filtering is hard to prove because it is behavioral. All behaviors (sociological, psychological, etc. ) are a challenge to understand empirically. Look at some related considerations: Cars average 15,000 miles of mostly utility use per year. Motorcycles average about 1,800 miles of mostly ‘entertainment’ use per year. With Aircraft (private and commercial), pilot flight hours logged are an extremely strong predictor of how likely a plane will stay up in the sky. Riding and driving (and most other human activities) is exactly the same. Motorbikes are mostly used to get ice cream on Sunday and liquor on Saturday night. Cars are mostly used to get groceries and go to work every day. Motorcycle officers who ride 50,000 miles a year do not have a ‘safety’ problem. Neither do professional motorcycle couriers. Or the average car driver… Mining safety-related data to establish that lane sharing works safely will be difficult. World-wide (and within the United States) local driving cultures vary far more than traffic regulations do. Lane sharing is a lot more about cultural and behavioral issues than it is about statistics and safety. Every state needs to try this…on the presumption that giving citizens this specific freedom is a reflection of our faith in each other, and in the future of automobility. This is what civilization does sometimes (or should do…).
Greg Hertel, Port of Friday Harbor
— previously requested that Rep Jeff Morris float a bill to allow lane-sharing in WA
Here are some of the points I try to make when extolling the virtues of lane sharing:
1. You are building roads for nothing. Every bike between the lanes is one more spot for a car at no cost to the taxpayer.
2. It encourages more people to consider bikes as viable transportation. Every bike used SAVES FUEL! Every bike consumes far less resources to manufacture compared to any car.
3. If more people ride motorcycles to work and they can lane share, the commute may be sped up.
4. California’s long experience with it has demonstrated both the safety and the merits of lane sharing.
Nick Ienatsch. Sport Riding Techniques
…understand that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) regards lane sharing as a “good thing” because it reduces congestion. Every rider I know is thankful for lane sharing, so it’s important that we don’t abuse it to the point we can no longer enjoy it legally.
Amy Holland; Editor, Friction Zone. “Laws for Motorcyclists.” October 2005.
In all my experiences lanesplitting, only once did I have someone intentionally block my path. It really didn’t matter, because it didn’t take long before I was able to get around them anyway. My experiences has almost always been positive – when they realize I’m there, most motorists give me extra room by moving to the edge of their lane. They are not required or obligated to do this, so when they do (and if I can), I give them a “Thank you!” wave.
Mary R. Lee; Motorcyclist; WA
For my first year of riding, my trips were limited to the Pacific Northwest. During this time, I was quite adamant that lane-splitting was too risky for a rider, even with traffic on I-5 at a complete stop.
A year later, I joined a group of riders going to Monterey, CA. This trip was uneventful except for the last 15 miles. The traffic came to a standstill, and I started out cautiously between cars. After a moment, I noticed that the cars made extra space for motorcyclists by moving to the far side of their respective lanes. A minute later, my speed had picked up a bit as my comfort level increased. Every car was respectful of our space.
All told, this first experience of lane sharing has changed my views on lane-splitting to be very positive. If a motorcyclist is against lane-splitting, first ask if that person has ever tried it. In most cases, the person probably hasn’t. Trying it out will likely change their minds.
April First; Motorcyclist; WA
I generally don’t feel the need to “share lanes” while I’m on my bike as my commute times have pretty good traffic flow. But when there’s an accident or an event downtown and traffic’s not moving, then that’s where sharing comes into play. Slow- or non-moving vehicles present slight danger, and I constantly scan for possible situations. I have never had anything bad happen to me while threading carefully between two rows of cars. I’ve saved a huge amount of time and I cause very little inconvenience to those whom I pass by. By allowing motorcycles to share lanes, there is that many less vehicles left behind to impede the flow of traffic.
Randall Ayers: Motorcyclist Commuter; WA
As a frequent motorcycle commuter I experience the advantage of motorcycle travel nearly everyday. Not only do I arrive at work refreshed and ready to tackle the day, I feel I’m more productive then my car drivers commuter co-workers right off the bat. The advantage of being able to take the HOV or car pool lanes not only reduces my commute time, but takes some of the stress off of our already overburdened highway infrastructure. Motorcycles in the normal flow of traffic offer nearly no advantage over other types of vehicles on a traffic congested highway. They take a space that could be filled by a larger vehicle and aren’t being used to their best advantage. By allowing the motorcyclist the ability to use the pavement that is already in place to reduce the footprint on the roadway is a win win situation for all commuters. By offering this extra, already paid for roadway to be used in this fashion, I believe would encourage many other commuters to consider using a motorcycle or scooter as their commuter vehicle. It’s far more advantageous to allow lane sharing then to add extra road way, not to mention far less expensive. It’s an easy and cost effective way to reduce the stress on our roadways.