Tackling Motorcycling Issues: Lane Splitting in NYC

Tackling Motorcycling Issues: Lane Splitting in NYC

Riding a motorcycle is convenient, affordable, fun and environmentally friendly. And if you add lane splitting into the mix, it becomes very time efficient too. 

While car drivers slowly creep through heavy traffic, motorcyclists just zip by, effortlessly riding between lanes. The fact that some folks get to go ahead may seem unfair to some car drivers and may even make them mad, while others may wonder if riding between cars is safe or even legal.

In many countries of the world motorcycle lane splitting is a common practice, being long recognized as a way of alleviating traffic congestion and reducing collision risks. And yet, outside of California, the practice remains illegal in the United States. The issues of congestion, carbon emissions and road safety don't seem to be going anywhere, so hopefully, following the example set by California, New York and other states will move forward with the adoption of lane splitting as legitimate practice. 

What is lane splitting?

Lane splitting, also referred to as traffic filtering, lane sharing and stripe-riding, is a practice of riding a motorcycle past slow moving traffic in the space between two lanes when traveling in the same direction. While virtually all motorcyclists support lane splitting, it is still a very controversial practice in the United States. 

Some people say that splitting lanes would allow motorcycle riders to avoid crashes and to be safer on the road. Others are not so certain.

There has been some research on the safety of lane splitting. Europe and Asia, and now the state of California, have made it legal but the evidence that lane splitting prevents motorcycle crashes and injuries or contributes to them is inconclusive. Strong opinions have been voiced on each side of the debate, and it’s still one of the most hotly debated issues today.

Why is it illegal to split lanes in NYC?

Just like in other 49 states, with an exception of California, lane splitting is illegal in New York. When it comes to ensuring road safety, the traffic laws are very important. There are several laws in place regarding motorcycle riders. For instance, under New York motorcycle law, all motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet. It does’t matter the rider’s age, level of experience, or whether they are the driver or a passenger, it is illegal to ride without a helmet in New York. 

Regarding lane usage in New York state, the law says that all motorcycle riders are entitled to use the entire lane. This means that other vehicles cannot violate the motorcyclist’s space in the lane. Drivers must treat the motorcycle as if it actually occupies the entire lane. When it comes to the city of New York, driving here tends to be more hectic than in other places and the NYC drivers are notorious for their aggressive driving. There are several specific risks associated with lane splitting in New York City.

Here are some of them:

  • The widths of lanes on New York City roads are commonly quite narrow, making lane splitting hazardous.
  • A driver of a parked car may open a door unexpectedly and the motorcyclist may hit it.
  • NYC traffic is very heavy in the city and tends to be fast moving on highways.
  • Sudden vehicle movements such as lane changes may occur with no prior indication.
  • A motorcycle is almost invisible to tractor-trailers, trucks and busses. Drivers of larger vehicles may not expect someone to be lane splitting through traffic, which means an increased risk of accidents.

Due to these and other risks involved in lane splitting, the practice remains prohibited in the city of New York. At the same time, responsible lane splitting could prove to be an inexpensive and effective way to relieve traffic congestion and open more lane space for larger vehicles in busy cities like NYC.

Lane splitting advice.

Lane splitting isn’t for everyone; certainly not for new riders. Even experienced motorcyclists don’t always know the correct way to lane split. They don’t do it in the proper lanes and at speeds that are much too fast. Next time you are in Europe or California and want to try lane splitting, here’s a good video that explains why lane splitting is beneficial and how to do it in a responsible manner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNGD9AAIfFU

And here are some quick lane splitting tips from us:

  • Beware of gaps in traffic, especially in congested areas where it is hard to maneuver
  • Pick a channel and stay there
  • Cover your levers 
  • Avoid riding on painted lines, paint has less traction
  • Stop within the driver’s field of vision 
  • Respect turn signals
  • Watch out for vehicles doing U turns in front of you
  • Watch driver’s blind spots

Lane splitting is an advanced riding skill and requires lots of practice. By following the above tips and keeping ever vigilant of the hazards, you can learn to split lanes in a safe and responsible way. 

What you can do.

Last week, latimes.com posted an article which says that the motorcycle industry is in big trouble and needs help. Centered around the key findings in the report published by a group of concerned motorcycle veterans, the article talks about problems that the motorcycle industry faces and possible ways of solving them. The article has spurred a ton of comments from motorcyclists, expressing their opinions on what can be done to save the motorcycle industry. Many ardent riders agree that one of the major things that can help increase the interest in motorcycles is to legalize lane splitting in all 50 states. And it has to start with promoting lane splitting as a helpful practice and educating other drivers on its benefits. You can read the article in its entirety here: http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-motorcycle-summit-20171214-story.html

Letting your voice be heard is very important. One of the best ways to do that is to monitor legislation in your state, get to know your state legislators and express your opinion on important issues. You can contact the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) to find out about new bills and laws that affect motorcycling.

If you are a supporter of lane splitting and want it to be legalized in NYC, join many other like-minded riders and sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/new-york-city-department-of-transportation-legalize-lane-splitting-in-new-york-state