Lane Splitting. That’s what motorcyclists and law enforcement call it when you’re riding between two lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic. But can you do it without risking a ticket or worse?

The answer, of course, depends on where you are riding. In many countries around the world, the practice isn’t just tolerated (and legal), it’s a deeply ingrained part of the culture. It would probably also be impossible to enforce anti-lane splitting laws in places like China, Vietnam or India, where the majority of vehicles are often scooters and small motorcycles!

In European countries, the practice is both legal and tolerated, with a few exceptions. In Germany, for example, lane splitting moving traffic is prohibited, but slowly moving between lanes of stopped vehicles (“filtering”) is tolerated, though not expressly allowed. In France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and most other countries, the practice is not just lawful, it’s expected.

In North America, it’s not as accepted. In Mexico, it’s legal and tolerated (be polite and friendly though!), but los gringos in the USA and Canada aren’t as accepting. Of the 50 states, only California has legalized lane splitting, and though there have been attempts to legalize it in Nevada, Texas, Washington and Oregon, it’s still a dream outside the Golden State.

lane split

Scooters in Thailand. Can you imagine trying to ban lane splitting where most vehicles only have two wheels?

Canadians are similarly disappointed when they try to save some time by sneaking in between lanes of cars. Traffic laws vary from province to province in Canada, and though it isn’t expressly prohibited everywhere, it’s still not tolerated under the Maple Leaf flag. In fact, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation calls it “extremely dangerous,” and authorities will cite you for something like reckless driving if they catch you.

So where is it legal to lane split? You can do it in most places with roads, but not everywhere. Carefully check with local riders and police to see if it’s legal, acceptable and safe to do – or suffer the consequences of your bad decisions! Ride safe!

  • John A. Smith

    I really wish it were legal in more places in the U.S. And I don’t even need active lane splitting at any speed — I’m simply talking about filtering at a stop light or in true bumper to bumper traffic. As it is, the only time I even do anything approaching filtering is scooting up on a shoulder that is too small for a car so I can make a right turn at a light I know will be backed up for 5-10 minutes. And even then, every once in awhile there’ll be some driver who thinks it’s a good idea to try to hit bikes doing that — something I’ve never understood. If they actually make contact, they’re in deep trouble. Worse if someone gets injured. It’s part of the reason I’m running a gopro all the time now. The ticket I’ll get from the video showing me breaking the law is worth knowing that someone who swerves is going to get a nice reckless citation and lawsuit.

    • James Skidmore

      I live in Texas in a major metropolitan area and I lane split. Not when I’m on a huge bike. I don’t do it recklessly by driving way faster than traffic, weaving in and out and being an idiot. Yes some idiots get mad. It’s stupid. Do they get mad at people in airplanes, trains subways and other forms of transportation? Does it inconvenience them by having me clear space for another car? Am I going to sit there and let them rear eand me cause they didn’t see me or were too busy being distracted by their phone? I’m not hurting anyone with this practice and it’s been proven that filtering actually helps traffic – both the motorcyclist and driver’s of other vehicles. I understand that there are people who believe it is their job to control traffic. I understand their are people who think driving is like waiting in line. I understand there are people who believe that it’s like a damn race and it’s an insult to them to be passed. I understand that there are over 200 violations in the Texas Motor Vehicle Code and you can violate every single one of the as long as you aren’t “speeding” (the ultimate taboo to uptight drivers). I don’t give a crap what other people’s hangups are. I’m filtering when it’s safe and in a safe manner. It puts me at risk not to. It makes traffic worse if I don’t. It’s not “practical” to stay in one lane traffic is at a standstill. People fear what they don’t understand and that’s their problem.

  • Sentinel

    Having lane-splitting be illegal is costing riders serious injury and even costing lives. All of those out of touch, couldn’t care less bureaucrats have blood on their hands.

  • bgreen2266

    here we go agian

  • symun buuntw

    Should change law for car driver .1person driver should nt be allow.causing traffik jam and creating air pollution.

  • wolzybk

    I rode daily in CA for 25 years. I now live in NH. I miss very few things about CA, and the weather isn’t top of the list. #1 is lanesplitting, which (done rationally) is a safety benefit as well as a traffic and efficiency benefit. #2 is Mexican food.

  • Ian Parkes

    New Zealand. It’s legal here. Or not illegal. But it’s in the syllabus of the competency-based motorcycle licencing scheme, which shortcuts the usual progressions. It makes a useful distinction between lane-splitting – through moving traffic; and filtering – through stopped traffic.

    It’s one of the best reasons to have a bike. I live the other side of a harbour bridge that has notorious peak hour queues, despite a moveable median barrier that gives more lanes to the peak hour flow. My travel times on that motorway are utterly consistent, peak hours to the middle of the night. Colleagues at work occasionally comment on traffic being bad, but me, I genuinely don’t notice. It’s just not part of my world.

  • Kevin

    For a moto mag this has to rank as the most useless lane splitting/filtering article I’ve ever read. Does the journalist even ride? Can’t tell from the article (bereft of facts, essentially just a “here is where you can….maybe…just a partial list, no real data about anyone particular countries practices). This is nothing more than XMAS bullhshit filler piece. But, I’ve come to expect that from motorcycle.com

  • Duane Kimball

    I have a couple of motorcycles and the question isn’t where should it be legal but where would it be safe? NOWHERE! You can’t trust cars and their drivers and splitting lanes is just asking for trouble. Physics always wins.