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.

  • 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.