Why Motorcyclists Lane Split And Lane Filter

Estimated read time 6 min read

Unlike people in cars who have a safety cage around them, motorcyclists are highly exposed to injury or worse as they’re riding through traffic. Many drivers don’t seem to fully appreciate this fact and sadly some highly aggressive riders make the divide greater. It’s key that both riders and drivers understand lane splitting, lane filtering, the safety issues surrounding the practices, and the legality of both.

Watch police chase a speeding motorist across state lanes to his shock.

First off, the terms “lane splitting” and “lane filtering” are often used interchangeably by people. Legally speaking, the definition of these terms are differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, adding to the confusion. Later on we’ll dig into laws in the United States, but for the purpose of the majority of this article we’ll define lane splitting as driving between vehicles on the lane dividing lines at speed. As for lane filtering, we’ll use that to refer to driving between lanes in stopped or slow-moving traffic.

When you’re rearended in a car while sitting at a red light, the result can be devastating depending on the speed of the other vehicle as well as its size. On a motorcycle the situation is far worse. Sadly, many drivers still don’t see motorcycles until it’s too late, something which is even true of small sports cars, so they run right into them while believing they have additional room to stop for a red light.

This is one of the top reasons why lane filtering has become popular among riders and has been legalized in certain areas. Being able to ride between stopped or slow-moving cars removes the danger of being rear-ended by one.

On the flip side, drivers can be startled or even enraged by a motorcycle passing them within a foot or two while traffic isn’t moving. Where lane filtering is legal, riders are restricted on how fast they can go while doing it. This helps keep them safe and reduces the shock drivers experience when they ride past. It also lowers the chance a rider will hit and damage a side mirror, which is one of the chief complaints among drivers.

In some instances, drivers have decided to try moving their car to block a filtering motorcycle. We suppose they feel justified in their actions, but wonder if they also try to run speeding drivers off the road. This kind of reaction to lane filtering could cause serious injury or worse and can trigger an escalating confrontation.

The same thing goes for drivers who yell at riders as they stop between vehicles or even get out of their car to confront the supposed scofflaw. If you believe a rider is behaving dangerously, take down the license plate and report it to police, because you aren’t law enforcement. Sadly, many drivers who live where lane filtering is legal don’t know the law and are in fact wrong in their assertion that a rider is in violation.

Lane splitting is even more controversial. Also called “white lining,” riders often stay on the lane lines the majority of the time as they weave through traffic at speed. According to the Motorcycle Legal Foundation, “this type of riding is considered bad practice and is not endorsed by responsible motorcyclists.” But there are many riders who would argue the exact opposite until blue in the face.

Obviously, the big danger with lane splitting is that as speeds increase, the results of a collision between the rider and a vehicle also increase. In addition, cars can suddenly change lanes, cutting off what was just a second before a clear pathway for the motorcycle. Your time to react at higher speeds is dramatically reduced.

While illegal in most of North America, lane splitting is fairly popular among motorcyclists here. They argue that the practice is legal in Europe (which it is to a degree) and so is safe plus should be legal here.

Understandably, drivers don’t want to get into an accident just because they didn’t see a speeding motorcycle flying up on the lane line. This has made lane splitting a contentious issue, but some don’t see the difference between it and lane filtering. They also think it’s reckless and really just about motorcyclists being impatient jerks. Riders argue it helps keep traffic flowing better and keeps them safe, but not everyone agrees.

As far as the legal standing of lane filtering and lane splitting, here’s the laws allowing one or the other in different states in 2023, according Motorcycle Legal Foundation:


A law passed in 2022 allows for two-wheeled motorcycles allows for lane filtering in stopped traffic on roads with a speed limit of 45 mph or above. Riders need to maintain speeds of 15 mph or below.


Lane filtering and splitting are explicitly outlawed.


A proposed bill would legalize lane splitting, but it’s uncertain if the measure will move forward.


Lane splitting and filtering are explicitly outlawed.


A regulation implemented in 2018 allows for “shoulder surfing” or passing a stopped vehicle by riding on the shoulder in certain areas.


A bill would legalize lane splitting, but it’s uncertain if it will move forward in the legislature.


Lane filtering is legal in stopped or slow traffic traveling at 10 mph and under in the same direction. A regulation adopted in 2021 allows for lane splitting in specific conditions at no more than 20 mph.


Bill passed in 2019 for department of transportation to create regulations on lane filtering, but those regulations are still pending.

New York

Lane splitting and filtering are explicitly outlawed.


A proposed bill would legalize lane splitting on roads with a speed limit of 50 mph or greater.


Lane splitting and filtering are explicitly outlawed.


A proposed bill would legalize lane splitting at 25 mph and under.


Lane filtering was made legal in 2019, rider speed restricted to 15 mph and below.


Lane splitting and filtering are explicitly outlawed.


A bill would legalize lane splitting, but apparently it has stalled out in the legislature.

Steven Symes https://writerstevensymes.com/

Steven Symes is an accomplished automotive journalist with a passion for all things related to cars. His extensive knowledge and love for the automotive world shine through in his writing, which covers a diverse range of topics.

You May Also Like

More From Author