In a May 2015 study, researchers from UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center found that lane splitting is relatively safe if traffic is moving at 80kph or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 24kph.
If you have ever seen a motorcyclist travelling between queued traffic on a busy road during peak commuter traffic times, you’ve probably wondered whether this is legal. This practice, known as lane splitting, is permitted in some circumstances as it falls within the overtaking rules found in the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.
Rule 2.6: General Requirements About Passing Other Vehicles
Overtaking can be completed at any time provided you don’t impede oncoming traffic; have a 100m-clear view of traffic throughout the manoeuvre; don’t cut off the vehicle being overtaken when you pull back into the lane; and can complete the movement safely with consideration for other road users. The speed limit for the area must also be complied with. When travelling in separate lanes, you may overtake on either the left or right, provided you remain in your lane throughout the passing movement.
Rule 2.7: Passing On The Right
Overtaking approaching an intersection may only be performed if the manoeuvre can be made without entering lanes available for oncoming traffic and can be made safely with consideration for other road users. On roads marked with a flush median, the median is not available as an overtaking lane. Flush medians can only be driven on if you intend turning into a side road or driveway or have pulled out from a side road and are using the flush median to merge with traffic. You may overtake on the right if you remain completely in your lane. That means that a motorcycle can overtake while sharing a lane with a car if it stays on the right-hand side of the vehicle.
Rule 2.8: Passing On The Left
You may overtake on the left if travelling in separate lanes. You may overtake on the left if the vehicles being overtaken are stationary or are indicating a right-hand turn. In other words, a motorcycle can only overtake on the left-hand side while sharing a lane with a car provided that the car is stationary or indicting a right-hand turn.
What are the benefits?
Proponents of lane splitting believe it allows motorcyclists to save time by bypassing traffic congestion and may also be safer than stopping behind stationary vehicles as it reduces the chances of rear-end crashes. In a May 2015 study, researchers from UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center found that lane splitting is relatively safe if traffic is moving at 80kph or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 24kph. The report also found that compared with other motorcyclists involved in a collision in California, lane-splitting riders were less likely to be rearended than other non-lane-splitting riders (6% versus 4.6%). They also were less likely to suffer head injury (9% versus 17%), torso injury (19% versus 29%) and fatal injury (1.2% versus 3%). However, lane-splitting riders involved in collisions were also more than twice as likely to rear-end another vehicle (38.4% versus 15.7%).
Motorcycles are easy to miss, especially in busy traffic situations as they can get into positions in which a commuter wouldn’t usually expect to see another vehicle. Being aware of your blind-spot is important when keeping a good lookout for vehicles changing lanes. Driving requires concentration as there is much to do and observe to navigate safely to your destination. Provided that a motorcyclist elects to travel at a sensible speed, you will have a chance to see and make room for them.