For Calif. Marines, motorcycle lane sharing discouraged

7 Jan 2011 | Cpl. Monty Burton

Every day at about 4:30 p.m., almost every major roadway in southern California is congested with vehicles, but for some reason the motorcyclists are able to slip through the lanes to avoid traffic.

Why is this?

Adrian Ramone, Camp Pendleton’s motorcycle safety manager, said the answer is lane sharing.

Lane sharing is when two vehicles share the same lane, usually involving a motorcycle and a four-wheeled vehicle. To be eligible for lane sharing, a roadway must have two lanes going in the same direction. Lane sharing is allowed in the state of California, but if done unsafe, a rider can be cited for it.

Lane sharing often gets confused with lane splitting, which it’s not, said Richard Stampp, a motorcycle safety instructor at Camp Pendleton.

“Lane splitting is riding the middle of two different lanes and traveling at a higher rate of speed than traffic,” Ramone said. “Lane sharing means you are in a single lane and proceeding in a safe and moderate speed.”

The California Highway Patrol authorized lane sharing in an attempt to protect motorcyclists from many dangers associated with traffic, such as carbon monoxide exposure and being rear ended by other vehicles.  

The practice was authorized aboard Camp Pendleton in 2009. But, motorcycle safety instructors discourage lane sharing because of its dangerous nature.

The California Motorcycle Handbook states lane sharing as unsafe, but doesn’t say it is illegal, said Stampp.

“We tell the riders every day that lane sharing is not safe,” Ramone said.

Ramone said many riders don’t follow the safety guidelines associated with lane sharing.

“All the time I see riders going 55 miles per hour and zooming between cars. That is illegal,” he said. “They do it because they have the ability to maneuver, but it doesn’t make it right.”

Stampp said there are dangers associated with lane sharing.

“If a driver doesn’t see the rider and tries to change lanes, it could be bad for both parties involved,” said Stampp. “If there was a collision due to lane sharing, most likely the rider will be at fault.”

Stampp stressed lane sharing should only be done by experienced riders.

“It all comes down to the experience of the rider,” he said. “Lane sharing decreases the amount of space and time available to maneuver out of a dangerous situation.”

Lane sharing, when done properly, can be a useful tool to protect an already vulnerable motorcyclist on the roads but should only be done in a safe and prudent manner. Knowing your limits and observing the rules associated with lane sharing can help keep the motorcycle riders of California safe.

For more information on motorcycle safety please call the motorcycle safety office at 760-725-2897 or visit the California Highway Patrol website at www.chp.ca.gov.


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