Lane-splitting, as the practice of riding a motorcycle between lanes of stopped or slow-moving vehicles is called, is either explicitly against the law or is a riding style that will get you written up for violating some other law in every state in the USA except California – and even there, you can’t do it however you want. Ride smart or get a ticket is the rule, but if you get caught, what’s the fine for lane splitting?
That depends on where you ride, and what you get written for. Let’s look at the four most populous states – California, Texas, New York and Florida – to see what white-lining will do to your driving record (and wallet).
In California, lane-splitting is a legally defined practice tolerated by most of the law-enforcement agencies. However, there are unofficial guidelines, and while you can violate the guidelines without technically breaking the law, a law-enforcement officer may decide you’re being a jackass and cite you for something else, like unsafe passing or following too closely – violations that can each add up to around $400 in fines and court fees.
In Texas, law enforcement and the general public don’t appreciate bikers riding between lanes. Transportation Code section 545.060 states a road user “shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane.” If you try it anyway, you could get slapped with a $175 penalty before fees. Riders can also be cited for following too closely, making unsafe lane changes, or even reckless driving. It’s not tolerated in most places, though Texas bikers have been doing it more frequently due to confusion about the practice’s legality.
Florida roads can be challenging and traffic-choked. It’s ideal for lane splitting, but you don’t want to try it! The Florida legislature really doesn’t like lane-splitting. State Uniform Traffic Control code 316.209 makes it clear: “The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken,” and “[n]o person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.” That’ll cost you $60 plus other court and county fees.
New York state’s anti-lane-splitting law is word-for-word Florida’s. New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law statute 1252 (b) and (c) inform us that “[t]he operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken, and that “[n]o person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.” Sound familiar? Who writes this stuff? I thought plagiarism was against the law! Anyway, it’ll set you back about $288 including fees, depending on the county.
The silver lining here – if you can call it that – is all these states also protect motorcyclists from car drivers who try to share a lane with them, so at least you’re protected from road hogs. Ride safe!