We've all experienced it: sitting in endless Bay Area traffic on a clogged freeway at rush hour, when, suddenly....a motorcycle blows by in that narrow strip between your lane and the lane of the vehicle next to you.
Is that guy crazy? Or is he/she a smarter commuter than I? And, is what he's doing even legal?
According to an article in Friday's San Jose Mercury News, "lane-splitting" by motorcyclists is perfectly legal, albeit controversial.
The article coincides with the beginning of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the release of a survey by the state Office of Traffic Safety on the practice of lane splitting.
The survey found that 53 percent of drivers think splitting lanes is against the law, but that 87 percent of motorcyclists do it. (The survey also found that 7 percent of drivers say they've tried to block bikers as they ride between lanes.)
California is the only state that permits lane-splitting, and while there is no law that deals directly with the practice, police warn of it's hazards.
"While lane splitting is legal, it can be very dangerous, especially when motorcyclists are splitting lanes at an unsafe speed," said Lieutenant Pat Halleran of the .
"Our officers have, and will, stop motorcycles if they are splitting lanes at an unsafe speed or in an unsafe manner. Our traffic officers often need to get to an emergency scene quickly and will split traffic, as needed. It takes a high level of skill and an abundance of caution to do it safely, even at city speeds," added Halleran.
Belmont police have also had several incidents involving bicyclists splitting lanes.
"The bicycle collision on Ralston Avenue at Twin Pines Lane in January was as a result of a bicyclist trying to pass traffic on the shoulder. In February, a motorcyclist on El Camino Real crashed while he was lane-splitting and had to brake suddenly for a vehicle which was stopping ahead of him. The motorcyclist lost control of his motorcycle and fell to the ground, luckily not hitting, or getting hit by, anyone else."
"Driving safely, whatever the means of transportation, requires a driver's undivided attention and situational awareness," said Halleran.
There are more than 1.2 million motorcycles on California roadways today--twice as many as a decade ago.
In recognition of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, electronic freeways will display the message, "Share the road. Look Twice for Motorcyclists."
What do you think about motorcycle lane-splitting? Are you a motorcyclist? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below and take our poll.