Welcome to Gearhead vs. Gearhead where we put one MotoSport Gearhead against another to debate on various topics. We will select already hotly contested arguments, smaller lesser known ones and of course suggestions by you, our customer.

Each Gearhead takes a side and like debate class might have to argue a side they might not agree with but come up with legitimate and viable reasons for the counter argument. We think MotoSport Gearheads are some of the best in the powersports industry when it comes to knowledge and know-how. If you've ever needed help from our customer service line you know what we are talking about.

So let's set the stage for the inaugural Gearhead vs. Gearhead. Lane Splitting. If you live in California you probably have first-hand experience when a motorcyclist zooms past you between lanes while all the cars sit in traffic. It's a hot topic among the motorcycling community so we asked our Gearheads to battle it out. And, please feel free to battle with us and submit your comments on Facebook and Instagram.

For Lane Splitting by Eric Trauman

  • MotoSport employee for one month
  • Rider for 1 1/2 years
  • Rides 2015 CBR500R

We have all sat in traffic. And here in Portland congestion will only get worse. Bikers have a unique advantage in maneuverability because of size compared to any street legal 4-wheel vehicle. In the effort to ease congestion, lane splitting is an effective way to speed up commutes and remove congestion for everyone. Removing an entire car space reserved for the biker in effect moves all cars one space ahead, leading to less traffic.

The safety of the biker increases because he or she moves out of the way of cars. Motorcyclists have a smaller profile than car and truck drivers, even when wearing Hi-Viz, and may not be seen in time. The easiest way for a motorcyclist to keep from being a collision statistic is to not be there at all.

The only concern is if it can be done safely. Yes, a loud bike can be disturbing as it rolls by. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable as the biker is mere inches away from your mirrors. Yes, you will be jealous. But would you rather have a biker crashing into the back of your car because they were rear ended? Or, how about if you did the rear-ending because you peeked at your phone for just a split second?

All pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, scooters, drivers, riders and literally anyone else in the street - it is our job to do the safety dance. To follow the rules. To be seen. To be courteous. To be free of drugs and alcohol. And most importantly to pay attention. Think of your parents or children being in the other vehicles.

See 2015 Oregon Traffic Crash Summary and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for more information.

Against Lane Splitting by Jerry Iverson

  • MotoSport employee for seven months
  • Rider for five months
  • Rides 2012 Suzuki RMZ450

Today I will be arguing against a very heated subject for people who ride street bikes or cruisers. I am going to be pointing out all of the negatives of lane splitting.

After doing a good amount of research on the subject, I will admit, this will be a difficult task. However, this is something that has caused me many near misses in my car. Also, I will say the people that ride street bikes and other motorcycles unsafely are pretty much the minority. I can understand lane splitting at low speeds and in standstill traffic, but a lot of the issues I have are with people who feel the need to do it at normal freeway speeds. That is where I have personally almost killed three or four different riders, whether they are on a 1000cc super bike or a heavy cruising bike like a Harley Davidson.

I personally believe this is the reason that lane splitting is technically only legal in California. In most states the legalizing of lane splitting either will be voted down by the state House of Representatives or flat out vetoed by that state's governor. The reason most states vote it down comes from a study done by UC Berkley, showing that while legalized, lane splitting accidents did see a slight decline. However, there were still a total of 996 lane splitting accidents from June 2012 through August 2013. Prior to when California officially legalized the practice in August 2016, the law was considered such a gray area California Highway Patrol did not issue tickets. But it became such a problem the state wrote a law to set down firm guide lines which include:

  • When lane splitting a motorcycle cannot be traveling more than 50 MPH
  • Motorcyclists should not be traveling more than 15 mph faster than surrounding traffic

Even with these changes put in place the major burden of lane splitting safety has to be taken by the rider and other drivers on the road. The major component of making lane splitting safe comes from commonsense driving by the rider. They will need to be a lot more conscious of reducing the crash risk at all times. They should not be taking chances in anything that will endanger their lives. Also drivers in cars will need to pay a lot more attention to their surroundings. They cannot depend on hearing a motorcycle when it is close, or just depend on their rearview mirrors to see motorcycles.

So my conclusion is: I don't think that people are ready for this responsibility. Even with all the laws on distracted driving, a good percentage of people do not pay enough attention when driving or when riding. I think the laws will need to be very specific on this subject along with proper enforcement and training for riders and drivers.

See the Orange County Register and Pew Charitable Trusts for more information.