people for bikes

Is Lane Splitting Unlawful?

Is Lane Splitting Unlawful?

By Maureen & Megan

No matter who you ask, it’s a controversial practice! Motorcyclists say it’s safer than sitting in traffic and eases traffic congestion. Cyclists maintain that it gets them ahead of traffic at intersections so they can be more visible to cars. Motorists argue that it’s dangerous and risky.

Lane splitting, also referred to as stripe riding or white lining, is the practice of riding a bicycle, motorcycle or any other two-wheeled vehicle between rows of slow-moving traffic driving in the same direction. Lane filtering refers to riding between lanes going in the same direction in stopped traffic. 

California is currently the only state that allows motorcycle lane splitting. 

So, what does this mean for cyclists? We received the following inquiry from a cyclist about lane splitting/filtering:

‘Is any part of the CO Law applicable to lane filtering or splitting? 

For example, is it legal for a cyclist to ride between stopped traffic in their lane and parked cars on the right or to ride between two lanes of stopped traffic?”

There is no statute in Colorado that specifically prohibits cyclists from lane splitting or lane filtering; however, the conclusion has always been that since it’s not legal for motorcyclists, cyclists should not do it either.

Furthermore, a cyclist has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle, so they should follow the same rules when it comes to overtaking and passing another vehicle on the left or right.

"The law says you cannot overtake a vehicle traveling in the same lane and direction, with certain exceptions.  Lane splitting has two major concerns.  #1) as cyclists, the law requires you be given 3-feet when being passed.  Should it not be the same for a cyclist passing a motor vehicle?  #2) we already have a problem in Colorado with motorists not expecting cyclists to be where they have the right to be (think right-hook turns). The concern is if lane splitting is permitted, how many accidents and incidents of road rage will we have until the motoring public comes to terms with this mentally and in their driving behavior?" says Frank Barr, Police Officer for the City of Golden.  

Chances are, if a cyclist chooses to pass between lanes of cars, or pass up the right side (where there is no bike lane), if a collision occurred- for example, if a car in the right lane suddenly decided to make a right turn having no idea a cyclist has pulled up alongside them, the cyclist will be found at fault, or half-at-fault.  Anytime a cyclist does something to deprive themselves of the 3-foot buffer- like pulling alongside the right side of stopped cars, between the car and a curb, if a collision occurs, the cyclist is going to share some blame.  

Consider the following scenarios that could cause a cyclist serious injury or death if lane splitting or filtering forward:

  • Cyclist is riding between two lanes of moving traffic when a motorist switches lanes unexpectedly and crashes into the cyclist
  • Cyclist gets doored when riding between traffic lanes when a passenger opens car door to exit vehicle
  • Cyclist stops on the passenger side of the vehicle in the driver’s blind spot and is right-hooked by a turning vehicle at an intersection after filtering forward

When approaching an intersection, it is recommended that a cyclist takes the lane instead of lane splitting or filtering forward. League Certified Instructor Gary Harty prefers to take the lane and wait his turn at stop lights especially if there are only two or three cars ahead of him. “I don’t like to go ahead of the first car because I may not be visible and would be setting myself up for being right hooked,” he says. 

Harty prefers to control his lane when turning left. If he is going straight, he will position himself next to the white line, either left or right of the line, the side with the least amount of traffic. “I understand both sides are legal and defend against right hooks. If traffic is slow I would like to control the thru lane.”

Cutting through traffic with rows of cars on both sides doesn’t give a cyclist adequate space either, especially considering that motorists have to give cyclists three-feet when passing. 

Denver has 130 miles of bike lanes

Denver has 130 miles of bike lanes

“In a perfect world, you would have a minimum of four feet between you and parked cars on your right to prevent being doored and another three feet on your left between you and the projections of the moving vehicles on your left.  If you give yourself three feet in which you occupy space, this is a total of ten feet minimum between parked cars and the moving traffic lane.  I can’t think of any place in this area where that space exists.  Our bicycle infrastructure has not reached that level yet. Therefore, if a cyclist is going to ride into that space that is much less than ten feet, there is a great deal of risk involved and potentially a conflict with CRS that states you should pass slower vehicles on the left,” says Harty.

As bicycling becomes more of an accepted form of transportation across the country, cities are working to make improvements to bicycling infrastructure. According to its website , the City of Denver has:

  • more than 100 miles of multi-use trails.
  • 130 miles of bike lanes.
  • 39 miles of sharrows, and almost 400 miles of signed bike routes. 

Denver’s Bicycle Program is improving on-street facilities and creating connections between Denver's neighborhoods and destinations. Bicycle traffic signals, green pavement marking, designated bike lanes, bikeways, buffered lanes and green bike boxes are being installed around the city.

Green pavement markings in Denver notifying motorists of the presence of bicyclists

Green pavement markings in Denver notifying motorists of the presence of bicyclists

Bike boxes and bike lanes make it possible for cyclists to avoid lane splitting/filtering to get ahead of vehicles at intersections. Cyclists position themselves ahead of cars in the bike box and have priority to move into the intersection when the light turns green. Motorists must wait behind the green bike box at the white stop line. This gives cyclists priority to move through the intersection.

Bike box at 11  th   and Speer in Denver

Bike box at 11th and Speer in Denver

People for Bikes has been working hard to add these green lanes and boxes with their “green lane” projects- which provide funding to cities to make it possible for the addition of this infrastructure.  These lanes and the bright green paint make it much safer for cyclists and allow them to move to the front of an intersection legally.  (Read more here:


Expanding and improving bicycling infrastructure to make bicycling more accessible and safe will take time. In the meantime, use caution when you are cycling and don’t put yourself in a situation where splitting the lane or filtering forward could result in injury.

Ride on Atlanta with People for Bikes

What a rush, what a ride... 

I've just returned home from my second RIDE ON ___ event with People for Bikes:  

  • March 30: Asheville, NC to Charlotte, NC
  • March 31: Charlotte, NC to Greenville, SC
  • April 1: Greenville, SC to Athens, GA
  • April 2: Athens, GA to Atlanta, GA

I joined PFB in 2014 for the Ride on Chicago and this year we made our way into the south, riding from Asheville NC to Atlanta GA. We began as a group of relative strangers; all crazy-passionate about bikes of course - and 4 days and approx 450 miles later, we were one finely-tuned machine of friendship and laughs and 2x2 pacelines.  I mean -the number of inside jokes and bonds formed and laughs honestly grew exponentially day by day so that by the end, we were all asking for #onemoreday.  (Seriously).  Amazing what time on the bikes and eating and hanging out can do for a group of people.              

See e.g., Exhibit A: (photo credit @peopleforbikes @mcmahon_meg).

The purpose of this ride is to raise money, yes.  We are each asked to raise $5000 or so, to round out a nice $100,000 effort for the week.  This covers the ride overhead plus leaves People for Bikes with extra money to fund new bike projects, like bike lanes, gathering statistics, conducting studies or even making cool videos that inspire people to ride bikes.  But the other main purpose is to raise AWARENESS.  Rolling through these towns with our support crews behind us, we certainly turned heads and made people look up.  *LOOK HOW COOL BIKES CAN BE!*  Coming into ATL on the final day we were stopped at a red light and the woman in the car next to me rolled down her window and said "I wish I was on my bike right now and not stuck in this awful traffic!".  Yep.  Exactly. 

Not only that, but this year's ride featured several prominent folks which FURTHER elevated the promotion of the event and awareness all the more.  These folks included NASCAR greats Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, as well as Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.  It was a top notch event from start to finish with many memorable moments (how about that deer that nearly took out Ted King? Or the hotel water main break/ flood that had us up at 3am?).  That Tim Johnson SURE does know how to throw an epic event together.  

I began my fundraising efforts by throwing down the first $1k and then asked my friends and people who love bikes to raise the next $3k.  I'm so close to the $4k mark and when I get there, I am throwing down the next $1k to round out at $5000.  My donation is made in honor of cyclist Glenda Taylor, who was killed in Kansas in 2015 while warming up for the state Time trial championships.  I donate in her honor and in honor of others killed senselessly by motorists -distracted or drunk or simply don't care enough to safely pass us.  I donate and ride in the hopes that someday those deaths will be a thing of the past, when roads have bike lanes / infrastructure, and cyclists aren't hit by cars and I'm out of a job and have to find something else to do (truly, nothing would make me happier).  We are slowly chipping away... making progress towards that end.  

So ... what am I asking you to do? 

First - I have until May 1 to raise as much cashola as I possibly can for PFB and would be grateful for any donation you can make:

Second - go here and get involved with PeopleForBikes;

Third -ride your bike everywhere you can, spread the bike gospel, lead by example - take friends and coworkers out for leisurely rides and commutes and show them how it is easy to incorporate the bike into everyday life - the car can stay home sometimes; 

Fourth- please be a good steward and ambassador. Follow the laws when and where you ride.  


Huge thanks to my supporters Dirty Kanza and Vail Outlier Offroad festival and Champion System clothing, who donated prizes for me to raffle off to the folks who donated to my ride. 

Huge thanks to the folks that made our ride possible, including People for Bikes, Skratch Labs (fed us amazing and wholesome meals each day!), + SRAM and Mavic for on-the-road support.

I flew home late last night and this morning of course, commuted to work by bike.  I reflected on our week and on the roads and areas we traversed.  And I realized how lucky I am to have a commute to work that consists of bike lanes and wide shoulders; I feel safe everytime I do it.  So safe even, that my dog often joins me for the round trip:

This isn't the case in most towns across the US, and I can't help but wonder how many more people would #ridemoredriveless if they had such a safe route to ride.  

I hope in my lifetime I see the needle move drastically and we see a shift away from the auto-reliance we've grown so accustomed to, and we see moves towards bikes and bike love... 

Ride on Chicago

I feel even giddier now than I did when I returned home from the National Bike Summit .... Wasn't sure that was possible but, yes, it is. 

I just spent 5 days riding 550 miles from Kansas City to Chicago with PeopleforBikes and Tim Johnson.  We wanted to raise $100,000 on this ride (and we did!), and more importantly, we set out to spread the bike love with the midwest, while enjoying some of the biking infrastructure already in place.

Photo by Jamie Kripke (go here for his entire ROC album).

I really can't describe all the magic that unfolded this week, the heart-bursting love and excitement we all experienced and felt towards cycling, the group evolution from day 1 to day 5, the ideas that were exchanged, the possibilities, the potential we can all feel just right there, waiting .... the anticipation of what's to come, in cycling, in the US... it's just so exciting.  

I will add more to this blog post as I continue to digest all that we saw, experienced, brainstormed, and felt... but for now I will share with you a few blog posts, photos and interviews from other riders:

Aren’t We All People for Bikes?

Tim Johnson, Why Do You Ride Bikes? 

A Work in Progress by Richard Fries

I leave you with this Richard Fries email excerpt -he sent this to us this morning:

"We are not just working for a share of the American road; we are working to get a share of the American mind. When great athletes, great executives, great journalists, and great advocates get together - all of us on bikes - amazing things happen."

My photos from the trip: