I’ve been riding motorbikes a long time, and I’ve been lane splitting since I started riding on the street. For me, it’s an integrated part of street riding. I’m not sure I’d want to ride on the streets if I couldn’t filter through traffic.
I’ve also done a lot of commuting by motorcycle, in some cases very long commutes (over 100 miles each way). My current commute is quite leisurely, at least in terms of distance. I ride from SOMA – across the Bay Bridge, some of the most hectic traffic I’ve ever been in – to Berkeley and back each day.
This evening on my way home, I encountered a new situation just off the Bay Bridge, coming into San Francisco. Filtering between a mid-size SUV and a passenger car in slow traffic, I came upon a large chunk of retread in the road. I’ve heard horror stories of motorcyclists being struck by these pieces of truck tire debris and have always had a slight fear for them. Today I was sandwiched between a couple of cars with only a few inches to either side and I didn’t have much choice other than to attack it head on.
I quickly stood up and prepared to ride over it, as if on a dirt bike, veering slightly to the left. I narrowly miss the retread, but it hit my right foot. It felt surprisingly weighty and substantial, but didn’t hurt much. I wear pretty good riding boots – Sidi On Roads – so I’m pretty well protected, but I think if it had been a bigger chunk or it had hit my foot more squarely, my foot could have been injured.
Looking back, I suppose I could have braked hard and tucked in behind one of the cars to either side in an attempt to completely avoided the retread. This could have opened me up to a rear end collision, though. I also could have lifted my foot, which would have left me without two feet on the pegs – a bad way to be if I had ended up riding over a big part of the retread. I think I did the right thing, but I was surprised by the substantial weight of the tire, although I really shouldn’t have been.
When I’m lane splitting, I’m constantly scanning the activity of other vehicles. I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention to other hazards. Lesson learned: remember to look at the road, too.