In the Fall of 2014 I spent a couple weeks riding a rented Honda Goldwing (GW)around the San Francisco area, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite with my girlfriend. It took me a few miles to get used to the bike, as I have not ridden a BIG touring bike since 2009 and have never ridden a Goldwing more than a few miles. All worked out well. Then we hit traffic on the way back to San Fran.
In San Francisco it is legal to split lanes. Well, it is not specifically illegal, and for a while the CHP had tips on how to do this safely. In California this is also called lane sharing. Basically, as long as traffic is at or near a stop, bikes can ride between cars between lanes. Bikes MUST NOT use the breakdown lanes, as those are for emergency vehicles. Usually the best spot is between the left most lanes.
I have split lanes in a few places and on a few different bikes. In places where it is accepted, such as Mexico, Central/South America, Thailand and the PRK (the Peoples Republic Of Kalifornia) it is smooth. Cars usually get out of the way where they can. They don't try to crown you or close any opening. Once in Mexico, with a Kawasaki KLR with VERY wide aluminum saddle bags, I was having trouble getting through as I was following a much narrower bike, but I looked in my mirrors and it was like Moses parting the sea. The drivers saw the big sharp looking metal boxes inches from their nice cars and instinctively moved out of the way. A little late, but what can you do.
Anyway, back to the PRK. I have split lanes with a Harley (HD) touring bike in California before a few times. Tight squeeze sometimes, but it helps that the mirrors are on the handlebars as you can jockey them around the mirrors of the cars you are passing. The GW has no such advantage. The GW is BIG. It is WIDE. Did I mention it is BIG?
This was the first time I have ever tried splitting lanes while driving a HOUSE. There is a reason some refer to this kind of bike as a Hondapotamus. They are stable, and can really be flung around when necessary, but Damn this thing is big.
Anyway, it was my girlfriend's first time splitting lanes. She trusts my driving, I don't know why. I was not so sure I trusted my driving here. Trying to fit those wide mirrors that are WAY out in front around various moving car's mirrors and then have to fit the bike's fairing around those same car's mirrors, and THEN having to make sure the trunk of the bike does not hit the car's mirrors was a serious challenge for a newbie at lane splitting. Most of the time the traffic was going at a fast walking pace, I found that to be an easy speed to deal with. Some of the time the traffic was at a standstill, that was the worst as I would often have to wait for one car to move so that it's mirrors were not exactly in line with the mirrors of the car next to it. Then I would have to worry about the other car catching up and hitting my mirrors from behind. Some of the time the traffic was moving at 20 or 30 miles an hour. This actually was the safest and easiest in my opinion, but I think this was the worst part for my GF. At these speeds I could accelerate and decelerate to put the bike just where I wanted it. Here the GW mirrors were an advantage since they provided a great view. Most other drivers were very aware of where I was and avoided me. I think I had a big "L" on my bike. That's L for Learning or beginner driver like in England. NOT L for loser. I think. Anyway, the few cars that were not paying attention were easy to avoid at these somewhat higher speeds.
Later, in the city I tried a bit of lane splitting. This really sucked on a big bike, as it was always a tight fit between cars that were not moving, but if you did not get to the front of the line before the light changed, all those cars suddenly started moving around you at different speeds and mostly without situational awareness. I chose to sit in traffic after a few attempts.
Riding in California is a Hoot once you get used to it. Yes, some places have heavy, hectic traffic, but California is a place that understands Cars and bikes. Yes, there are problems, but for the most part, drivers believe in MOVING. They have a law that states something to the effect that if you have 5 people behind you, you should pull into a pullout to let the traffic go by. This, of course, does not work everywhere, but it works. In fact, in most places, if you come up behind a car while on a bike on a two lane road, it will pull over to let you by. That is, if they are from California. Not so much if you come up behind a tourist.
I like being able to split lanes there. I don't ever want to live anywhere that I would have the opportunity to split lanes often, as that means lots of traffic which means too many people. Still, it would be nice to be able to do that here. Would I try it here in New England if they suddenly made it legal? I don't know. I think it would take some time before the people around here would accept it and not try to run you off the road. Maybe it would never become accepted here. New Englanders are not known for accepting anyone else to have an advantage over them. I swear they will cut you off to get at a good parking spot even if they were not planning on parking, JUST so you won't get it. New Englanders have other attributes though. For example, they work a lot. I said it was an attribute, I did not necessarily say if it was good or bad.
I know some people don't like driving in California, but I do. I am looking forward to my next opportunity.