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French lane splitting experiment leads to more accidents

A lane splitting experiment showed ‘disappointing’ results, according to road safety experts, but they see the need for a second, more in-depth experiment.

A five-year experiment in 11 French departments, allowing motorcyclists to filter between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic, will end on Sunday 31 January 2021. Filtering – or lane splitting – was never officially regulated by French law, but is tolerated.

The experiment, according to road safety experts, showed ‘disappointing’ results. CEREMA (the Centre for Studies and Expertise on Risks, Environment, Mobility and Planning), in charge of assessing the experiment, has submitted its report to the Interministerial Delegate for Road Safety (DISR). This report shows that the accident of motorized two-wheelers increased by 12% on the roads where the experiment took place, while it decreased by 10% on the other roads of the departments concerned.

‘The filtering by motorized two-wheelers was well accepted by other road users’

Marie Gautier-Melleray, Interministerial Delegate for Road Safety.

Marie Gautier-Melleray, Interministerial Delegate for Road Safety, said: “The aim of this experiment was to reduce the accidents of motorised two-wheelers by framing the practice of lane splitting in the departments concerned. However, the result is not up to our expectations since the ratio of accidents on the experiment’s networks compared to other networks has increased significantly in one zone and is increasing slightly elsewhere. A new experiment, with appropriate rules, could therefore be envisaged in order to ensure the safe continuation of this practice.” A second, more in-depth experiment should include the widening of the geographical areas concerned, new traffic rules, an automated data collection methodology, adapted and continuous communication to perfect the education of all road users on the subject.

According to the CEREMA report, the experiment has strengthened the knowledge about filtering, notably through the training of young drivers. The filtering by motorized two-wheelers with the rules of experiment, was well accepted by other road users.

French motorcyclists’ organization FFMC (member of FEMA) has been involved in the experiment from the start and was one of the organizations that helped set up guidelines for lane splitting. Eric Thiollier, board member of FFMC, says: “The behaviour and the safety records improved significantly during the five year period of the experiment, showing that setting rules had a positive impact, although not enough to be satisfying. The increase in accidents could also be linked to the fact that more powered two-wheelers were lane splitting.”

FFMC regularly reminds riders that filtering will only work if everyone takes their responsibility. To help improve riders’ skills, FFMC have even made an instructive video (see below).

Written by Wim Taal

Top photograph courtesy of Laurent Mignaux/CEREMA

Sources: HuffPost, Sécurité Routière, FFMC