California Becomes the First State To Formalize Lane Splitting, Now Officially

Neither explicitly legal nor illegal, lane-splitting has had the tacit approval of the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

California is expected to become the first state in the nation to formalize the practice of lane splitting after state Assembly members on Thursday passed a bill authorizing the California Highway Patrol to establish guidelines for motorcyclists on how to do it safely.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), passed Thursday with a 69-0 vote. It now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. On the floor, Quirk said the proposed law had many positives, including reducing traffic congestion and promoting safety.

“No issue is more important to me than roadway safety,” he said

Lane splitting, in which a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by riding between them along the lane line, has long been a hot issue in the state.

Technically, it has not been legal or illegal, falling in a gray area where it was treated as acceptable by law enforcement agencies. But when the CHP published safe strategies on the practice in 2015, a citizen complained that the agency should not be allowed to create public policy. In came in AB 51.

You can see a video of what lane splitting looks like in L.A. traffic on THIS LINK.

Quirk’s original bill proposed that lane splitting could occur legally only when a motorcycle was moving no more than 15 miles per hour faster than the traffic around it, and it prohibited the practice at speeds above 50 mph.

Several motorcyclists’ groups objected to that language, finding the speed limit too low. Other groups and individuals, who believe that lane splitting is dangerous regardless of the speed, objected to the proposal on principle.

The revised bill, which has sailed through the legislative process, provides a basic definition of “lane” and leaves the rest to the CHP.

“We think it’s a great idea,” said Nicholas Harris of the Western States Representative of the American Motorcyclist Assn. “It will give the CHP the authority it needs to educate the drivers and riders of California on the safe guidelines.”

(Via: Los Angeles Times)