Last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed something known as Assembly Bill 51 into place to legally define lane-splitting for the first time ever. This makes California the first state in the country to officially legalize motorcycle lane-splitting even though the practice has been allowed for decades in the state. Lane-splitting has been defined as a practice where motorcyclists ride between the lanes to move quickly through traffic. This law will go into effect on January 1, 2017 for the first time.
For years, the take on lane-splitting has been a varying one. Many people have had good and bad to say about the process and what they think will happen upon its legalization. For instance, some motorcyclists claim that lane-splitting keeps them out of danger as well as lessen the congestion on the roadways. However, some motorists disagree, claiming that it is not only reckless but also burdening on the roadways. The California Highway Patrol in Sacramento has stated their opinion on the matter: Their primary concern is safety, which means they will do whatever they can to keep motorcyclists and motorists safe.
Because the CHP cares about its motorcyclists and motorists, they are devising a plan to come up with regulations regarding lane-splitting and how it will occur safely in the years to come. They have been working on regulations that will cover the maximum speed that those riding motorcycles will be able to travel when they are practicing lane-splitting. Another issue that must be addressed is how much faster than the rest of traffic they will be able to travel in the event of a traffic jam. To do this, Highway Patrol will have to team up with the Department of Motor Vehicles to come up with the best plans possible.
This law, like many in the past, have been confusing to say the least. The problem is that many laws have lead to confusion because citizens have questioned whether or not lane-splitting was legal or not, and what they could do about it. Until Brown specifically tackled these laws, lane-splitting was neither allowed nor prohibited in the law. Now motorcyclists will have a better vision of what they can and can’t do on the roadways in California. (1)
The Laws in Other States
In the past, the California Highway Patrol issues guidelines in 2013 that advised riders on safety surrounding lane splitting. However, these laws were not legally binding. They instead advised motorcyclists that they should do so when traffic is going 30 mph or slower, and to not go more than 10 mph faster than the speed of traffic. They also remind riders that they should not lane split when there are bad weather conditions affecting the roads. Up until this bill, every other state in the union had explicit bans on lane-splitting. (2)
These guidelines were formed when a study was conducted at UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, which found in 2015 that lane-splitting is relatively safe if using specific speeds. Along with this, it was also determined that those who lane-split are likely to be experienced and feel safer being in between cars. When lane-splitting is not an option, there is a greater likelihood for rear-end accidents that could cause injury or death to a motorcyclist. In California, these laws are becoming the center of attention for those utilizing motorcycles. Keep an eye out for future regulations regarding these laws!