California Lane Splitting Bill Goes Into Effect January 1

Assembly Bill 51, and what it means for riders

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I have always been puzzled by how polarizing a topic lane splitting can be, even among motorcyclists. In an attempt at transparency, I am completely biased here in favor of lane splitting. As a California native, I have been splitting lanes as long as I have been riding and see it as both a safer and more efficient means of travel. I know what you naysayers are thinking: "How is lane splitting safer?" Well, if you go between cars and up to the front at a red light, your chances of being rear ended are greatly reduced. The quicker part seems obvious.

Well Assembly Bill 51, the bill that finally officially makes lane splitting legal in California, or rather, gives police standards by which to monitor it, goes into effect in just a few days. Here is the bill in it's entirety, and what it means for us.

SECTION 1. Section 21658.1 is added to the Vehicle Code, to read:

21658.1. (a) For the purposes of this section, “lane splitting” means driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.

(b) The Department of the California Highway Patrol may develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.

(c) In developing guidelines pursuant to this section, the department shall consult with agencies and organizations with an interest in road safety and motorcyclist behavior, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) The Department of Motor Vehicles.
(2) The Department of Transportation.
(3) The Office of Traffic Safety.
(4) A motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.

What it means:
First off, the bill defines motorcycles as two wheeled vehicles. So while trikers still have to wear helmets in California, it looks like they won't get the perks of lane splitting, which is probably for the best considering their added width.

Secondly, and most importantly, this bill gives the CHP the ability to "educational guidelines," on lane splitting. This officially puts it in the books and means that they can now add it to the informational pamphlet in the DMV, with tips for splitting lanes safely.

Lastly, CHP will have to consult the people that know what they're talking about here. They'll be speaking with the DMV, DoT, MSF, and many more motorcycle specific safety organizations to make sure that the guidelines produced are affective and adequate.

The bill was initially more restrictive, but certain adjustments were made and this is what was voted into effect. It's the first thing officially on the books for lane splitting and in my mind, a big step towards getting it legalized in other states. Whether or not this will effect those of us in California that have been doing this for ages will remain to be seen.