It’s no surprise that California has the largest share of motorcyclists - it has amazing weather for year round riding and scenic roads. In fact, there are more than 800,000 motorcycles registered in California. Every driver on the road in California has surely faced a motorcycle rider flying by their window and weaving between lanes. Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by riding between them along the lane line. Now, in a step intended to make this common practice safer, California has become the first state to formally legalize the practice of lane splitting.
Technically it has not been legal or illegal for motorcyclists to split the lane and the move has fallen in a gray area where it was treated as acceptable. In 2015, the California Highway Patrol set guidelines on the practice, but a citizen complained that the CHP shouldn’t be allowed to create policy, which sparked AB-51.
The original bill hit a snag, but the revised bill sailed through the legislative process, which provides a basic definition of “lane splitting” and leaves the rest to the CHP. It will have many benefits including reducing traffic congestion and promoting safety. The CHP will establish rules for motorcyclists on how to do it safely. These rules are still pending.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a retired state highway patrol sergeant helped to co-write the bill and called it a “groundbreaking step.” This will give both drivers and motorcyclists guidance on when lane splitting is safe.