Bill to Legitimize Lane Splitting in California Moves Closer to a Vote

Lane Splitting

California Assembly Bill 51, sponsored by Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) was passed by the Senate Transportation Committee with full support last Tuesday, June 14. The bill defines lane splitting and makes it clear that the California Highway Patrol has the authority to draft educational guidelines for safe lane splitting. Not technically legal or illegal in California, lane splitting is considered an acceptable practice by law enforcement like the CHP, which published guidelines for it last year, only to have an irate resident complain that the CHP shouldn’t be setting public policy.

From the Transportation Committee, the bill will go to the Appropriations Committee to determine its financial effect. If approved there it will go to the Senate floor for a vote, and if passed there will move on to the full Assembly for a final vote.

AB51 defines lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle, that has 2 wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, as specified.” It goes on to state that, “The bill would authorize the Department of the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist, drivers, and passengers, as specified. The bill would require the department, in developing these guidelines, to consult with specified agencies and organizations with an interest in road safety and motorcyclist behavior.”

An earlier version of AB 51 was put to a vote last year, but it’s author decided to hold it at the Transportation Committee level because several special interest groups had concerns about language in the bill that set speed limits for the motorcycle while lane splitting.

The revised bill has the support of more than a dozen organizations, including the Motorcycle Industry Council and the American Motorcyclist Association, and several law enforcement agencies. If passed, AB 51 would presumably allow the CHP to publish the guidelines once again in either their present or a revised form, effectively making lane splitting legal in California. You can read the current guidelines here. And you can find contact information for your California legislators here.


  1. To clarify, the revised AB51 does not make lane splitting any more legal than it is today — it is already allowed. It simply defines lane splitting and allows the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and other agencies to “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.” All references to speed, authorizing splitting, etc., have been removed. While it implies support of lane splitting, it does nothing to change legal status — it’s just letting the CHP go back and revise/repost their guidelines (which is a good thing). In doing so, it also sends a signal to drivers that splitting is indeed allowable…


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