California became the first state to legally recognize lane splitting, as Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 51 into law today. The bill does not outline guidelines or rules for lane splitting. Instead, it simply a) 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”; and b) authorizes the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to “develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist, drivers and passengers, as specified.”
It also requires that, in developing said guidelines, the CHP consult with agencies and organizations with “an interest in road safety and motorcyclist behavior.” These include, but are not limited to, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, the Office of Traffic Safety and “a motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.”
The bill was sponsored by Assembly members Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale).
Lane splitting has long existed in a legal gray area in California, being neither expressly prohibited nor allowed. The CHP developed guidelines in 2012, and posted them online and in the DMV’s Motorcycle Handbook, but a state employee lodged a complaint in 2014 that the guidelines were “underground regulations” that hadn’t gone through the proper legislative procedure, and so the CHP and DMV removed them.
A.B. 51 essentially clarifies that the CHP does in fact have the authority and permission to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting, and opens the door to further clarification and rules.
“This is great news for motorcyclists in California and throughout the country,” said Rob Dingman, president and CEO of the American Motorcyclist Association. “The California Assembly and the governor have taken a huge step in formally recognizing a practice that has been in use for decades. Lane splitting keeps riders safer by eliminating their exposure to rear-end collisions, and it helps ease congestion by effectively removing motorcycles from the traffic lanes.”
“We hope that other states will follow California’s lead on this issue,” Dingman said. “The AMA is here to support individuals, groups and legislators who want lane splitting made legal in their states, too.”
For the complete text of A.B. 51, click here.