Motorcycle lane splitting guidelines have been an unwritten rule for what seems like forever in California. Take any motorcycle safety class and the instructor will tell you the same thing:

It’s not illegal, but there is no law. For now, the general “suggestion” is to make sure you never lane split going faster than 30 mph, or more than 10 mph faster than the vehicles you’re splitting.

That all changed last August, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), which authorized the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop actual written “educational guidelines” for motorcycle lane splitting.

After many years remaining in a “grey area” of the law – not legal, but not illegal – motorcycle lane splitting is finally heading for some form of state regulation. However, 10 months have passed since the Governor signed AB 51, and there is still no timeline for when the official guidelines will be released by CHP.

Lane splitting, when conducted safely, is a very sufficient form of motorcycle transportation:

Video source: YouTube User MotorcycleJosh1

What is the latest from CHP regarding the new lane splitting guidelines?

Wilshire Law Firm is an integral part of the motorcycle community here in California. We help motorists and families of motorists who are involved in motorcycle accidents every day. Not to mention lane splitting affects every day drivers as well. So, since CHP hasn’t gone public with their progress on the lane splitting guidelines, we decided to call them ourselves to get an informed update.

According to sources in CHP’s department of media relations, CHP “has been working very hard on this issue. It takes time…” and, “It’s a complex, long process.”

While the Governor has provided no specific time limit on this matter, one might’ve assumed that CHP slated this issue to the backburner. However, based on what they told us, we believe this is a very important issue for the CHP.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Lane splitting in Paris, France, like California, is not illegal.

Who exactly is drafting the new “educational guidelines?”

AB 51 calls for the CHP, specifically the Motor Cycle Safety Unit, to consult the DMV, DOT, OTS and other “motorcycle organizations focused on motorcyclist safety” in drafting the new guidelines. Perhaps this is the reason the guidelines are taking so long to draft.

Wilshire Law Firm has put in multiple calls to CHP Motorcycle Safety Unit officers who are responsible for drafting the new guidelines with direct regards to this important matter. At the time of publication of this post, our calls have yet to be returned. Rest assured, we will update this blog the second we hear back. Below are some of the questions we’d like answers to:

  1. When do you expect to release the new guidelines to the public?
  2. Which motorcycle safety organizations are helping you draft the guidelines?
  3. What, specifically, has made this process “long and complex?”

Does lane splitting make the roads safer and/or faster?

Whatever the guidelines end up saying, there’s no arguing that lane splitting makes California’s roads safer, and faster.

Scholars agree with this notion.

A recent lane splitting study conducted by the University of Berkeley says, “Motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists, and are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries.”

One blogger from NewAtlas.com writes, “Filtering (or, lane splitting) bikes work their way to the front of stopped traffic at red lights, and accelerate away much quicker than the cars around them. When they reach the next stoppage, they disappear again between the lanes and no car is held up.”

What are the motorcycle lane splitting guidelines?

Until CHP releases the new official guidelines, here is the generally accepted suggestion, according to the California Motorcyclist Safety Program:

  1. Travel no more than 10 mph faster than the other traffic – a speed differential of 10 miles per hour or less allows an experienced rider enough time to identify and react to danger. The greater the speed differential, the less time a rider has to react.
  2. Do no split lanes when traffic is moving 30 mph or faster – danger increases dramatically as speed increases. At just 20 mph, an experienced rider will travel 30 to 60 feet in under two seconds before initiating evasive actions.
  3. It is typically safer to split between lanes 1 and 2 – avoid splitting lanes anywhere else, as this location is where other motorists are accustomed to seeing and experiencing motorcycle lane splitting. Avoid lane splitting near freeway ramps and slow lanes.
  4. If you can’t fit, don’t split – know the limitations of your motorcycle as it compares to the motorists around you. Avoid splitting in unfamiliar roads. Avoid splitting near wide trucks.
  5. Remain alert and always anticipate movements by other motorists – use your space, be aware of your surroundings as they develop, account for inattentive drivers or distracted drivers, never linger in blind spots, and, of course, never ride while impaired by drugs, alcohol, stress or fatigue.

These guidelines are a small sample of what CHP will be releasing as the official state mandated lane splitting guidelines at some point in the near future.

Be sure to stay tuned to WilshireLawFirm.com/blog for updates as we learn more about these very critical guidelines! If you care to make a suggestion to CHP about what the guidelines should be, feel free to let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@WilshireLawFirm).

References:

Assembly Bill 51

University of Berkeley Study

New Atlas blog post

California Motorcyclist Safety Program

YouTube Video by MotorCycleJosh1

Photo 1 Reddit