A bill authorizing the California Highway Patrol to set hard guidelines for “lane splitting,” motorcycles making way between lanes of traffic, passed through the state assembly with a 69-0 vote. Once Governor Jerry Brown signs it, which is expected, CA will be the first state with formally legal lane splitting.
While never explicitly legal or illegal, California cops and motorcyclists have maintained a tacit understanding about lane splitting– it’s allowed, within reason. Putter through gridlocked cars and they won’t raise an eyebrow. Bash somebody’s side-mirror off at full noise and the cops might decide to come after you.
But as the LA Times reports, the public started making noise when the CHP tried to publish “safe strategies on the practice.” Seems like the main complaint was against the idea of the police creating laws, but regardless, the bill “AB 51” has now been kicked around since December of 2014 regarding the regulation of lane splitting.
The bill supposedly started out specifying that a biker could split lanes “only when a motorcycle was moving no more than 15 miles per hour faster than the traffic around it, and it prohibited the practice at speeds above 50 mph” but this language was shot down my motorcycle enthusiast groups. As it stands, the bill “provides a basic definition of ‘lane’ and leaves the rest to the CHP,” the LA Times explains.
Once the bill is passed into law, which local news outlets seem to think is likely, we’ll have to wait and see how specific the CHP decides to be with their guidelines. As far as I’ve observed in a few months of living in Los Angeles, the cops are pretty blasé about the practice as long as the biker doesn’t have their cell phone out or engine pegged on the rev limiter (I’ve seen both.)
I will also say that splitting lanes isn’t for everyone. The canyons of swaying cars can be pretty intimidating, even on a bike as tall as my Yamaha WR. But it definitely makes a motorized two-wheeler the second fastest way around the city in rush hour by a long shot.