With Assembly Bill 51 signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, lane splitting is now legally defined in California. Previously, the act of riding your motorcycle between two lanes to bypass congested traffic was left to the CHP officer to determine if the riding was dangerous or reckless. Many are hopeful that these guidelines will later be refined by CHP, enacted on Jan 1st, 2017 and will make the roads a safer place for all motorists including motorcyclists.
In the group that favors lane splitting, many riders argue that they are less prone to be tailgated when they lane split. Being rear ended in a motorcycle accident is a worst case scenario as the rider is not able to slide out away from the vehicle and is at the mercy of the at fault driver. At Highway speeds, these injuries can be catastrophic. Having these guidelines may help motorcyclists and CHP alike determine when it is safe to lane spilt. In bumper to bumper traffic lane splitting may be able to reduce freeway congestion and allow cars to maneuver safely alongside motorcycles. However, many people say the opposite is true.
Many California drivers are against the legalization of lane splitting. Previously, lane splitting was not mentioned in California legislation however many felt it should be outlawed as endangering the public. Many feel that motorcyclists traveling between cars puts additional unwarranted burden on drivers to look for motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic. Simply put, the risk of allowing motorcycles to slide past traffic outweighs the benefits. The specifics of what will be allowed by CHP have yet to be determined but the fact that lane-splitting in California will be officially legal on January 1st, 2017, is here to stay. In doing so, California is the first US State to formalize the maneuver.