The freedom that riding on a motorcycle affords (compared to a conventional vehicle) is no doubt one of the elements that attracted you to motorcycling in the first place. Part of that freedom is not feeling constrained to the traditional traffic boundaries that other vehicles in Los Angeles are.
This inevitably leads to the topic of lane-splitting. Many view lane-splitting as a controversial topic. Some might say that it increases the risk of accidents for both motorcyclists and motorists. Others counter that with the assertion that motorcyclists are typically skilled enough in operating their bikes that lane-splitting is not dangerous. Yet no matter the points brought up by parties on both sides of this argument, what really counts is what California law says about the matter.
California’s view on lane-splitting
California law does indeed permit lane-splitting provided you adhere to how the state defines it. Per Section 21658.1 of the California Vehicle Code, lane-splitting is “driving a motorcycle,…between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.” The law leaves it to the following state agencies to establish guidelines on lane-splitting:
- The California Highway Patrol
- The Department of Motor Vehicles
- The Department of Transportation
- The Office of Traffic Safety
Essentially, the standard for lane-splitting is that you may do it provided you can drive between stopped or slowed vehicles safely without presenting undue risks to yourself and the motorists around you.
So how can you safely split lanes on your bike? The CHP’s Motorcyclist Safety Program recommends following the four Rs: be Responsible, Reasonable, Respectful, and aware of the Roadway around you. Doing your part places the responsibility on motorists to be aware of you and your right to lane-split (and to drive their vehicles accordingly).