Lane-Splitting is Legal in California!

Governor Brown signs into law A.B. 51, CHP to draft guidelines

California lane-splitting is now legal
A motorcyclist positions himself between columns of stationary traffic at an intersection in California, the only state to permit lane-sharing.©Motorcyclist

Every member of the Motorcyclist staff commutes to and from work on motorcycles, and we split lanes on a daily basis. When you're on a motorcycle in congested southern California, it's the only way to make progress. Lane-splitting has resided in gray-area for decades—not explicitly legal, but not illegal, either. Now the practice is officially legal thanks to the addition of Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on the A.B. 51 bill.

A.B. 51 recognizes lane-splitting and gives the CHP the authority to issue guidelines for the practice, which it will develop in collaboration with motorcycle safety groups and riders.

A.B. 51 passed the state assembly in the summer of 2015 (click here to read that report), but progress was halted due to concerns over how the guidelines would be developed and implemented. Rather than face a veto, the sponsors opted to table the bill for 2015. Earlier this year, A.B. 51 was introduced (see Cook's Corner here) with additional refinements and a case study behind it.

By legalizing and regulating lane-splitting, California has the potential to serve as an example for other states. Nevada, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, and Texas have all considered lane-splitting legislation during the past two years.

Below is the complete text from the AMA’s recent press release:

**PICKERINGTON, Ohio **—AM Gov. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 51 into law today, making California the first state to legally recognize lane splitting, the practice in which motorcyclists ride between lanes of traffic.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly members Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Tom Lackey (R- Palmdale), grants the California Highway Patrol the authority to develop and issue lane-splitting guidelines in consultation with motorcycle safety groups and riders.

"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."

Studies by the University of California at Berkeley show that splitting lanes is a relatively safe maneuver when both the motorcyclist and nearby drivers know the law and adhere to safe and prudent driving practices.

In 2012, the CHP developed guidelines for splitting lanes, posting them online in 2013 and including them in the Motorcycle Handbook distributed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, a citizen complained in 2014 that the guidelines were "underground regulations" put together by a state agency, rather than the legislature. So the CHP and DMV removed them.

A.B. 51 clarifies that the CHP does have authority to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting. The law also removes the practice from the legal gray area, where it was neither expressly prohibited nor approved.

Several other states, including Nevada, Georgia, Washington, Oregon and Texas, have considered legislation during the past two years that would have made lane splitting legal, with certain restrictions.

"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."

The American Motorcyclist Association's complete position statement on lane splitting can be found here: www.americanmotorcyclist.com.