Here at MO, we are strong proponents of lane splitting. Not a day goes by in which we don’t filter between the lines of slower moving or stopped cars. In the process, we’re also easing congestion and protecting ourselves from being rear-ended by distracted drivers. So, naturally, we were excited last year when we heard of California bill AB 51 was making the rounds in an effort to codify the act of lane splitting by giving it a set of clear rules for riders to follow. One of the primary benefits of the rules would be that they would make it possible to educate the driving public about lane splitting.
Unfortunately, the bill was pulled last July at the request of its author, California Assemblyman Bill Quirk, because of fears that it would not pass. Since that time, Quirk has worked on changing the language of the bill to a form that will improve its chance of passing. According to LaneSplittingIsLegal.com, an organization devoted to promoting lane splitting, the wording has changed to a much less specific recipe for legal lane splitting to a more generalized one. The result is a bill that maintains lane splitting’s legality by virtue of not being explicitly illegal while giving the CHP the option of developing and distributing educational guidelines for riders and the driving public to better understand safe lane splitting.
In a mockup of the amended version of AB 51 produced by LaneSplittingIsLegal.com, the specifics of the top speed and the speed differential between the motorcycle and other traffic have been removed. In their place, the mandate for CHP to create guidelines to educate the public is inserted: “The California Department of Highway Patrol may develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.”
Additionally, the agencies that the CHP is to consult in developing the guidelines includes not only the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, and the Office of Traffic Safety, but it also lists the requirement of consulting with a “motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.” So, we assume the organization selected would be either the AMA or the MSF, giving actual motorcyclists an active say in the development of lane splitting guidelines – which is very good news!
These changes were scheduled to be submitted to committee yesterday, May 31, 2016, but at the time of publication, the bill’s page on the California Legislative Information website had not been updated. Interested parties can track the progress of the bill there. California residents who want to contact their representative can search here. Those who want to contact Assemblyman Quirk’s office can visit his web site.