A Bill: California lawmakers could put an end to traffic jams, at least for motorcyclists
California AB 51 An act to add Section 21658.1 to the Vehicle Code
In most of the U.S., it’s illegal for motorcycles to travel between stopped and slow-moving cars—a practice known as lane splitting. The exception is California, where the state highway patrol has long informally condoned it. The agency posted safety guidelines until 2014, when it was sued by a citizen who claimed the California Highway Patrol was effectively writing regulations without legislative authority. Lawmakers have now moved to legalize lane splitting.
About 885,000 motorcycles are registered in California, more than in any other state. One reason is the weather, but another is practical: Bikes make it easy to bypass traffic. Drivers may get anxious when motorcycles thread between cars, but studies show lane splitting reduces the likelihood that automobiles will rear-end motorcycles. In a 2013 report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommended further review, as has the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Lane splitting is common in parts of the world where motor bikes are relied on for basic transportation. Motorcyclists across the U. S. are watching the outcome in California closely. “It helps raise awareness of the issue,” says Jesse Erlbaum, a co- founder of the New York Motorcycle & Scooter Task Force, which supports legalizing lane splitting. “Being able to clarify a law in California gets the conversation going.”