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California’s Lane Splitting Experiment, Part 1/2

With year-round sun, an active community of bikers and an abundance of scenic roads, Greater Los Angeles is a biker’s dream. However, with a great motorcycle scene comes an increased risk of serious motorcycle accidents.

Without the protective shell that a car provides, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable in the event of a crash. Debate continues around many aspects of motorcycle safety. Today, we’re taking a look at the practice of lane splitting, which occurs when a person on a motorcycle travels in between two lanes of traffic.

Where California Stands on Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is a common practice in countries around the world, but the United States has lagged in its acceptance of the technique. For decades, California has been one of the only areas in the country to allow lane splitting.

While California lacked a clear stance on the practice for years, state lawmakers took action in 2016. The new law did not explicitly allow or ban lane splitting but authorized the state Highway Patrol to develop guidelines for splitting lanes legally.

However, those guidelines have yet to be developed. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has removed its general guidelines for lane splitting, leaving some riders in the dark about what is safe and what isn’t. CHP officers can and do issue tickets when bikers fail to act safely when splitting lanes.

Is It Safe?

Until lane-splitting becomes a common practice in more cities, it may be difficult to measure its safety. Much of the conventional wisdom about lane splitting is anecdotal. Many motorists feel uncomfortable when motorcycles whiz by in heavy traffic and denounce the practice. However, bikers claim that lane splitting helps them avoid heavy, stop-and-go traffic: conditions that can be particularly dangerous for bikers.

It is up to everyone to make our roads as safe as possible. We hope that the CHP is able to develop clear, enforceable guidelines for lane splitting so everyone on California’s highways can remain as safe as possible.

In an upcoming post, we’ll provide some guidelines for lane splitting to help motorcyclists and drivers share the road safely.