As of Friday, August 26th, California became the first state in the country to legally permit lane-splitting motorcycles – allowing driving between lanes to get through traffic.
While it has not been unusual for motorcyclists to maneuver this way in congested traffic, especially during the warm spring and summer months, there has been no state law that permitted or forbid this practice of getting ahead of stopped or slowed traffic.
For several years, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) had been treating the practice of lane splitting as “not illegal” and, as long as the cyclists were operating in a safe and competent manner, riders were not stopped or ticketed for possibly disrupting traffic.
The police even posted guidelines for lane-splitting in a safe manner, but the practice was stopped because the guidelines could have been interpreted as law, and that’s when the State decided to take action.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) co-wrote the bill with Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the “groundbreaking step” into law. The bill explains safety precautions for motorcycles and surrounding vehicles and opened the door for police to develop educational programs to increase motorist safety.
As with most legislation, there was some tension about making lane-splitting legal because of the possible dangers that motorcyclists presented to other traffic and to themselves.
Drivers of large commercial truck and buses also weighed in about the dangers, especially with the issues of commercial trucks’ blind spots and size, where not much room is left along the side of the lanes they are in. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2017.
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