California becomes first state to legalize motorcycle lane splitting

In August, California became the first state to explicitly allow motorcyclists to practice lane splitting in heavy traffic.

California’s Assembly Bill 51, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, established the nation’s first legal definition of the practice. Lane splitting was neither officially permitted nor prohibited prior to the signing of the bill, which led to confusion and frustration among motorists.

Lane SplittingThe practice of lane splitting involves a motorcyclist riding between marked lanes at times when traffic has slowed significantly or come to a complete stop. Filtering between lanes can be a safe riding strategy if carried out with caution.

Lane splitting can help reduce the rider’s chances of being rear-ended by a larger vehicle, and a University of California Berkeley study revealed riders who practice lane splitting in appropriate conditions were significantly less likely to be seriously injured.

California Highway Patrol will continue to develop the law’s details over the next year, including recommendations for the maximum speed motorcyclists should travel while lane splitting and how much faster than the delayed traffic they should ride.

According to spokeswoman Fran Clader, the process will be deliberative, and the CHP will work with the Department of Motor Vehicles, other state agencies and motorcycle safety organizations to establish the guidelines for best practices.

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