AB51: The Curse of the Lane Splitting Law

On August 19th, 2016 California Legislators officially voted to legalize Lane splitting. This should be some of the best news for motorcyclists in years. But, have you actually read AB51, the bill that makes it possible?

From AB51:


SECTION 1.  Section 21658 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:             Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction, the following rules apply:

(a) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.

(b) Official signs may be erected directing slow-moving traffic to use a designated lane or allocating specified lanes to traffic moving in the same direction, and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of the traffic device.

(c) (1) A motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, may be driven between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways, if both of the following conditions are present:

(A) The speed of traffic moving in the same direction is 35 miles per hour or less.

(B) The motorcycle is not driven more than 10 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic moving in the same direction.



Great right? Did you notice how you can only split when there are 2+ lanes travelling in your direction, where traffic is going slower than 35mph, and that you can travel no faster than 10mph faster than traffic? Splitting 2+ lanes is a great rule. If you jump the yellow line to pass someone you’re passing, not lane splitting (and it’s a dick move). But what about the traffic speeds? I know a lot of riders split when traffic is going roughly 65mph. Safe or not, it’s not enforced now and may be in the future.

There is hope. The guidelines in the bill are not set to become law just yet. The California Highway Patrol will be deciding rules for lane splitting and they may not be exactly like the AB51 rules. Here’s hoping you can still split to work as you’ve been doing for years. Here’s also hoping this doesn’t become a money grab and a way to pull over previously untouchable riding habits.

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