We’ve just received word from Assemblymember Quirk’s office that AB 51, the bill that will officially put lane splitting (or lane sharing, if you prefer) on the books in California has been signed by Governor Brown. From the press release from Quirk’s office:
Bill to Create Guidelines on Lane Splitting is Signed into Law
SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Quirk (D-Hayward) and Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R- Palmdale) have successfully granted the California Highway Patrol (CHP) authority to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting.
Lane splitting, which occurs when a motorcycle drives between rows of stopped or moving traffic, is a gray area in California law. This is because statute is silent – California does not explicitly allow it, but also doesn’t explicitly prohibit this behavior.
Recognizing the need to develop guidelines as an education tool for drivers, the CHP convened a committee of traffic safety stakeholders and motorcycle safety experts in 2012. However, an individual filed a complaint that the guidelines were underground regulations. At the suggestion of counsel, CHP removed the guidelines from its website and the Department of Motor Vehicles removed them from the Motorcycle Handbook.
“Removal of the guidelines left a huge gap with regards to traffic safety. CHP had to curtail all education and outreach efforts on lane splitting,” Assemblymember Quirk explained. Last year he partnered with Assemblymember Lackey, a retired California Highway Patrolman, to introduce Assembly Bill (AB) 51.
AB 51 clarifies that the CHP does have authority to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting. It further asks that they convene a group of stakeholders to provide their expert opinion in the drafting of the guidelines. “There are motorcyclists that lane split safely and others that disregard all safety considerations – those are the drivers this bill will help the most,” Assemblymember Quirk stated.
“California took a groundbreaking step today as the first state to formally allow motorcycle lane splitting,” said Assemblymember Lackey. “More importantly, we are now giving riders and motorists clear guidance on when it is safe. This is a huge win for roadway safety.”
“I am thrilled to see that California, is once again, at the forefront of common-sense road safety legislation. Signing of this bill will bring legitimacy to this practice and help to keep our roads safer and our drivers – both motorcyclists and motorists – better educated.” Assemblymember Quirk commented upon learning his bill was signed.
I’ve never really bought into the “it’s a gray area” argument—remember, that which is not illegal is legal—but that gray area, real or not, is gone now. The big win here, however, is the education component of the additions to the vehicle code, regarding lane splitting:
(b) The California Department of Highway Patrol may develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.
(c) In developing the guidelines pursuant to this section, the department shall consult with agencies and organizations with an interest in road safety and motorcycle behavior, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) The Department of Motor Vehicles
(2) The Department of Transportation
(3) The Office of Traffic Safety
(4) A motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.
The ability of the CHP et al to educate riders and drivers in California is the primary reason I’ve worked put so much work into backing this bill—the previous CHP guidelines were starting to have positive effects on both riders and drivers. You can read more about the OTS lane share surveys and Dr. Rice’s lane splitting research here.
While I’m a little bummed that Quirk’s office didn’t include a shout-out to the moto-community for all the work we put into this bill with him in the press release, I’m stoked that we’ve finally crossed the finish line. Stay tuned here or to the LaneSplittingIsLegal Facebook page for news as the work on the new guidelines progresses.
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