Live outside the Golden State, and you realize that California is a special place, in virtually every sense of the word. As a sixth-generation inhabitant of the world’s ninth largest economy, regular readers of A&R will already have made note that I am somewhat militant about California, and one of the many reasons for this is the state’s pro-motorcycle culture.
Land of perpetual sunshine, abundant coastal and mountain roads, and the epicenter of the American motorcycle industry, California has another thing going for motorcyclists as well: you can lane-split here. You motorcyclists in the other 49 states of the Union don’t understand what you are missing with this simple act, and if there was one single law that the AMA/MIC should be pushing to pass in every state in order to help swell the ranks of motorcyclists on the road, it would be laws allowing lane-splitting (also known as lane-sharing, or lane-filtering).
What is driving in a safe and prudent manner though? A highly subjective and poorly defined bit of phrasing, the CHP and state legislature have done themselves a disservice in waiting so long to define exactly how they interpret this provision. After all, there is no provision in the CVC that outlaws steering a car with one’s feet, though one would think the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would certainly, and rightfully, ticket you back to the stone age for such an action.
Lane-splitting in California is no different, with no working definition on what was “safe and prudent” on a motorcycle, common practice and adoption have taken hold of the two-wheeled art of getting through traffic congestion. Thought originally to be a concession to the air-cooled machines of the time, lane-splitting catered well to motorcycle riders whose machines would quickly overheat while sitting in traffic.
Also a relic of a time when highway congestion of was considerably less of an issue than its current metropolitan pandemic, for lack of a better reason, California’s pro lane-splitting stance persists because the state has waited too long to act otherwise, and we are that much better for it.
However, what constitutes “safe and prudent” lane-splitting has always been a mystery box definition for motorcyclists, and when left to the subjective opinion of a CHP officer, the application of “the rules” can be varied, at best.