California Lane-Splitting Stalls before Senate Vote

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Just last May, California seemed set to be the first state in the USA to codify a lane-splitting law. That effort seems to have stalled though, with Assembly Bill 51 being pulled by the bill’s authors, after the California State Senate didn’t seem to have the same support for the law that the State Assembly had shown.

This action doesn’t change much for Californian motorcyclists, who can still legally lane-split through traffic, though they do so under the state’s more nebulous “safe and prudent” catch-all driving provision.

The news, however, is a huge blow for lane-splitting advocates in the rest of the country, who hoped that California’s codification of its lane-splitting practice could be a model law for the rest of the United States.

Winning the hearts and minds of the general driving public is a huge part of the issue surrounding the passage of lane-splitting laws. California’s own driving public is said to be against the practice 2:1, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

While much can be said about that statistic, both in how the OTS asked its query and how it interpreted the responses it received, the general take is that drivers perceive lane-splitting as unsafe — a position that’s not aided by motorcyclists who blow through traffic at ridiculous speeds.

Californians of course now have the cold hard facts that lane-splitting, when done prudently, is no more dangerous than simply riding a motorcycle. An additional report by UC Berkeley showed that the biggest factor in safe lane-splitting is the speed delta between the motorcycle and slower traffic.

The study, conducted by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), showed that motorcyclists can lane-split up to 15 mph faster than the surrounding traffic before the act comes with added statistical risk.

Educating the public not only about how lane-splitting can be safely practiced, but also how it benefits traffic congestion for automobiles and trucks, is just one integral part of pushing the practice to states beyond California.

We are firm believers though that California first has to show the way for the rest of the country with its own lane-splitting law, so that other states can then use that law as a model piece of legislation.

Source: San Jose Mercury News