There is good news for those following California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), which would formally codify lane-splitting as legal under the California Vehicle Code and empower state agencies to develop safety guidelines for its practice.
That news is that the California State Assembly yesterday concurred with the California State Senate on the most recent wording of AB 51 (AB 51 had been changed by the State Senate, dropping the provisions about maximum speed and traffic speed deltas for when lane-splitting was permitted).
The State Assembly’s vote yesterday was needed in order to create a concurrence on the same language of the bill between the two legislative bodies. With the Assembly’s unanimous vote, AB 51 now goes to California Governor Jerry Brown for his signature, the last step before making lane-splitting a law.
Gov. Brown is expected to sign AB 51, especially since both the State Assembly and State Senate had unanimously passed the codification of lane-splitting.
California is now just a single signature away from being the first state in the United States of America that expressly allows lane-splitting for motorcyclists. Booyah!
The passage of this bill shouldn’t be too big of a surprise, since the most recent language of AB 51 changes nothing really for Californian motorcyclists. The law doesn’t provide any more clarity on how to safely lane-split, nor does it even define the practice in more detail beyond sharing a lane with another vehicle.
The only upside of the bill is two-fold: 1) it expressly charges state agencies like the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines about safe lane-splitting practices, and 2) it sets a precedent that hopefully other states can use to pass their own lane-splitting laws.
The latter point is perhaps the most important, though without a meatier bill from California, one that actually includes language that reflects the research done by UC Berkeley into how to safely lane-split, the fear is that AB 51 will do little to actually encourage other states.
Still, AB 51 is the step in the right direction for lane-splitting advocates. Hopefully there are many more steps to come.