The California Highway Patrol has removed its guidelines for lane-splitting in the Golden State on the CHP website, after receiving a complaint from a Sacramento citizen. Though lane-splitting has been a long-time established practice for motorcyclists in California, the act is poorly defined and regulated.
Since California has no provision directly outlawing the practice, motorcyclists are free to lane-split, lane-share, and filter so long as their actions fit under the California Vehicle Code’s catchall provision of “safe and prudent” operation of a motor vehicle. What does that mean? No one really knows.
In an effort to define what it viewed as safe and prudent, the CHP released last February a list of guidelines for motorcyclists to follow while lane-splitting in the Golden State. The guidelines were not law in the de jure sense of the word, but without any other comment from a government entity, they became the de facto rules of the road, which leads us to today.
After receiving a sole complaint from a Californian citizen, the CHP has now removed the motorcycle lane-splitting guidelines from its website, because the guidelines could be perceived as the California Highway Patrol creating law, something the separation of powers expressly forbids.
Issuing a statement about the guidelines’ removal, the CHP issued the following: “Some have interpreted the recently published Motorcycle Lane Splitting Guidelines as rules, laws or regulations that could or would be enforced by the department. The guidelines were never intended for this purpose and were prepared simply as common sense traffic safety tips and to raise public awareness.”
However, the California Office of Administrative Law deemed that the CHP’s posting of the guidelines went beyond providing information, akin to a best-practices memo, and treaded into creating a standard for which motorcyclists would be held to. As such, the OAL had the CHP remove the guidelines from its website.
The American Motorcyclist Association has deplored the guidelines’ removal in a national press release, and has set up an online petition to have the guidelines reinstated. The AMA’s stance is that the guidelines provided motorcyclists with important safety information, and their removal from the CHP website leaves motorcyclists without a reliable resource on how to lane-split safely.