California Scraps Anti-Lane Splitting Law

02/27/2013 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS


No sooner did the California Highway Patrol attempt to demistify its rulebook for lane-splitting in the Golden State, then did California State Senate Bill 350 get drafted and put on the state’s voting docket. A piece of legislation put forth by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), S.B. 350 would have put greater restrictions on motorcyclists’ ability to lane-split on Californian highways.

Introduced on February 20th, Senator Beall’s proposed law would have made lane-splitting legal in only certain circumstances: on divided highways with three or more lanes of travel in the same direction, only when traffic is congested, and only at “a safe” speed.

For the time being Californian motorcyclists have dodged a possible bullet, as Senator Beall has since abandoned the proposed piece of legislature. However, Senator Beall’s office said it would reconsider proposing the lane-splitting regulations once the results of UC Berkeley’s safety study have been published.

As I have written before, if there was a single issue that the AMA should be pushing for on the legislative end of its programs, it should be the adoption of pro lane-splitting laws in every state, which makes California’s pro lane-splitting stance a venerable example to use in that debate.

A notable benefit for traveling via two-wheels in California, Europe, and just about everywhere else except the other 49 states of the Union, the ability to flow through congested traffic and stopped vehicle queues is a credible value-added reason to own a motorcycle.

Source: AMA

  • Matt A

    The real concern here is that there is still not a law on the books making lane splitting specifically legal in California. There is nothing preventing a LEO from writing someone up for lane splitting if they believe you’re not doing it safely. How do you determine if you’re being safe? Legally, you cannot, because there are NO laws about it. Guidelines, sure, but no laws. Guidelines don’t mean anything in a court of law.

  • proudAmerican

    Matt A–I’d disagree with your assessment.

    Because there is currently no law on the books, if a LEO is going to issue a citation to a motorcyclist for lane sharing/splitting, he has to find another section (reckless driving, unsafe passing, unsafe speed, etc.) that’s applicable to the violation he’s alleging against the rider.

    If California lawmakers create a specific vehicle code section, they’ll probably write it in such a way that it gives LEO’s greater discretion as to what constitutes a violation.

    I live in California. I prefer to keep it the way it is.

  • ABATE – who has a lobbyist working with Beall – reported yesterday via their Facebook group and email to members, that the bill wasn’t actually pulled, but rather converted to a 2 year bill. So while it might still be heard in April ’13, it’s more likely to be heard in January ’14.

  • sean

    Dear Cali Residents,

    VOTE Jim Beall OUT!!!

  • Tim

    Hey Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose),

    You don’t have anything to do. Why don’t you work on a Bill that Restricts Cyclist on how they ride on 2 lane mountain highways. (They don’t own the road and they don’t pay taxes) like we do from our Registration Fees. They need to get a special license, registration and carry insurance. They impede the flow of traffic and force Motorcycles, cars , trucks to pass over the double yellow line to pass. This results in a lot of accidents and the driver of the motor vehicle is placed at fault.

    So Jim are you going to do something about this? Hwy 84, Hwy 9, Hwy 35. This is in your backyard literally.

  • Milhouse

    Cyclists pay road tax too. Most of them have cars, and registration fees do not pay to maintain roads. State tax does.

    from the CA DMV
    “Q Where does the money go?
    A The DMV returns almost all vehicle license fee revenue to the cities and counties. For more details on how your VLF money is used, contact your local city or county government officials.

    The city and county does not maintain the highway. That is the state budget.

    Just clearing up a common misconception about registration fees AKA “road tax”

    Everyone pays road tax whether or not they own a car.

  • Matt A

    proudAmerican –

    I’m also a [Southern] California resident, and I grew up in Northern California. I’m very familiar with lane splitting here. I am sure that I will soon miss it greatly as I transition to the DC area over the next few months. I do it whenever I’m in the city. Last time I did it a guy in a Grand Prix tried to come into me and my bike took his mirror off. Thankfully no damage to my bike as the mirror just folded inward.

    It is DANGEROUS to leave things up to the discretion of LEOs. Too many things in our society are. While I cannot say I am aware of any cases where people have been pulled over for lane splitting, there is nothing in the law to stop them from doing so. “You weren’t splitting safely.” I’m telling you, in this cash strapped state, if it’s not already happening, it soon will be.

    I did some quick Googlefu and was only able to come up with this link – but I found over 200 links about how lane splitting is now endorsed by CHP.

  • Tim

    Well Millhouse,

    Cyclist should pay a special State tax to ride on the Highways and have their bicycle registered @ the DMV and if they don’t it should be treated as we would. No Registration automatic impound.

  • Buellbafett

    I live in Santa Barbara where our primary (i.e. ‘only’) highway through town drops from 3 lanes to 2 at the southerly end. So guess what? Traffic becomes congested and the proposed limitations would at that point make it illegal to lane share. Totally ridiculous. I’ve emailed as much to Sen. Beall’s office online. And you can too!

  • ervgopwr

    Sorry Tim, but why should bikes be subject to a special tax?

    Cyclists and people on bikes should get all kinds of special benefits for their lack of impact to roads and improved air quality from their operation.

    As a cyclist, motorcyclist and auto driver, I pay fuel taxes, sales taxes and registration taxes plenty. But acknowledge that my truck pollutes and damages the roads more than the moto and tons more than the bike.

    But back to lane splitting, it’s doable on the moto and bike which makes California great.

    As for other legislation to help all road users, more money for CHP to cite distracted drivers.

  • JD

    Well when “in traffic” whos gonna catch you? My brothers friend whos a CHP said that they dont practice chasing people using the shoulder unless its an emergency and splitting isnt considered as one……..

  • proudAmerican

    Matt A–

    Well, we’ll just agree to disagree. By the way, I’ve been a motorcyclist for 27 years, and a cop for 22 (southern California–not CHP, not traffic enforcement).

    I just don’t see any benefit (to motorcyclists) to making a new law that specifically gives teeth to motorcycle lane-sharing enforcement.

    p.s.–no offense taken on the cop comments. :))

  • Glenn Rueger

    Filtering forward through stopped traffic has been shown to reduce motorcycle fatalities from rear-end collisions in California vs other states where it is illegal. Senator Beall should put his efforts into addressing the distracted-driver problem instead of singling out a pet peeve which happens to save lives.

  • Westward

    @ Tim

    Your hostility towards cyclist are misguided. As a motorist, motorcyclist, and a cyclist, the last thing anyone needs is a law or special tax on bicycles.

    I can see it now, little Johnny can’t ride his bike to school because his parents can’t afford the registration fee, and he is too young to get a paper route.

    Thanks to Tim the transportation nazi…

  • I hate calling State Senators ‘Senators’, so I will use SS for State Senators (in this case it fits perfectly).

    SS Beall, if he want’s to get re-elected, should find more important things to do with his time in office serving the State of California than harassing his constituents. Northern California is, what I consider to be, the capitol and heartland of motorcycling in the western hemisphere. If SS Beall has not realized it, his district alone has a high number of motorcyclist and motorcycle related businesses. I would imagine a good number of them vote. So unless he wants the wrath of all California bikers on him, I suggest he spend time getting the Fois Gras band overturned or focus on something more important, like education and pot holes.

    I guarantee any politician in California will do well if they get those pot holes fixed!

  • Earl Shives

    Yet more evidence that San Jose sucks.

    The coolest people in the world to lane split with are the LEOs. They are like modern day Moseses parting the seas of mindless cagers. Wondrous to behold indeed.

  • Andy Sills

    Proud American,
    Im totally down with your analysis. I ride a lot, in San Francisco, on the highways and everywhere in between. We are fortunate to have the law (or lack thereof) nebulous, nevertheless an unspoken agreement between us and the authority who keep us honest. I have been pulled over for plenty of stuff but never in 600,000 miles for lane sharing. I think you can get away with a lot if you are respectful of the other drivers. Also, its a rare officer who will give you any trouble unless you are being wanton. There are some random dick motorists out there who have a chip on their shoulder for bikes but a good rider can smell em and be accordingly wary. If you are pissing off California drivers, who are used to us in between, then chances are you need to adjust your style. If you want to be a successful lane splitter, you’ve gotta be cool about it. Its not technical, its an art like the best of motorcycling.
    Im baffled that the law makers have by in large left us alone here in California by default. This is one where better is the enemy of good and we’ve got it pretty good.

  • AntiHero

    Bullshit. This really fucking pisses me off. Cars get zero mpg idling in traffic-and now bikes are supposed to as well? Aren’t we trying to reduce our dependency on foreign oil? Motorcycles are the solution to the problem, not the cause. Bullshit. Total bullshit.

  • Tim

    UUMMM Westward,

    I am talking about bicycles on 2 lane highways not on the veins of the Cities. Not little Johnny’s journey to school. People that ride their bicycles on the Hill/Highway as mentioned treat the hill/2 lane hwy like it their on personal race track. So actually not a NAZI. very harsh description. If SS Beall want’s something to bitch about it’s this issue. It’s in his own backyard

  • David

    Agreed that the AMA should be working to make this law in all states!

    One of the reasons I ditched my AMA membership some years ago (besides the infighting/Pro Racing debacle)
    was because of the $$$ they wast fighting helmet laws…

  • PTB


    Racing cyclist, motorcyclist and motorist here. California already has a law on the books that allows for issuing of a citation if a vehicle is impeding the normal flow of traffic (FYI, on the road, bicycles are considered vehicles and are subject to the same laws as cars and motos). See CVC 22400 “Minimum Speed Law” for more details.

    I’ve been on group rides that have gotten pulled over and nearly cited (all 50 of us) for this very issue, so don’t think that it doesn’t happen. The likelihood that this citation for bicyclists will or won’t happen is probably a lot less than the likelihood that you’d be cited for speeding up and down the very same backroads when bicyclists aren’t “getting in your way.”

    A motorcyclist or motorist traveling at a safe speed can pass a bicyclist or group of bicyclists when it is safe and legal to do so, just as he or she might do when encountering a slow moving automobile. That you lament the bicyclist taking up the whole road as his or her “personal race track” suggests to me that you think they’re getting in the way of you doing the very same thing.

    If you want to go fast safely around turns without the worry of someone getting in your way, sign up for a track day.

  • Paul McM

    In California, the majority Democratic Party Legislators have no viable solutions for the major problems facing the State, and they are unwilling to tackle the root cause of many of those issues (rapidly expanding population of low education/low tax-paying classes and unchecked immigration), so all they can really do is pass yet another law restricting conduct or taking rights away. To give you an idea of how out-of-control California legislation is — It takes three 6′ tall x20′ long bookshelves to hold all the California statutes. All the statutes of neighboring Oregon will fit in one 5’x8′ shelving unit. Yet which state has better road surfaces (Oregon), which state has lower crime (Oregon), which state has lower taxes (Oregon), and which state has better academic achievement (Oregon ranks 21st nationally while California is 41st), and which state has better overall public health (Oregon). California will continue to get these kind of nanny-state behavior-control bills so long as the Democratic Party has a super-majority. Democratic legislators get up in the morning thinking… “Gee what can I ban today?” We Californians should be happy we’re allowed to Lane split (for now) — but the Legislators are constantly looking for excuses to take your rights away. Maybe it’s time for a ride to Sacramento — surround the Capitol with a couple hundred thousand bikes.

  • I’ve never lived in a place where Lane splitting is legal, too young to ride anything but a bicycle when I lived in California, so I don’t have any idea what it’s like in a place like Southern California, where the traffic has always been ungodly, and I’m sure that every motorcyclist is grateful that they can bypass cars when they come to a light, or slip by stalled traffic on the freeway.

    But I have had some experiences with Lane splitting, and just to be clear were talking about riding the space between lines of cars right? Not multiple motorcycles riding along in tandem staggered or not, or riding on the shoulder, or going around bicycles, which I’ve never heard of anyone being stopped for in a car or anything else.

    The only occasions where I’ve done it consistently, is when it’s obviously dangerous for me to stop, like on the highway, when traffic comes to an abrupt halt, and there are cars coming up behind you and at 70 or 80 mph, and you’re likely to be squashed like a bug if you stay where you are. Doing that is just common sense, and I could give a crap about what the law says when it comes to my survival.

    When I was younger I did it occasionally, to try to skirt South Florida traffic which was always atrocious, but one time I took the mirror off a car with my shoulder. I stopped but the driver of the car never came back to get his mirror. After that I pretty much gave up lane splitting.

    Though one time on 95, an idiot jammed on his brakes to rubberneck an accident, causing a chain reaction, and instead of loading my brakes heavily and risking being nailed from behind, I went in between the lanes to go around the cars stopped in front of me. I was promptly pulled over by a state trooper and given a ticket. He saw what happened, there were several state troopers stopped by the side of the road dealing with the accident. So when I explained myself, he agreed it was probably prudent, so he told me he wasn’t going to give me a ticket for lane splitting, instead he gave me a ticket for speeding, 62 in a 55 mph zone, what a sweetheart.

    I’ve also had car drivers become irate, when I just walked my bike in between a couple of cars to move ahead of them, and do things like bump my back wheel or get out of their cars and act like tough guys. But that’s just part of motorcycling, I remember being harassed by auto drivers when I got my first street bike at 15, had people follow me for miles when I had a passenger on the back. Ass-holes tailgating me on the highway, getting within a foot of my back wheel with their bumper at 60 mph, what the hell is wrong with people? Those are both good reasons to lane split.

    Now on the other side, are the riders who regularly lane split in traffic jams, at 50 to 60 mph, which I’ve seen on a number of occasions, and I think is absolutely crazy, and should be illegal in every God damned state in the union. I came to this conclusion after watching a Harley rider on a Fat Boy go by me while I was sitting in traffic on federal highway one afternoon, he was going maybe 40 mph, when just as he reached clear road to his left, a flatbed truck started moving into that lane, and that stupid Harley rider tried to squirt the gap, and clipped the rear edge of the flatbed with his handlebar and went sliding out of control.

    What ensued was horrific, it all happened so fast that everyone who witnessed it must’ve been as shocked as I was. The bike with the rider were pulled under, the Fat Boy being processed into a big ball of scrap by the axle of the truck, to the sound of awful crunching grinding and bouncing up in the air as it went over the engine and was finally spit out behind, while the rider wound up getting run over by the tandem rear wheels of the flatbed. I’ll never forget how his helmet smacked the ground, as he was spinning under the wheels, that sound of fiberglass being crushed on impact. I’ve only heard such a sound once before in a boating accident.

    I think everyone who saw it stopped immediately to try and help, and as I reached the scene I was afraid to look because I figured he was dead or dying. Amazingly he was still alive, though in very bad shape, legs crushed and mangled, I heard later his back was broken as well. The tow truck driver went into shock, passed out and almost died himself, and was transported to hospital even before the injured motorcyclist. Later on I heard that he had survived, but lost both his legs from the knees down. By the way, if he hadn’t had a helmet on he would’ve surely been dead. After that I pretty much gave up lane splitting for good.

    While I like the idea of being able to move up in traffic or out of harms way in a dangerous situation, I don’t believe there is enough space to maneuver when lane splitting at speed on most of the roads I’ve ridden, so I think laws that regulate it are a good idea, but there should be allowances made for the rider safety in such laws. Something that specifically states, that riders have the discretion to use that option when they feel it is necessary for their safety, at least that way you would have some kind of defense against charges in court, and riders could use their common sense to guide them.

  • RobG

    Leave it the way it is. We don’t need a specific law. It works perfectly now. If a cop is going to write somebody up for it, there is likely a darn good reason. We have too many freakin’ rules as it is already.

    Now if we can get some help getting Oregon Senate Bill 541 to pass, we’ll have legalized lane splitting up here in Oregon! I’ve sorely missed it since leaving California.

    There’s way too much proof that splitting is a GOOD THING. Sure there will always be stupid people who will push it (like the Harley referenced in a previous post), but that’s a rarity. And trying to pass more and more laws to save stupid people is just as stupid. Given time, they will eliminate themselves from the gene pool. It is not our responsibility to make the world safe for them.

  • Tim

    I think this is a awesome Story. especially for California. If CARB (California Air Resource Board) has the time and resources to crack down on Dyno-Jet tuners and passing out $1 Million Fines. BTW tuning your bike not only increase engine efficiencies it also tunes to get the best MPG possible. How is that a bad thing? CARB what are you going to do to address the dirty bicyclists. They are just as bad as a pack of rich running 2-Strokes. RZV500, RG500, NSR400, RGV 250, RS 250, TZR250, NSR250 LOL

  • Archer

    Y’know, I lane split when riding in Japan, specifically Tokyo. Never a problem with the drivers there, who, except for a small percentage of taxicab drivers, are generally predictable and disciplined. You know why? Because it’s a lot of effort to get a license in that country. Over there you have to go to classes which costs big money, and pass a rigorous test- many people don’t pass the first time, because it’s not an easy test. Average Japanese driver spends equivalent to $1100-1800 to get a license and does three months worth of classes. Here in the gool ‘ol Yooessay? You fog a mirror and bam- you get your license.

    Pesonally while I would like very much to see lane splitting legalized, there’s no way I would trust the mouth-breathing, McDonald s eating, lipstick-applying, shaving texters I see all around me every single time I ride. enough to even think about actually doing it on a typical American freeway.

  • Archer

    LOL you’ve got those American drivers down pat. When someone runs a cyclist over here and splattered their brains all over the pavement, the next thing they do after blaming the motorcycle rider for their own death, is start complaining to the cop about how long this annoying accident investigation is taking and how they’re going to be late for work.

    The primary problem with drivers in the US is a lack of education, lack of basic skills, and a lack of respect for and understanding of the responsibility they have taken on when they’re driving a 2 ton chunk of metal at high speed. I discourage my kid from taking up riding because I’ve seen too many people die, and lost too many friends on the roads and highways. I don’t even want her to be a car driver or a pedestrian in this society.

  • lovej

    in 2005, 4553 US riders died and amongst those, 59 were killed by rear-ended accidents. in 2014 in UC Berkeley’s study, 161 riders died and 12 riders were killed while filtering. that means 1.2% died in rear-ending accidents and 7.4% died while filtering. Filtering is safer? LOL………..