Two weeks ago, the California Highway Patrol’s Lane Splitting Guidelines quietly disappeared from the CHP website and literature. Published in early 2013, the Guidelines were hailed by many supporters of lane splitting, as well as by some lane splitting opponents, for providing motorcyclists AND motorists some measure of guidance on safe and respectful lane splitting.
In a statement following the removal, a CHP spokesperson said, ”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.” According to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), one California state employee, Kenneth Mandler, took it upon himself last year to petition the California Office of Administrative Law for the removal of the Guidelines. Mandler argued that the Guidelines amounted to “underground regulation” and the Office of Administrative Law agreed, saying that when the CHP published the Guidelines, it was, in effect, issuing them.
California remains the only state where lane splitting is legal, but things could change. The removal of the Guidelines is yet another poker in the fire of the lane splitting war, one following last year’s attempt by anti-splitters and law makers to severely limit lane splitting. Within just a few weeks of the Guidelines being introduced in January of 2013, California Senator Jim Beall introduced SB350, a bill that would have essentially codified the Guidelines, turning many of the safety tips into enforceable laws. But the bill would have curtailed lane splitting even further, and proposed limiting lane splitting to three-lane highways only and prohibiting it elsewhere. The bill immediately mobilized the riding community and its supporters, while revealing some of the most vitriolic critics of lane splitting and of the “organ donors” who practice it. Without giving a clear reason, Beall’s office announced in October 2013 that the bill would be postponed for at least another year. Groups on both sides of the battle await the bill’s second coming.
Meanwhile, motorcycle advocacy groups like the AMA are already calling for the Lane Splitting Guidelines to be reinstated. Visit the AMA website to sign a petition requesting that the CHP be allowed to distribute this important safety information.
The removal of the Lane Splitting Guidelines is hugely disappointing, and the state now lacks an important resource and tool that served to educate riders on safe lane splitting practices, and encouraged both drivers and riders to respect each other on the road. Lane splitting can be dangerous to the rider and disconcerting to drivers when performed recklessly. But it does reduce congestion on our roadways, and when performed conscientiously, it can be the safest way for a motorcyclist to avoid a collision in stop-and-go traffic. We encourage riders who lane split to continue to do so safely and respectfully. To help you define what that means for yourself, here are some of the key points of the now de-published CHP Lane Splitting Guidelines:
(Note: the following was taken directly from the CHP’s Lane Splitting Guidelines. To keep it simple, we omitted some of the safety tips specific to certain scenarios. You can access the full text of the Guidelines through the AMA website. Click here and follow the link at the bottom of the page to download a PDF.)
Lane splitting in a safe and prudent manner is not illegal in the state of California.
Motorcyclists who are competent enough riders to lane split, should follow these general guidelines if choosing to lane split:
1) Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic.
2) It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 MPH or faster.
3) Typically, it is safer to split between the #1 and #2* lanes than between others. *farthest left
4) Consider the total environment in which you are splitting, including the width of the lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, as well as roadway, weather, and lighting conditions.
5) Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users.
Follow the Four ‘R’s: Be Reasonable, be Responsible, be Respectful, and be aware of all Roadway and traffic conditions.
Every rider has ultimate responsibility for his or her own decision making and safety. Riders must be conscious of reducing crash risk at all times.
Messages for Other Vehicle Drivers:
1) Lane splitting is not illegal in California when done in a safe and prudent manner.
2) Motorists should not take it upon themselves to discourage motorcyclists from lane splitting.
3) Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal (CVC 22400).
4) Opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is illegal (CVC 22517).
5) Never drive while distracted.
6) You can help keep motorcyclists and all road users safe by:
- Checking mirrors and blind spots, especially before changing lanes or turning.
- Signaling your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
- Allowing more following distance, three or four seconds, when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
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