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Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Guidelines Tossed in California

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about lane-splitting in California, and how to do it as safely as possible so as to minimize your chances of getting crushed, doored or destroyed. California is the only state in the country that allows this controversial practice, and many riders hail it as a great way to navigate the traffic jams the state is notorious for. In that blog post, I included a list of safety guidelines largely based on material I found posted on the California Highway Patrol website. Some of the ideas included splitting only in the farthest left lanes, only riding 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic, and splitting only when traffic is moving at a rate of 30 mph or slower.

Well, it appears that those CHP guidelines I had found have now been taken down altogether, and motorcyclists are not happy.

According to SFGate, the Office of Administrative Law requested that the CHP take down their lane-splitting guidelines when they received complaints from a Sacramento man that the "guidelines" could be misinterpreted as actual laws. The LA Times reports that the OAL feared the guidelines served as a wholesale endorsement of the practice. Nowhere on the guidelines did it say that they were actual laws - in fact, quite the contrary. These were merely suggestions for how motorcyclists could safely engage in lane-splitting without endangering themselves or other drivers.

As I mentioned in the original blog post, I choose not to lane split because I feel that it's simply safer not to. All kinds of things can go wrong when you maneuver your bike between two stopped - or moving - vehicles, whether you're being conservative or not. But I know many motorcyclists in California who take full advantage of legal lane splitting. Some of these riders are much better riders than I, and some are total novices who haven't been riding a bike for long enough to intuitively know proper lane splitting practices.

I feel that these lane-splitting guidelines provided a valuable resource, and removing them only makes one fewer place for people to look to. It seems to me that if the state of California is going to allow this practice, they might as well have some educational materials out there. Now there is nothing for inexperienced riders to refer to. As it now stands, lane splitting is legal but safety guides have been withdrawn. This does not work on any level. If lane-splitting is going to remain legal in California, the state should be aiming to make it as safe as possible, rather than simply distancing itself from the outcome of its legislation.

The CHP guidelines were not only valuable for motorcyclists, but for drivers as well. They offered a framework for motorcyclists to help them avoid accidents, and for drivers to understand what to expect and to know when a motorcyclist is within the realm of protocol or not. Until the point that the state decides to support its legislation (that is an outlier as the only state in which lane splitting is legal) may I suggest a review of the guides of other agencies such as the Motorcycle Industry Council as a resource for the safest way to ride if you are going to lane split. Stay safe!

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