STAY SAFE RIDE SMART
California lane splitting gets its first official guidelines
John L. Stein
EVERYONE knows California is the land of fruits and nuts. Despite this, the Golden State is the only state that allows lane splitting. This practice is permitted because, in part, it helps improve traffic flow on some of the nation’s most congested roads. That’s good for riders, as it provides access to safer and more open lane environments.
A survey published by the California Office of Traffic Safety, however, indicated that 47 percent of drivers are unaware that lane splitting is allowed, and worse, that seven percent of drivers had attempted to block motorcyclists from passing, despite two California vehiclecode statutes that protect lane splitters. One is VC 22400, which prevents drivers from intentionally blocking or impeding traffic (including lanesplitting motorcyclists), and VC 22517, which prohibits unsafely opening a vehicle door into moving traffic.
Unfortunately, formal opposition does exist. The California Senate recently withdrew a proposed law, SB 350, sponsored by Jim Beall (D-Sanjose), seeking to restrict lane splitting to “safe” speeds on “congested” highways of three or more lanes.
For now, California motorcyclists are fortunate that lane splitting is allowed. Practiced wisely, it’s a safe and helps keep traffic moving. But abusing it invites regulation. Will other states see the light soon? cut
THEIR SPEED -> California’s Strategic Highway Safety Program (SHSP) published the first general guidelines for lane splitting. Recommendation 1: Practice lane splitting when traffic is moving at 30 mph or less.
YOUR SPEED 1 -> Split lanes no more than 10 mph faster than traffic flow. Too great a speed differential, says the CHP, makes stopping distances too long. Maximum recommended speed is 39 mph. Avoid riding in blind spots.
LANE CHOICE -> Split primarily between lanes 1 and 2. It's okay to split between HOV and 1, but don't cross the double yellow. Splitting between lanes 2,3 or 4 is allowed but less safe as drivers are more likely to head for exits. It's okay to split on city streets, too.
THE 4 Rs -> Don't split by trucks. Do practice the "4 Rs" CHP uses to judge safe splitting; Reasonable, Responsible and ‘Respectful, with awareness of Roadway conditions. More at: www.chp.ca.gov