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Monday, June 20, 2016

CA - SUBJECT: Vehicles: motorcycles: lane splitting.

SUBJECT:  Vehicles: motorcycles: lane splitting.

            DIGEST:  This bill authorizes the California Highway Patrol
          (CHP) to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting, the
          practice whereby motorcycles drive between two rows of stopped
          or moving cars in the same lane.

          Existing law:
          1)Authorizes the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
            and local authorities to prohibit or restrict the use of
            freeways, expressways, or any portion thereof, in their
            respective jurisdictions by pedestrians, bicycles, or other
            non-motorized traffic or by any person operating a
            motor-driven cycle, motorized bicycle, or motorized scooter.

          2)Directs slow-moving vehicles to use the right-hand lane and
            authorizes Caltrans to designate a certain lane or lanes for
            slow-moving traffic.

          3)Generally requires vehicles to drive on the right half of the
            roadway and to pass slower traffic on the left.

          4)Requires, when a roadway has been divided into two or more
            clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction, that a
            vehicle be driven entirely within a single lane to the extent

          AB 51 (Quirk)                                       Page 2 of ?

          This bill:

          1)Defines "lane splitting" as driving a motorcycle between rows
            of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including both
            divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.

          2)Authorizes the CHP to develop educational guidelines on lane
            splitting to help ensure the safety of motorcyclists as well
            as drivers and passengers of surrounding vehicles.

          3)Requires the CHP, in developing the guidelines, to consult
            with agencies and organizations with an interest in road
            safety and motorcycle behavior, including but not limited to
            the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Department of
            Transportation (Caltrans), the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS),
            and a motorcycle organization focused on motorcycle safety.


          1)Purpose.  The author states that existing law is silent on
            lane splitting.  Although the CHP posted lane-splitting
            guidelines on its website in early 2013, it soon had to
            withdraw them (see background below).  The lack of guidelines
            has forced the CHP to curtail education and outreach efforts
            on lane splitting and has created confusion for both
            motorcyclists and drivers.  Because statute does not
            specifically prohibit lane splitting, it is allowed with no
            restrictions.  The author states that there are several
            practical reasons for allowing a motorcycle to lane split
            under certain conditions: motorcycles have no air bags,
            cooling mechanism, or cages, and motorcyclists are at a lower
            visibility to other drivers when traveling on highly congested
            roads.  Although many motorcyclists lane split safely and only
            in slow traffic conditions, others do so at unsafe speeds and
            with no regard for the safety of others.  The author states
            that this bill will help provide guidance on lane splitting
            and enable the CHP to renew its education and outreach on this

          2)CHP guidelines:  background.  In recognition of the need for
            guidance on lane splitting, the CHP convened a committee of
            traffic safety stakeholders and motorcycle safety experts
            representing the public, government, private, and academic
            communities.  The resulting guidelines were posted on the CHP

          AB 51 (Quirk)                                       Page 3 of ?
            and OTS websites in 2013 and printed in the 2014 DMV
            Motorcycle Handbook.   However, a complaint was filed with the
            Office of Administrative Law (OAL) claiming that the
            guidelines were developed without a public process and were
            therefore "underground" regulations.  The OAL stated that the
            CHP had no authority to publish guidelines, so the CHP removed
            the guidelines from its website and the DMV and OTS followed

          3)What does the research say?  A 2014 study published by UC
            Berkeley in collaboration with OTS found that lane splitting
            can be done safely when a rider is traveling only slightly
            faster than the surrounding traffic, and that lane splitting
            motorcyclists are less likely to be rear-ended than car
            drivers.  A follow-up study published by UC Berkeley in 2015
            found that during lane-splitting collisions, head injury
            occurrence is low at all motorcycle speeds up to 50 mph and
            increases markedly above that speed.  According to this study,
            many motorcyclists do not understand how lane splitting at
            excessive speed creates unnecessary risk.  The study also
            found that riders who adopt a 10 mph or 15 mph speed
            differential practice may reduce their exposure to injury

          4)Opposition arguments.  Opponents argue that lane splitting
            should not be made legal under any circumstances, for a number
            of reasons.  For example, lane splitting encourages speeding
            because a motorcyclist must be going faster than the speed of
            traffic in order to "split" (pass cars).  In addition, lane
            splitting increases distracted-driving issues because drivers
            panic when they are suddenly and unexpectedly passed by a
            splitting biker, often at high speeds.  Opponents also state
            that street and highway lanes are built to be occupied by a
            vehicle, not shared by a vehicle and a motorcycle.

          5)Amended in Senate.  The prior version of this bill, as passed
            by the Assembly, authorized a motorcyclist to lane split if
            the motorcycle was driven at a speed of not more than 50 miles
            per hour and not more than 15 miles per hour faster than the
            speed of traffic.  After consulting with the CHP about the
            now-defunct guidelines from 2013, the author amended this bill
            into its current form.

          Related Legislation:

          AB 51 (Quirk)                                       Page 4 of ?
          SB 350 (Beall) of 2013 - would have prohibited, with the
          exception of a peace officer, a motorcycle from passing another
          vehicle in a portion of a lane occupied by that vehicle unless
          certain conditions were met, including that the passing occurs
          during traffic congestion and the passing occurs at a safe
          speed.  This bill was never heard because the author dropped it
          pending research findings.

          Assembly Votes (prior version):
            Floor:    58-14
            Appr:     16-1
            Trans:    13-1
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Appropriation:  No    Fiscal Com.:  Yes    
          Local:  Yes

            POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on
                          June 8, 2016.)

          ABATE of California
          American Motorcyclist Association
          Automobile Club of Southern California
          Bay Area Riders Forum
          CityBike Magazine
          Fraternal Order of Police, California State Lodge (prior
          Lane Splitting Is Legal
          Liberty Mutual Insurance
          Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association
          (prior version)
          Motorcycle Industry Council
          Personal Insurance Federation of California
          Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs Association (prior version)
          Santa Ana Police Officers Association (prior version)


          Stop Lane Splitting (prior version)
          4 individuals (prior version)

          AB 51 (Quirk)                                       Page 5 of ?
                                      -- END --