Motorcyclists in California are allowed to travel between lanes of traffic because unlike the other 49 states there is no law against such maneuvering, creating a legal grey area, so AB 51 was introduced last year to codify the act of lane splitting and provide legal guidelines (no faster than 50mph, and no more than 15mph faster than traffic).
But if it isn’t defined, it isn’t breaking the law, so motorcyclists generally opposed regulating “lane splitting”, preferring to leave well enough alone and not create another new crime, and so AB 51 was pulled by its sponsor, Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), because “Lane splitting is a very complex issue and the author feels he needs more time to work out the details so that it’s more likely to be signed.” At the time, the bill had passed the state Assembly and was on its way to the California Senate floor.
Now, AB 51 was recently resurrected and amended to its purest form, simply riding between cars, with no limiting language in the current wording of the bill, retaining the spirit of lane splitting and let the rider decide what’s safe. Even under current statutes, a rider can be cited with other violations for unsafe maneuvering.
The new improved AB 51 strikes all references to miles per hour conditions, and simply 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.”
Quirk’s office said the current bill has the expressed support of more than a dozen key organizations, among them motorcycle organizations such as ABATE of California, as well as multiple law enforcement agencies.
AB 51 was swiftly approved by the State Assembly on May 28, 2016 by a vote of 58-14 and sent to the Senate where it passed Transportation and Housing Committee unanimously 11-0 on June 14 then re-referred to Appropriations Committee before coming up for a floor vote.
Although lane “filtering” is common throughout Europe and Asia and many other countries, California is the only state where it is not expressly illegal. A bill to legalize lane-splitting in Nevada was voted down in 2013. A similar bill in Oregon was defeated in 2015. Other bills have surfaced and died in Arizona and Texas.
There will be more news from our friends at the NCOM in the news this week.