California Governor Signs Bill to Make Lane-Splitting by Motorcyclists Legal

The passage of AB51 allows motorcyclists to ride between two lanes of traffic on California's roadways, but California Highway Patrol will have to develop further guidelines

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday to make lane-splitting by motorcyclists legal, paving the way for California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop guidelines on the controversial matter.

Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 into law, making California the first state to make lane-splitting on roadways legal, allowing motorcyclists to drive between two lanes of traffic.

"This bill would define 'lane splitting' as driving a motorcycle, that has 2 wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, as specified," the bill states.

Not everyone is happy about the passage of AB51, particularly if you’ve ever driven while a motorcyclist zips freely between cars in traffic. For some, lane-splitting can be alarming.

“I think it’s crazy,” San Diego resident and driver Dave Jordan told NBC 7 on Saturday. “I mean for them, for [the motorcyclists’] sake.”

Kyle Hickey, a driver and mother of three, also fears that making lane-splitting legal compromises the safety of motorcyclists on the roads and leads to more accidents.

“No, I don’t think it’s in their best interest at all,” Hickey told NBC 7. “I do turn my shoulder. I’m in a huge vehicle though – I’m in a huge vehicle, they’re on a very small motorcycle.”

On the other side of things, some motorcyclists are happy to hear that Brown passed the bill.

“I think it’s great, especially during the hot times when you’re sitting there in all your gear and stuff and sweating,” motorcyclist and San Diego resident Michael Seibert told NBC 7.

Seibert said drivers should pay attention and look over their shoulders before merging to avoid any issues with lane-splitting motorcyclists. Still, he’s not sure the new law will help traffic.

“But I think it’s good to get us out of the way,” he added.

Driver Monique Guzman said that if rode a motorcycle, she’d likely take advantage of the possibility of lane-splitting.

“It doesn’t matter to me, I would do the same thing if I was in traffic. So I guess if they want to risk it,” Guzman said.

Motorcyclist John O’Connell said that for him, lane-splitting is not something he likes to do while riding.

“You’re taking an extra risk that you don’t need to take,” he told NBC 7. “I’m going to do what makes sense for me.”

Motorcyclist John Sexton told NBC 7 he thought lane-splitting was already legal since, in his words, he sees “people do it all the time.”

While the state of California does not keep track of accidents resulting from lane-splitting, the state did commission a study by the University of California Berkeley between June 2012 and August 2013 that included figures on accidents involving lane-splitting.

The study found that of the 5,969 motorcycle accidents in California recorded by law enforcement during that period, 997 involved lane-splitting – or 17 percent.

The CHP will still need to develop the guidelines for this lane-splitting law but, in the meantime, for motorcyclists, it’s an open road out there.

Contact Us