Anti-Lane Splitting Law Dies In California Senate

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Motorcycle Lane Splitting

A bill that could have made motorcycle lane splitting illegal in California has died due to lack of popular support. Surj from gives us the scoop. — Ed.

January, 2014 has been an upcoming dark spot on the calendar for us in the California motorcycle community. HQ—SB350, the bill that would introduce substantially restrictive limits on how we split lanes in California, was supposedly going to be revisited in the new year. We’ve been hounding Senator Jim Beall, who introduce the bill last February, for status updates, without much luck until now. We’ve just received confirmation from a staffer in Senator Beall’s office that SB350 is dead — for now.

The staffer tells us, “Senator Beall does not plan to take any action on the bill next year in light of the lane-splitting guidelines issued by the California Highway Patrol. He wants to evaluate how well the guidelines work and as well as their effectiveness, which may obviate the need for any legislation.”

SB350 — which was referred to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee last February — would have amended the California Vehicle Code by adding the following:“21658.5
(a) Notwithstanding any other law, and except as provided in subdivision (b), when a highway has been divided into three or more clearly marked lanes for traffic traveling in the same direction, a person operating a motorcycle shall not pass another vehicle in a portion of a lane occupied by that vehicle unless the following conditions are met:
(1) The passing occurs during traffic congestion.
(2) The passing occurs at a safe speed.
(b) This section does not apply to a peace officer in the performance of official duties.”

The bill was ridiculously vague and riders argued about what the bill actually changed: did it restrict splitting to roads with three or more lanes in the same direction or only apply to roads with three or more lanes? We then quickly heard — unofficially — that the bill was on hold until January, 2014, supposedly to allow for the Berkeley SafeTREC motorcycle crash study to be completed. Today, we’re breathing a massive sigh of relief at the apparent abandonment of the bill.

We’ve inquired with Beall’s staff as to whether the 2013 OTS Lane Sharing Survey results, preliminary data from the upcoming OTS-funded, Berkeley SafeTREC motorcycle crash study (which we’ve heard isn’t negative) or CHP PR efforts around lane splitting influenced this decision. We’ll update this article as we get more information.

That said, “does not plan to take any action,” isn’t as awesome as if they’d said something like “we’ve abandoned this bill because, let’s face it, motorcycles are awesome and lane splitting is good for everyone.” But we’ll take it.

For now, this means that going into 2014 — more than ever — that riders need to be good ambassadors for lane splitting and motorcycling in general. Pay attention to the CHP lane splitting guidelines: keep your speed differential reasonable, don’t split when traffic is moving too fast, maintain a consistently high awareness of your surroundings on the road. Those of you who split crazy-fast and regularly hit mirrors while crying about how the “damn cagers” are always cutting you off, need to cut it out. It’s up to us as riders to keep Senator Beall (or some other politician) from deciding (again) that banning lane splitting/sharing/filtering is a good way to score points with California drivers who are frustrated with “idiots on donor-cycles” that “come out of nowhere” and “weave in and out of traffic” and “cut in line.”

Want to show your support for legal lane splitting? Order your Lane Splitting Is Legal stickers today.

Related Links:
The Best Argument For Lane Splitting Ever Made: Why Motorcycle Lane Splitting Is Safe And Good For Everyone
The Rules: The CHP’s Official Lane Splitting Guidelines
Do This: How To Lane Split

  • Conrad

    What would be the first steps to getting the ball rolling on making lane splitting legal here in IL or in any state for that matter?

    • Chris Cope

      If only there were some sort of American motorcyclist association that would represent the interests of riders.

      • sixgunsteve

        ^True. I appreciate their work on keeping OHV trails open, but the vast majority of those are in the West. Here in the Mid-Atlantic where traffic is epic, the ability to lane split would pay huge dividends in not only time saved but in safety as well.

        • Chris Cope

          I agree. I live in the UK at the moment and being able to split lanes and filter saves me shocking amounts of time. I was being snide in my comment above — I feel the AMA focuses too much on helmet laws and gas additives rather than things that would really be useful to motorcyclists.

        • darngooddesign

          Have you contacted the AMA and asked them?

        • sportymilligan

          that is something your state motorcycle rights org would take up in a bill in your state legislature. If your not a member then you join and you would be able to find out if such a bill would be advisable. I live in California and we have lane sharing but it was under attack by the legislature SB 350 (Bealls) However we have Chp guidelines to follow so we don’t have to loose that ability to lane share. I am a member of Abate of California and a board member as well. Remember you also don’t want the federal Gov coming up with mandatory laws which cause you to loose your states rights especially if it concerns motorcycles.

      • Kr Tong

        Unfortunately they’re too busy fighting helmet laws.

    • I Have the Hat

      I’ve heard suggested that regardless of the law (or lack of a law against, as I understand the case to be in CA), the greater concern is acceptance by the general body of motorists, which comes largely from the practice existing historically. Bit of a chicken and egg problem there. If the traffic code was amended in my state to make filtering explicitly legal tomorrow I still wouldn’t do it because there would doubtless be some motorist, not knowing it was legal, who would freak out and react unpredictably.

      A change in state law to allow it would have to be accompanied by widespread education to make the legality of it commonly known, not to mention sway motorist attitudes to at least cause them to tolerate it. Only once it was widespread would I feel safe doing it.

      • chad west

        I think those people are dumb because we are making their commute faster because we are taking up one less space

      • Mr.Paynter

        Lane-splitting has always been legal here (South Africa) and I’ve had guys wedging the nose of their car out to stop me filtering by because why should I get ahead? It’s pathetic.

    • Surj Gish

      Check out the work folks did on AB236 in Nevada for some ideas on how to get rolling. The bill got really close to passing. We have coverage of Nevada’s lane splitting legalization efforts every step of the way, including video of hearings, etc, here. Also check out our lane splitting resources page to work on your talking points.

    • Justin McClintock

      A letter writing campaign from all motorcyclists to the AMA voicing our displeasure over their unwillingness to pursue issues like this that would affect ALL of us would be a good start. If we could get the AMA on board, it would do huge things for lane splitting nationwide. Without them, there’s little chance.

  • ThruTheDunes

    A question for you lucky Californians – are the Botts Dots a problem when lane splitting, or are they a low enough profile and not slippery when wet?

    • runnermatt

      Botts Dots???

    • Scott Otte

      I’ve never been troubled by them, but I try not to ride one them.

    • sean macdonald

      They’re really only a problem in that they’re annoying to ride on, but are surprisingly easy to avoid.

    • Mark D

      They are only annoying when you are filtering slowly in a very narrow, winding lane. In which case, you probably shouldn’t really be filtering at all.

    • Stuki

      Depends on the bike and tires.
      Telelever equipped Beemers turn into jackhamers riding on them, while decent quality standard suspenders that are not race stiff handles them remarkably well.

    • Davidabl2

      I feel that they are more an irritation than a hazard..on the plus side they probably discourage ‘splitting at 50-60-70-mph:-)

    • Eric Halladay

      Really not a problem, you spend almost no time on them.

  • Bones Over Metal

    So RidApart,
    How did California get lane splitting? What is the history? Maybe a past bike enthusiast Governor pushed the law through, or was it just a loop hole that someone exposed ??
    Excuse my Canadian ignorance but I’d really like to know.

    Maybe understanding where it came from would help the movement to legalize traffic filtering in more states and hopefully in Canada.

    • sean macdonald

      From my understanding, it was allowed originally to allow air cooled bikes to keep moving and not overheat while stuck in traffic. Our warm season is incredibly long (it was 85 yesterday).

      • PracticalBatman

        Remember, at the time police were using air cooled KZ1000′s and the CHP were on air cooled harleys. That probably has something to do with it :)

    • Michael Roell

      Here’s the deal, and this is a great thing about this country, it isn’t specifically forbidden so it’s ok to do. It also isn’t specifically allowed as far as I can tell. I’ve looked for any kind of vehicle code evidence when I started riding 28 years ago, and check back periodically, but have never found a single subsection.

      It’s pretty much that for the most part Californians of the past didn’t get too uptight about it. It became a regular thing, like in Europe, and now we just accept it. The people that get really bothered about it from what I’ve seen, aren’t from here.

      There are enough CAVC sections that could be used to go ticket a lane-splitting rider, but like I said it’s just accepted. I wish some of those would be used on those knuckleheads that insist on splitting at a speed differential of 30+ mph, and that seems to think it’s ok to split when traffic is moving faster than 50mph.

  • Alberto Morgado

    Check this video and look if this is a safe lanespliting… in Brazil we use KM/h (kilometers per hour)… this is a guy that i know…

    • Alberto Morgado

      Is a XJ6 from yamaha, with a full custom exaust system…

    • Aakash

      Definitely not safe, but then again, context matters. I’ve spent time in Brazil, and seen some pretty skilled filtering during rush hour in Sao Paulo. Only in Mumbai, India did I see more skillful (or simply crazy) motorcycle riders.

      • Alberto Morgado

        I do lanespliting, not like this (because my motorcicle is a 250cc and not a 600 hehehehehe), but 95% of time, I’m doing Lanespliting… the rush hour in Brazil sucks!!! you said you spend a time here… so if you stay in São Paulo, you know, you see that… 1,2 people for each car… i run 33 Km’s from my house, to my job and back more 35 kms to University and then back home again… with car, i lose 2 hours in the morning and 3 at night… with my “XTZ 250 x” Yamaha, i do the same way in 30 minuts… i love lanespliting…

      • Stuki

        90kph seems a bit over the top if safety is a primary concern. The other bikers looked to be doing 50-60, which I would say is perfectly “safe” for those conditions. And compared to just sitting there huffing smog like the car drivers, a pretty substantial reduction of absolute “safety” is still preferable. At least your buddy is getting to where he’s going on some semblance of dispatch.

        I do not like the splitting simultaneously on both sides of cars these guys are doing. At least in the US, car drivers are often startled by a bike blowing by them that close, and often jump to the other side, without thinking another bike may be spliting the opposite side. Brazilians and Europeans may be more used to being passed by splitting bikes, so it may be less of a problem there.

  • stever

    The AMA is a powerful voice for protecting my freedom to run over endangered species whenever, wherever I like, and then pick them up and eat them without the delay I’d suffer if I were encumbered by a helmet.

    • Davidabl2

      You belong to the NRA too, for similar reasons? (Tongue securely in cheek)

  • Pete terHorst

    FYI for those that commented below: The AMA Board of Directors approved a formal lane-splitting (and filtering) position statement at its last meeting in mid-October. You can view it here:

    • David E

      Thank you Pete. I joined after reading that.

  • Sebastian Koch

    that is a really nice E30 in that pic <3

  • metric_G

    It used to be “it is legal long as it is done in a safe and prudent manner”, it was on the LEO’s discretion what was “safe and prudent” on the given scenario, now the CHP released their guideline:

  • Stuki

    “He wants to evaluate how well the guidelines work…”

    I’m sure this monkey is in such a great position to “evaluate” how motorcycle related anything “work.”

    I just love that the Afghans have more kids than “us”, and will inherit the earth. Whatever you may say about them, at least they can lanesplit. While carrying AKs to defend themselves against people taking it upon themselves to “evaluate” how others live their lives, to boot…..

  • Piglet2010

    Illinois would have likely passed a bill allowing lane splitting, but ABATE lobbying killed it since it also had a mandatory lid provision.

    • Mykola

      Wow, that’s like deciding you like your beads better than Manhattan.

      • darngooddesign

        What if the law only allowed it for cruisers? Or motorcycles that were bone stock? The point is that it should be legal for all motorcyclists.

  • Thatmanstu

    As has been stated,lane splitting in most of Europe is common ,if not specifically legal. Here in SW France,they take it a step further and basically pass anything(legally) slower than them on two lanes or otherwise,so encountering traffic lights(which are somewhat rare except in downtown areas)or stop signs,you just push to the front.Same for work areas or just plain old slower traffic and congestion are simply bypassed.This includes passing against oncoming traffic on those same two lane roads..An amazing amount of people will move to the right as soon as they spot a bike coming from behind,and it is not unheard of for oncoming traffic to to the same,providing a wide and safe means for passing….typically sticking out your right foot gives a thank you and on you go…..I have to say the Mississippi HP that saw me split two cars on my commute had no interest in hearing this or anything else…He was very pissed and Reckless Driving was the charge……

    • Stuki

      Driving a rental car through downtown Marseilles at 50kph in my youth, I was a bit shocked to have a screaming two stroke scooter with two half naked teens come up next to me, and the driver literally kicking my car out of the way, presumably because I was not aware of the local “give-way” tradition; instead being too busy trying to figure out where the heck I was…..

      Bicyclists in the US often ride like that, but if you try doing so on a moto, you’re not going to last long before your license is revoked.

  • charlie

    I talked to somebody at the AMA about this and they made it clear that it’s not a priority. They are so PC about it that it doesn’t make any sense. What’s their purpose again?

  • charlie

    How did this even get traction to go this far? Is it because of the NYC mess?

  • Sentinel

    Tyranny is bad…

  • Pete terHorst

    Chris, I posted this a few days ago…

    FYI for those that commented below: The AMA Board of Directors approved a formal lane-splitting (and filtering) position statement at its last meeting in mid-October. You can view it here:

  • Lord Triumph

    I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. It’s weird to us Brits to read about how your law makers fail to see how filtering (us) or lane splitting (you) eases congestion and protects riders from rear end accidents. Why aren’t your police riders lobbying local politicians? Do the police not think it’s a good idea either? Wear a helmet as well you muppets!

  • sportymilligan

    both are important i want state rights on motorcycle rights not ferderal gov mandates. if the gov makes it mandatory for helmets in all states they we lose our freedom of choice. and then were going to lose all rights as motorcycle rights lane splitting etc. federal mandate of engine size you get the picture.

  • bbradsby

    To anyone who has travelled, Lanesplitting is obviously legal and common in the entire known, civilized universe. This, needless to say, does not include the USA. And…No, the California Republic is not part of the USA, if you had to ask.

    Now, since all politics are local:
    Busy-body Beale’s 15th state senate district comprises the HEART of Silicon Valley: ].

    Email him Now, but be nice:

    Note that he only took the Primary by an 11% margin. So an AMA initiative, a monthly Be-In of District 15 voters-who-ride at his local office would be a start. Add media, petitions, signatures, a drive to get his attention & educate him, or ultimately threaten to vote him out.

    Then maybe SouthBay Riders should put on a PR Event one day a month whereby all ride to work – and refuse to lane split. Ride single file, but group-up together spontaneously during rush hour with bumper stickers on backs “Senator Beall would outlaw Lane Sharing. Imagine yr 2-Hour Commute or Call Him Now at 408-558-1295″ to demonstrate how splitting reduces traffic even for the non-observant cagers and policymakers. Then occupy metered car parking spaces, one bike to a space, to illustrate the obvious: how much bikers are traffic, pollution & parking congestion reducers, and good citizens who smile more. Invite the press.