Capitol Alert

Lawmaker puts brakes on motorcycle lane-splitting bill

Legislation that would expressly allow lane-splitting in California has been tabled for the year to give supporters more time to work on the measure.
Legislation that would expressly allow lane-splitting in California has been tabled for the year to give supporters more time to work on the measure. Los Angeles Times

California legislation that would make it clear that motorcyclists can split lanes of traffic has been tabled for the year, several weeks after it passed the Assembly with bipartisan support.

The author of Assembly Bill 51, Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will continue to work with stakeholders and resurrect the bill in 2016, the second half of the Legislature’s two-year session, a spokeswoman said. The measure faced a July 17 deadline to clear its first Senate policy committee.

Lane splitting is illegal in every state but California, which does not expressly allow or prohibit the practice. An estimated 80 percent of California motorcyclists split lanes, but it remains controversial among motorists, prompting authorities to publish lane-splitting guidelines in early 2013. They pulled them back after objections that there had been no formal rule-making process.

Quirk’s bill would essentially put those guidelines into law. Motorcyclists could split lanes at speeds of no more than 50 miles per hour. They also could not drive more than 15 miles per hour faster than the vehicles around them. Bipartisan Assembly majorities backed the measure, which had Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, a former California Highway Patrol officer, as a joint author.

But the measure found no fans among motorcycle groups, who called the proposal overly restrictive. There already is widespread acceptance of lane splitting in California, they said. The Personal Insurance Federation of California backed the measure, saying lane-splitting rules would help reduce injuries and improve public safety.

A May study by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center found that, of the nearly 6,000 motorcycle accidents in California from June 2012 through August 2013, about 1,000 involved lane-splitters. Those motorcyclists were more likely to be riding during commute hours, wearing better helmets, and riding at lower speeds, according to the study.

There have been two previous attempts to regulate motorcycle lane splitting in the Golden State. Elsewhere, there have been unsuccessful efforts to allow lane-splitting in Nevada, Oregon and Texas. In Arizona, lawmakers passed a lane-splitting bill but it was vetoed.

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