Photo: Bikernet.com

Natives know it's legal.

But motorcyclists new to riding in California looking for information on the legality of lane splitting might just think the technique is now illegal thanks to the lack of available information.

The California Office of Administrative Law earlier this year ordered the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Motor Vehicles and other related websites to remove guidelines and information on the legality of lane-spitting. In fact, all hard copy materials were purged as well.

"Removal of the DMV brochures is a big loss," said Nick Haris, American Motorcyclist Association western states representative and a member of the California Motorcyclist Safety Program Advisory Committee. "The DMV offices and website are the first places California drivers look for information. And this is vital information for them to have."

The OAL stopped posting guidelines on lane splitting after an objection by Sacramento resident Kenneth Mandler claiming the CHP's guidelines on lane splitting were an "underground regulation" meaning the technique had not gone through the Administrative Procedure's Act's prescribed process. The APA is a federal statute that governs the way administrative agencies propose and establish regulations. As a result, CHP Commissioner J.A. Farrow notified the OAL that information on lane splitting would no longer be issued, used, or enforced by the CHP. Additionally, the OAL concluded that posting lane splitting guidelines online was "issuing" them.

In short, Mandler felt the posted guidelines were actual wording of a law on lane splitting by the CHP, an agency that has no legislative authority.

To combat one person's objection and subsequent successful take-down of the guidelines, the AMA started an online petition to encourage the OAL to allow state agencies to make this information public again. The petition can be found here.

California is the only state that allows lane splitting which is also called lane filtering, lane sharing or white-lining. The maneuver, which allows riding a motorcycle or scooter between lanes of stopped or slowly moving traffic, is not new and has been around for years. The AMA advocates for the use of lane splitting citing the technique relieves traffic congestion and improves safety. The AMA's position statement on lane splitting reads, in part, as follows:

"Reducing a motorcyclist's exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce front- and rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic."

Lane splitting is not actually a law instead it's just not illegal. Motorcyclists can pass between cars only if the maneuver can be done safely and an officer can issue a citation if he or she deems a lane split as reckless riding. The following are the CHP guidelines (which currently are unavailable) on safe lane splitting:

  1. Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic - danger increases at higher speed differentials.
  2. It is not advisable to lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster - danger increases as overall speed increases.
  3. Typically, it is safer to split between the #1 and #2 lanes than between other lanes.
  4. Consider the total environment in which you are splitting, including the width of the lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, as well as roadway, weather, and lighting conditions.
  5. Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users.

Written By: AndrewT