Like the Golden State Warriors, California motorcyclists are poised for a long-awaited, huge win. If all goes well, the passage of California Assembly Bill 51 will soon elevate lane-splitting from the legally tolerated purgatory in which it now exists to a bona fide state law.
AB51 was introduced December 1, 2014 by Assemblymen Bill Quirk (D) and Tom Lackey (R) and co-sponsored by Kansen Chu (D). Since then it’s been amended a few times, and has passed three voting hurdles: the first on April 6 (13 to 1), the second on April 28 (16 to1), and the third on May 28 (53 to 11). Having passed the State Assembly the bill travels to the State Senate then hopefully off for a signature from Governor Brown.
The language of the current bill allows for motorcycles “to be driven between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane if the motorcycle is not driven at a speed of more than 50 miles per hour and is driven no more than 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic.”
AB51 owes its momentum to the Lane-Splitting Safety Study commissioned by the CHP and conducted by the University of California, Berkeley. We reported on the preliminary results of the study in October of last year (Preliminary Lane-Splitting Safety Report Released). The information released in that study included, among other information, this factoid: Lane-Splitting Motorcyclists were less likely to be rear-ended by another vehicle (2.7%) than were other motorcyclists (4.6%).
According to Tom Rice, Research Epidemiologist at the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at UC Berkeley, legalizing lane-splitting is safer for motorcyclists than is being between cars in stop-and-go traffic. The study in its entirety will soon be released for public consumption. Expect a full report on its contents with commentary from Mr. Rice in a forthcoming article.