Riding a motorcycle is a risky way to transport yourself from one place to the next. When you are on a motorcycle, not only is it difficult for people to see you, but sometimes conditions can also make things extremely dangerous, like heavy traffic or inclement weather. California’s motorcyclists are now free to do one more thing while riding on a motorcycle. According to state law, it is now legal for bikers to do something called “lane splitting.”
Legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown now makes it legal for motorcycles to ride in the middle of the lane to go around cars in traffic. Of course, there are rules for how you can do it, but the gist is that motorcycles don’t have to wait in traffic anymore; they get the short lane right down the middle. According to retired state highway patrolman Tom Lackey, it is a “groundbreaking step.” As the one who devised the legislation, he believes that it is a big win for road safety.
Lackey maintains that it is completely safe to ride in the middle of the road when there is a clear line, like when traffic is at a standstill. Lane splitting is when motorcycle riders can pass other automobiles by riding between the cars in the middle of the lane. It’s a highly controversial issue: although it’s seemingly safe when there is a clear path, what happens when that path isn’t there?
Up until the legislation was passed, it was illegal for motorcycles to ride in the middle, but it wasn’t something that law enforcement typically had a problem with in the height of traffic. After all, why should you sit and wait for traffic to clear when you have the means to go around it or drive straight down the middle of it? But when the guidelines about what you can and can’t do were published in 2015, AB 51 was born.
The original bill about lane splitting said that it could be done when the motorcycle was moving less than 15 mph and only when traffic was backed up. It was completely prohibited at speeds more than 50 mph. Several motorcyclist lobby groups opposed the bill, saying that the threshold limit of 15mph was way too low. Other individuals and groups opposed it because they insisted that splitting lanes at all was way too dangerous, regardless of what conditions you put around the practice.
The final bill was revised and had absolutely no problem making it through legislative steps to become law. The newly-adopted definition of “lane splitting” means that you can ride between cars. Those who voted to pass the bill insist that it is a great way to not only keep people safe because you can see the motorcycles in the middle lanes, but also that it will help to reduce traffic in California all around.
Many bikers are completely thrilled with the fact that they can now ride safely in the middle of the road. Before the law was put into place, many of them took a chance and did it anyway, without law enforcement doing much of anything. That provided a free-for-all for anyone who wanted to avoid traffic by going through it. The problem was that there wasn’t a standard in place as to how a motorcyclist did it or when they were allowed to.
The new Bill has law enforcement feeling confident that it will no longer be a dangerous practice or that they have to look the other way when someone is doing it. A Houston motorcycle accident lawyer can confirm that with both conditions and speeds clearly defined, now there is a standard of care that must be followed, and it makes everyone much safer when they are out on the road.
Automobile drivers don’t have to worry about a motorcycle sailing too quickly through traffic, and motorcyclists don’t have to wait in line when they see a clear way to get where they are going. Although it sounds dangerous, it might just be the best way to eliminate risk.