“Lane splitting,” also known as “lane sharing” or “white lining,” is the practice of riding a motorcycle between rows of traffic. In December, I posted a blog entry entitled “Lane Splitting: Part 1.” I promised more on the subject, and well, six months later, here is a long-awaited follow-up.
This is an oft-debated topic on the internet and at biker hangouts, alike. It’s legality is commonly misunderstood, even by some law enforcement. Car drivers will always think it’s crazy; most motorcyclists in California swear by it. After all, if you are facing a 2-hour commute on the 134 to the 5 to the 710 through Los Angeles on your way to Long Beach, versus just 45 minutes or so, well, lane splitting on a motorcycle starts to look like a pretty good idea. But two questions immediately arise: (1) Is it legal; and (2) Is it safe?
Is it Legal to Ride Between Lanes on a Motorcycle in California?
There is no statute in California making lane splitting expressly legal for motorcyclists in California. On the other hand, there is no statute in California making it expressly illegal for motorcyclists to lane-split, either.
In fact, the only “official” document I could find on the issue is from the California Highway Patrol. According to their Frequently Asked Questions page on their website, lane-splitting is legal. The site states:
Q: Can motorcycle riders “split” lanes and ride between other vehicles?
A: Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible but must be done in a safe and prudent manner.
Motorcycle cops routinely lane split, and it’s common to see motorcyclists do it as well. And, according to the CHP, it’s legal. That said, I am aware of motorcyclists occasionally being given tickets for doing it. (The ticket is invariably for “Unsafe Lane Change.”) If you get one, please contact us. We like to keep track of law enforcement trends throughout California, so that we can keep our readers better informed. On top of that, the motorcycle accident lawyers at Riderz Law are happy to give you (free!) advice on fighting the ticket.
Remember that just because lane-splitting is not illegal, doesn’t mean that it’s a license to speed or break other laws. You can be given a citation for speeding, reckless driving, unsafe lane change, or any number of other traffic violations. Additionally, it can be a treacherous practice. Which segues perfectly into the next question: Is lane splitting safe? Stay tuned tomorrow for that post.