Pretty much everyone has experienced the bitter frustration of sitting in traffic, watching motorcycles breeze through, weaving in and out of lanes.
And while this maneuvering, called lane-splitting, has always been legal in the Golden State (the only state where it’s permitted), California Highway Patrol has never officially condoned what some see as a dangerous, unregulated practice.
In January, CHP introduced new rules for lane-splitting in order to apply a little order to the anarchy.
Sgt. Mark Pope, statewide motorcycle safety coordinator for the CHP, told the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Nobody has provided any guidance, so we decided it was time to figure that out.”
Guidance begins with speed. Pope told the Chronicle that motorcyclists should lane-split no faster than 10 mph over the speed of traffic around you, and to stay away from the practice all together if the flow of traffic is faster than 30 mph.
Bay Area motorcyclists have reacted positively to the new rules, which apply to city streets and state highways and freeways.
Alex Bond, who commutes via Harley from Richmond to downtown San Francisco five days a week, saves 30 minutes to an hour by lane-splitting. He told the Chronicle:
“I used to be a little crazy when I rode, but not anymore. I think the guidelines make sense; honestly, I don’t lane-split above about 30 anymore.”
And contrary to popular belief, lane-splitting is actually safer for motorcyclists — who ride the roads without air bags – than sitting in line in traffic, Pope said. It’s also harder for drivers to see a motorcycle directly behind their car.
CHP officers have always had the authority to ticket motorcyclists who are driving too fast, but the guidelines help provide a new level of clarity and specifics that will hopefully encourage respectful, safe lane-splitting.