Lane-splitting guidelines aim to educate motorists, riders

Dear Street Smarts, Q: Thanks for your column! A recent article reported that the State has new 'guidelines' for motorcycles regarding lane splitting. However, it would seem that, as guidelines, there still is no law that controls what motorcyclists may do. Is that correct? Can cyclists be cited under the new guidelines? Thanks much! Ken Burson, via email A: First off, read those new guidelines on the California Office of Traffic Safety website at Now, to your question. Street Smarts called upon Sgt. Mark Pope, the statewide coordinator of the California Motorcyclist Safety Program for the CHP at the Sacramento headquarters, for the answer. “While there is no law specifically prohibiting lane splitting, there are a number of laws which apply to both motorists and motorcyclists,” he said. “A whole vehicle code full of them in fact.” Among the California Vehicle Code sections that may apply to riders and drivers alike caught driving unsafely, include an unsafe lane change -- section 21658 a -- or for unsafe speed – section 22350, Pope explained. As for whether riders can be cited under the new guidelines, the answer is, “No,” Pope said. “Guidelines are not statutory in nature and represent no change in law or policy. They will however foster a better understanding of what may be considered 'safe and prudent.'” The education effort about lane-splitting is being released now because a recent survey by the Office of Traffic Safety found that 87 percent of motorcyclists split lanes, 53 percent of car drivers know lane-splitting is allowed and 7 percent of respondents admitted to using their vehicle to block or impede a motorcyclist, said Pope. The guidelines were created by a committee of traffic safety stakeholders and motorcycle experts from civilian, governmental and academic communities aim to educate the public about lane-splitting, Pope explained. Among the messages the guidelines are sending is that drivers must look twice for motorcycles and never try to block or impede a lane-splitting motorcyclist. The guidelines also tell riders that they need to slow down during lane-splitting to give themselves ample time to react.    
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