Posted on 23 Aug 2016
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the bill to legalise lane-splitting in his state by January 1st 2017 despite the fact many motorcyclists already do so. Filtering, as this activity is known in the UK, is a legal manoeuver in Britain, as long as the rider does it in a non-dangerous situation 'with due care and attention'. Filtering by motorcyclists has caused heated debate both within the bike community and among wider road users for years, the arguments ranging from 'unfair' progression in a traffic jam, to reckless speeding in general. However you view filtering, the move to legalise lane-splitting in one of America's largest and most liberal states may signify a growing acceptance of the motorcycle riding that may eventually cross the pond.
The American Motorcyclist Association heralded the new law as great news and a 'huge step' towards public acceptance of an activity that Californian bike riders have practiced for decades.
Assembly Bill 51 legally defines lane-splitting as ‘“driving a motorcycle that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways”.’ This led to confusion to whether lane-splitting had actually been illegal, or just frowned upon by other drivers. The bill which was originally proposed stated that lane-splitting would only be legal if the motorcycle was moving no more than 15MPH faster and under 50MPH than surrounding traffic, but this proviso appears to have been shelved as impractical to enforce.
Motorcyclists groups used lobby power to speak up against these rules, claiming that the speed restriction was too low. According to one study, 60.8% of road users dislike lane-splitting by bikers as they think it is it dangerous. In fact, when used appropriately, there are definite benefits to filtering, as it eases traffic congestion for everyone!