Motorcycles and lane sharing

Having just finished jury duty in a trial involving motorcycle which shared (or split) lanes, I realized that there were many people who did not realize that it is legal in California to do this.

Originally I thought this was restricted to 40 mph or below, and no more that 10 pmh than traffic. It was pointed out to me in a comment from a reader, this is referenced at CHP site, where it says that it is permissible but must be prudent. Presumably "prudent" is subject to interpretation by any officer of the peace. What I don't know is whether other drivers understand this, and are OK with it since it does remove one vehicle, at least temporarily, from the regular flow of traffic.

The next time I do this, I hope I am dealing with an informed and tolerant public

I see people in cars always try to stop lane-splitting motorcycles while in traffic. This makes 0 sense! Would a car driver rather have the motorcyclist sit in traffic and take up a car-sized spot in the traffic instead, hence making the traffic line even longer? This only shows that the vast majority of adults are still the same as they were in elementary school..."If I can't have it, neither can he/she!"

Posted by Moazam on June 23, 2004 at 10:18 AM PDT #

Only in California is reckless driving considered OK, because there is no specific law against it.

Posted by guest on June 23, 2004 at 07:48 PM PDT #

an aside to add; i'm in northern california. awhile ago i was pulled over for splitting traffic on the street - tooling through the stopped cars at a red light. (and i see riders doing this all the time.) the cop was on a bike said that, while it's legal on the freeways, it's not legal on surface streets. he explained that the reason it's allowed at all is to accommodate air-cooled bikes (which can't sit still for long while running). makes perfect sense, but i have to say i'd never heard the exact rationale before. anyhow, i managed to get away with a warning - but can no longer claim innocence.

Posted by -ch on June 24, 2004 at 06:26 AM PDT #

I had heard that Santa Clara county was more agressive on ticketing lane splitting than other NC counties. I have NOT heard that it is illegal on city streets, and in fact was on a trial where Los Altos police testified that it WAS legal on El Camino Real (which is VERY MUCH a city street)

Posted by Paul Diamond on June 24, 2004 at 09:10 AM PDT #

Paul, Where did you hear the precise mph figures -- from a highway patrolman? I'm pretty sure it's not codified in the California Vehicle Code. Scott Mace

Posted by Scott Mace on July 08, 2004 at 05:27 AM PDT #

Scott - mph did come from CHP, and I think you are right that there is nothing codified. In fact I am not sure that the legality of lane splitting is codified - I think the interpretation may be (not sure; unfortunately the trial where I was on jury did not get into this level of detail) that since it is NOT prohibited, it is legal. I think there are then interpretations which are developed by different traffic enforcement agencies - CHP, county / city police, etc.

Posted by Paul Diamond on August 11, 2004 at 02:07 AM PDT #

UPDATE! I asked a CHP M/C officer today, and he said lane splitting IS legal, is in the code (somewhere), and there is no speed limit. i.e., if traffic is 0 mph you can pass at 55 or 65, assuming that is speed limit! He also said that would be pretty dumb (agreed) and you might get a ticket for driving unsafely. He said 10 mph faster than traffic is a good rule of thumb. Basic premise is you can lane split if it is safe. If you get bumped by a driver, the assumption is you were not safe and you will likely be found to be at fault

Posted by Paul Diamond on August 30, 2004 at 06:54 AM PDT # Can motorcycle riders "split" lanes and ride between other vehicles? Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible but must be done in a safe and prudent manner. _______________________________________

Posted by guest on August 31, 2004 at 02:30 AM PDT #

I think the biggest misconception about lane splitting is the reason for it. Most motorcycles are air cooled. THey do not have radiators and therefore will overheat when sitting in traffic. To avoid overheating, motorcycles are allowed to move passed traffic and keep air moving over the engine.

Posted by Bill Roark on July 10, 2009 at 11:34 AM PDT #

This latest comment reminded me - I took a MSF (motorcycle safety foundation) advanced training course several years ago, and they pointed out (as I have read since) that the California code does NOT prohibit lane sharing. What they said was the law enforcement has the right to ticket you for reckless driving, and that if you get into an accident while lane sharing the odds are good you will be cited. So it's caveat lane sharer.

Posted by Paul Diamond on July 10, 2009 at 11:44 AM PDT #

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