After over two years of waiting since AB 51, the bill that formalized lane splitting in California, passed, we finally have formal lane splitting guidelines in California, now called “Lane Splitting Safety Tips.” CHP has not issued a press release yet, but we’ve been given an email from Sergeant Joseph Godman of the California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Safety Unit with a fuzzy PDF of the “approved document” attached. Interestingly, the document sports a revision date of June 2018, meaning these tips have likely been gathering dust while awaiting approval on some bureaucrat’s desk for the last few months.

As reported in our coverage of the Spring 2018 CMSP Advisory Committee Meeting back in May, we were told to expect very general tips, compared to the specifics of the original CHP guidelines, and that’s what we got: the new tips are very non-specific, with no speed limit or speed differential specified.

Advice is offered for both riders and drivers, preceded by a disclaimer that lane splitting is dangerous and should not be performed by noobs. The full PDF is below, in all its shit-res glory, but here are the rider-specific tips:

  • Consider the total environment when you are lane splitting (this includes the width of lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles, as well as current roadway, weather, and lighting conditions).
  • Danger increases at higher speed differentials.
  • Danger increases as overall speed increases.
  • It is typically safer to split between the far left lanes than between the other lanes of traffic.
  • Avoid lane splitting next to large vehicles (big rigs, buses, motorhomes, etc.).
  • Riding on the shoulder is illegal; it is not considered lane splitting.
  • Be visible—Avoid remaining in the blind spots of other vehicles or lingering between vehicles.
  • Help drivers see you by wearing brightly colored/reflective protective gear and using high beams during daylight.

I worked on AB 51 with a handful of other rider advocates from BARF, the AMA, ABATE, and other organizations, so I’m glad to see this stuff finally see the light of day, even if over two years have passed since AB 51 was signed by Governor Brown. But I’m not particularly happy with the substance of the tips: for me, the big reason I supported the bill and put so much energy into ensuring it passed was to enable education of riders and drivers.

These so-called lane splitting tips are incomplete, barely more than generic safe riding tips, meaning that any media spend and education efforts by the CHP / CMSP will be spreading a rather flaccid curriculum. Of the eight rider-specific bullets, just three are splitting-specific; the rest are standard “ride safe” fare.

Analysis of the 2012 – 2014 OTS Lane Share Surveys (available on our sister site, showed the beginning of good trends, arguably thanks to the original CHP guidelines, which were widely covered by mainstream media. Riders appeared to be splitting slightly slower and more drivers were becoming aware that splitting was in fact legal. And thankfully, these new tips do emphasize legality of splitting, as they should.

But while the fear-driven naysayers that indignantly pissed on AB 51, decrying the bill as the first step toward an eventual ban of splitting, may welcome the lack of specificity regarding speed delta and limit, I am concerned that the complete lack of guidance regarding safe (or safer) speeds, which we have a pretty good idea of thanks to the Berkeley / SafeTREC research on lane splitting, will hinder the effectiveness of the education efforts that are funded by California motorcyclists’ own money (via our registration fees).

I’ve included the new Lane Splitting Safety Tips PDF for your review below, which sadly are so insubstantial as to not even qualify for “just the tip” jokes—and we love that shit here at CityBike. I’ve also included the previous CHP guidelines, and the more comprehensive guidelines put together by the BayAreaRidersForum, which is run by Dennis “Budman” Kobza, one of the riders that worked on AB 51 who is a member of the California Motorcycle Safety Program Advisory Committee and deeply involved in motorcycle safety and advocacy in California.

Look, we’re not looking for more regulation or more oversight by The Man, and anyway, these are tips, not additions to the California vehicle code. Two years plus of work on AB 51—plus another two years plus of waiting—should have gotten us more informative, useful tips than these, especially since the CMSP will be dropping a bunch of media spend on educating riders about this new, oh-so-deep and helpful wisdom.

Documents: Lane Splitting Guidelines

New CHP Lane Splitting Safety Tips – September 2018

Previous CHP Lane Splitting Guidelines

Bay Area Riders Forum Lane Splitting Guidelines

21 Responses

  1. Leslie

    I like the guy who closes off the lane to me while I’m splitting the lane in rush hour traffic.
    What he doesn’t understand is I am part of the solution, not part of the problem.
    He is backing up the traffic behind me by one car length.

    • SeanT

      That’s the ones who think it’s illegal, and by golly they’ll stop you from doing it.

    • Steve A-Reno

      They don’t care if the traffic is reduced by ONE motorcycle. They only care that YOU are getting ahead of THEM. Thus the animosity to bikers.

  2. Larry Kahn

    Surprised they said use your high-beam in daylight. I’ve had a warning to not do that from CHP coming the other way.

  3. SeanT

    They forgot “get really loud pipes and rev your engine a lot. Kick the car next to you if they don’t move” 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  4. Mister X

    “Safety Tips”, really, what a crock.
    I agree it’s weak sauce, because some people need clear guidelines.
    They should have added what the monetary fine is for blocking or opening doors, so the other drivers think a bit before doing it, some feel it’s their “right” to do so, idiots.

    • Zack Crowther

      Well blocking or opening doors it not a fine, it’s attempted murder.

      • Steve A-Reno

        Only if you can PROVE it, and if the biker is dead, who is there to prove it?

  5. Steve Reddington

    Glad to see they finally did this. Now they have a formal document to prove what morons these politicians are and something to refer to when they revoke this idiotic policy when the death toll for riders spikes.

    • Surj Gish

      You think there’s going to be an increase in deaths from splitting thanks to these safety tips?

      • Steve A-Reno

        I think now that the sane bikers see that the State of Californianuts has passed this stupid law, more people will think it’s OK to try it. So yeah, there WILL be more accidents and deaths. Auto drivers will see the bikers coming and purposely move to cut them off, especially in LA traffic.

      • Surj Gish

        Steve, it seems you’re not familiar with the history of lane splitting, and I’m not sure what you’re basing your assumptions on.

        First, lane splitting has been going on in California as long as the oldest riders can remember. It’s not new—here’s a news piece from October 2000, for example.

        Second, the CHP issued lane splitting guidelines almost six years ago. There was massive media attention, and California OTS did several surveys of riders and drivers. As noted in my article above, analysis of the 2012 – 2014 OTS Lane Share Surveys showed the beginning of good trends, arguably thanks to the original CHP guidelines: more riders splitting, riders splitting at lower speeds, drivers more aware of the legality. What didn’t happen was a spike in splitting deaths, and general feedback from the rider community was that drivers were cooler about splitting—moving over to make a bit of space more frequently, etc.

        Do you have some evidence that you can share to the contrary?

      • Steve Reddington

        Yes, it’s called EXPERIENCE. You can recite all the stats you want, but I can tell you it only takes ONE incident of a driver cutting you off to take you out. I have had so many experiences of drivers cutting me off when lane splitting in heavy traffic that I stopped doing it. Only morons would do this. Drivers do not see you in regular traffic, let alone when you are practically touching their cars as you lane split.

      • Surj Gish

        Steve, you’re making a lot of in accurate assumptions about the experience levels of others. Yes, drivers often don’t see riders—whether splitting or not—but the data outweighs your dubious anecdotal claims.

        Further, before you drop any more insults, take a look at our commenting policy linked above, summarized simply to “Be cool, be thoughtful, be intelligent. Don’t be a dick.”

      • Steve A-Reno

        Yeah, I read them. Got a good laugh- “be considerate” – what a crock. You think drivers are going to be considerate of bikers? You must be smoking some of the wacky weed.

  6. Zack Crowther

    The lack of speed delta is definitely a huge oversight.

  7. Kurt Fisher

    This needs to be at the nationwide level, much like the right turn on red after stop, MC allowed in HOV lanes without cost or charges, etc,etc,etc…

    • Steve A-Reno

      Never gonna happen- only California makes laws for these idiotic practices.


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