New California Law Legalizes Motorcycle Lane Splitting

California becomes the first state to officially permit lane splitting by motorcyclists.

On August 19, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) into law. AB 51 makes California the first state in the nation to pass legislation legalizing motorcycle lane splitting. The new law is slated to take effect on January 1, 2017.

Current California Law

Existing California law states that when a roadway is divided into two or more lanes going in the same direction, all vehicles must be driven “as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane.” (Cal. Veh. Code § 21658.) The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has interpreted this law as neither authorizing nor prohibiting lane splitting.

New Legislation

AB 51 will add Section 21658.1 to the California Vehicle Code. The statute 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.”

The new law authorizes the CHP to develop safety guidelines related to lane splitting.

(Read more about the new legislation at California Passes Law Legitimizing Motorcycle Lane Splitting.)