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California releases new rules for motorcycle lane-splitting

by AirTalk®

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A motorcyclist is cut off by a car October 16, 2007 in San Francisco, California. Motorcycle deaths are on the rise in California with 433 deaths in 2006, up from 275 in 2000. Officials estimate that deaths are up another 8 percent this year as sales of powerful motorcycle continue on an upward trend. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Have you ever been driving peacefully, only to be startled by a motorcycle zipping past your car between the lanes? You probably shake your head and think to yourself that such maneuvering must be illegal. Well, in California, that’s not the case. Lane-splitting is allowed in California, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without controversy.

A recent study from the Office of Traffic Safety indicates that a mere 53% of Californians are aware the practice is legal. That means nearly half of the drivers on the road suspect lane-splitting to be unlawful, and some of these people even go out of their way to block the practice when they see it coming.

The ignorance is partly to blame on a lack of aggressively alerting the public, but also to the fact that no other state allows lane-splitting on its roads.

The new rules stress that motorcyclists can only split lanes as long as they don’t exceed ten miles per hour faster than the cars they are driving between, and said cars must be going less than 30 miles per hour. Reaction by motorcyclists is mixed. Some are glad to finally have some restrictions in place, so that there are now stated parameters for being pulled over my law enforcement. But others worry that this may be the beginning of the end, and that a complete ban on lane-splitting is soon to come.

Are you a motorcyclist? How do you feel about these rules? Have you ever had any encounters with lane-splitting as a driver? Should motorists be more aware of cyclists when they’re driving, or is the road no place for such risky behavior?

Gabe Ets-Hokin, Editor in Chief of CityBike magazine, based in Oakland

Robert Gladden, Vice President of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in Irvine, CA

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