A single complaint from a Sacramento man has forced the California Highway Patrol and other state government agencies to remove information from their websites that was intended to help motorcyclists safely execute the allowed lane-splitting maneuver.
Kenneth Mandler, a longtime state employee who now conducts training sessions on how to get a state job, petitioned the California Office of Administrative Law in 2013, claiming the CHP created an “underground regulation” by formulating and distributing guidelines for safe lane splitting.
Lane splitting, also called lane filtering, is the practice of riding a motorcycle or scooter between lanes of stopped or slowly moving traffic. The practice has been permitted in California for decades and no statute prohibits it. No other state allows the maneuver.
The CHP posted its guidelines with the intention of helping motorcyclists and motorists understand safe practices and to discourage unsafe lane splitting.
“Some have interpreted the recently published Motorcycle Lane Splitting Guidelines as rules, laws or regulations that could or would be enforced by the department,” according to a CHP statement. “The guidelines were never intended for this purpose and were prepared simply as common sense traffic safety tips and to raise public awareness.”
The Office of Administrative Law sided with Mandler, noting that CHP Commissioner J. A. Farrow certified that his department would not “issue, use, enforce, or attempt to enforce the public education information.” The OAL determined that posting the guidelines on the website was “issuing” them.
“By forcing the California Highway Patrol to remove its guidelines, Mr. Mandler and the Office of Administrative Law are denying the public vital safety information,” said Nick Haris, AMA western states representative and a member of the California Motorcyclist Safety Program Advisory Committee, which helped write the guidelines.
“Lane splitting is still allowed, and motorcyclists are still using this long-recognized riding technique to relieve traffic congestion and improve safety,” Haris said. “But now, neither riders nor motorists have a place to turn for authoritative guidelines on the practice.”
The AMA supports the continued use of safe lane splitting in California and the implementation of lane-splitting laws in other states, coupled with extensive rider and driver education programs.
The AMA position statement reads, in part: “Reducing a motorcyclist’s exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce front- and rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic.”
Denny Kobza, of the Bay Area Riders’ Forum and a member of the California Motorcyclist Safety Program Advisory Committee, said he was extremely disappointed that the CHP was forced to take down the guidelines.
“It is very disturbing that one person can affect three years of hard work,” Kobza said. “We put a lot of hard work into those guidelines, because lane splitting is a safer way to go than waiting for a motorist to make a mistake.”
Kobza said he has full faith in the California Highway Patrol’s continued advocacy for motorcycle safety, and he hopes the guidelines can be reposted to state government websites soon.
The complete AMA lane splitting position statement is available here: americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/PositionStatements/LaneSplitting.aspx.
The deleted CHP guidelines can still be downloaded here: americanmotorcyclist.com/Libraries/Rights_Documents_State/lanesplitting_guidelines.sflb.ashx?download=true.