California AB 51 Passes California State Senate

Lane splitting AB-51 passesIt’s official: California’s lane-splitting law, AB 51, has passed in the California State Senate. We’ve covered AB 51’s journey for some time but we’re pleased to announce that it has officially passed the California State Senate with a 38-to-0 vote. If only everything on the legislative level went this smoothly.

The vote took place on August 1, 2016. Now, the bill will make its way back to the California State Assembly for “concurrence,” which will give the house of origin the opportunity to approve or disprove any changes that have been made during its time in the second house.

AB 51 has been a bit of a hot button issue for many motorcyclists. Some of its critics believe that if laws surrounding the previously unfettered act of lane-splitting arise, that it will eventually lead to further forms of regulation and possibly its demise. Prior to this, California had no laws describing lane-splitting or regulating it in virtually any manner.

But we’d like to make one thing clear—AB 51, which can be read in its current version here, does nothing more than describe the act of lane-splitting and allow education to drawn up between the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Transportation (DOT), The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and “a motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.” We can understand the concern of motorcyclists who would rather leave “sleeping dogs lie,” but there are plenty of positive side effects of this bill, mainly coming in the form of education surrounding its legality.

Originally, AB 51 had speeds stipulated in its wording and now, all of those aspects have been removed from the law. So, the spirit of the act remains completely intact and unaltered. However, two wheels must remain on the ground, according to the description outlined. Sadly, this means we’ll be unable to wheelie through traffic legally.

Previously in California, the CHP ran “guidelines”, but they were pulled due to the concern that they would be construed as being enforceable by law, even though they were nothing more than guidelines and meant to encourage safety.

In its current state, AB 51 allows the CHP to publish guidelines for nothing more than purposes of safety and education. We will try to view this in a positive light, as there are plenty of grass roots organizations outside of California working to pass lane-splitting bills of their own. Many who argue in favor of AB 51 see it as a road map to assist lane-splitting in other parts of the country. Let’s all hope that it works out that way.

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