I've got to be in San Francisco tonight at 6:30. If I'm in a car, it'll take me about 45 minutes. On my bike, about 25. Why? Because lane splitting. California is the only state that permits it, and one guy just made it infinitely more dangerous for motorcyclists.
For decades, California has allowed motorcyclists to split lanes – also known as filtering – between cars in traffic. We can debate the merits, safety implications, and traffic congestion issues another time. But the keyword in that first sentence is "allow".
There are no laws on the books in California saying it's legal or illegal for motorcyclists to split lanes, although it is prohibited in every other state in the Union, despite a number attempts to change that.
But legality isn't the issue here. It's what Kenneth Mandler, a former California State employee and a guy that holds seminars on how to snag sweet state gigs, claims is a California Highway Patrol's "underground regulation" for lane splitting.
Specifically, Mandler's issue is the Motorcycle Lane Splitting Guidelines. They've been published by the CHP for years as a way for motorcyclists – and yes, drivers – to understand what lane splitting is and how to do be safe. Mandler contends that by posting these guidelines, the CHP is somehow surreptitiously legalizing lane splitting. He filed a petition a last year to the California Office of Administrative Law and last week the guide was pulled from state websites.
"People were viewing those as rules or laws," CHP officer Mike Harris told Jalopnik. "And that's why we took them down."
Now I'm all for toppling shadow governments and burning clandestine laws to the ground, but this was not that. It was a guide. A way for motorcyclists and drivers to live harmoniously on the road together. And unsurprisingly, the American Motorcyclist Association – longtime proponents of lane splitting – agrees.
"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," says Nick Haris, the AMA's western states representative. "Now, neither riders nor motorists have a place to turn for authoritative guidelines on the practice."
Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, these guidelines still exist and you can see them, download them, and share them below.
We reached out to Mr. Mandler for a comment and have yet to hear back.
Photo: Steven Vance/Flickr