California Lane Splitting

July 31, 2014

All Posts, News

About 18 months ago the California Highway Patrol formally acknowledged that it is legal to split lanes in California by publishing a document online titled “Lane Splitting General Guidelines.” The document explained to California bikers when they would and wouldn’t get a ticket for splitting lanes. Earlier this month the CHP took that document down.

Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Times reported that the Highway Patrol “retreated from the subject and” took “down its guidelines” “under pressure from a citizen who is opposed to lane-splitting.” The Times declined to name the citizen.

The citizen who forced the CHP to remove its guidelines on lane splitting is, according to the American Motorcyclist Association, “Kenneth Mandler (photo above), a longtime state employee who now conducts training sessions on how to get a state job.” Mandler, “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.”

Mandler’s objection and the CHP’s acquiescence to it once more puts lane splitting in legal limbo.

What Was Legal

The CHP issued the guidelines after the California Office of Traffic Safety released results of a survey of motorists and  riders on the subject of lane splitting. The report said, “Lane splitting has been a subject for controversy and confusion for years. The OTS survey showed that only 53 percent of vehicle drivers knew that lane splitting is legal in California. Eighty-seven percent of motorcycle riders say they lane split, while seven percent of vehicle drivers admit to having attempted to prevent it.”

Until a year and a half ago California bikers had no clear idea of what would get them a ticket and what wouldn’t. Lane sharing, which allows two motorcycles or a motorcycle and a car to ride or drive side by side in the same lane, has always been legal in California. The tricky legal issue for bikers has always been whether it is legal to ride on the white line. Depending on the traffic cop and the jurisdiction, you could get ticketed for occupying two lanes at once. Some police were adamant about it. Riders could be ticketed if they came to a stop at a red light with all of their motorcycle in one lane but with their left foot in another.

It is an important issue in places like Los Angeles which gets hot in the summer and has impossible traffic. The state always allowed lane sharing because air cooled engines tend to overheat in summertime traffic unless motorcycles are allowed to pass between cars.

The Guidelines

The Highway Patrol guidelines told bikers to forget about the white line and just ride cautiously. The guidelines advised riders that they wouldn’t get ticketed if they did not split lanes going more than ten miles an hour faster than other traffic; or if they didn’t split lanes going faster than 40 miles per hour; and if they only split between the far left lanes and if they used reasonable care. The new guidelines also reminded drivers that  “Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal” and that “opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is illegal.”

Throughout the first half of July the Highway Patrol ran public service commercials reminding drivers that lane splitting is legal in California.

Now all that legal clarity and good will has come to a complete stop because of a guy named Kenneth Mandler. And some people still claim that one man can’t make a difference.

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66 Responses to “California Lane Splitting”

  1. Ride On Says:

    A bill to make lane splitting legal in Texas is being introduced. Looks like its getting good support.

  2. Mark Hopper Says:

    I lane split on my Road king (full touring package) and my super glide. If I don’t the bikes would burn up. My 37 mile commute takes 45 to an hour on a bike, 2.5 hours on a good day each way in a car. It amazes me how some people just ride the line and have no clue lane splitting is legal and they “should” move over. I had to stop for a young lady the other day, because she was on the line, I hit the throttle a little to let her know I was there and she could care less, didn’t move or even try to move at all. These are the people who get their mirrors taken off. If you are in the left lane, stay a little to the left, if you are in the mid lane, stay to the right. Very simple. And if you don’t like lane splitters, get a motorcycle yourself and your attitude will change.

  3. Girl on Fire Says:

    On a one lane/two-way street, is it better to filter on the left (via a left turn lane), the right (via a bike lane) or to wait it out?

  4. Chuck Says:

    I just put 300 miles on in L.A. traffic this last weekend. Definitely did my share of lane splitting. Making my way up and down Vermont ave or Venice blvd without it would be pretty much the worst thing. I ride a 97 dyna superglide for the guy who asked about big twins.

  5. RVN69 Says:

    Ain’t that the truth, back in my “youth” I was riding my bike at a law abiding pace behind a cager in the left lane who was even with the cab of the dump truck in the right lane, neither would slow down or speed up and give me a gap to get thru when the left rear tandem on the dump blew shredding the recap and throwing 20 to 50 lb chunks of rubber at me. I dodged a few, got hit by a couple ended up staying upright with bruised ribs and bent handlebars and floorboard. A lane splitter was born that day, legal or illegal to me it is safer for me to bust between that type of situation than to sit and wait for someone else’s fuck up to kill or cripple me.

    FTF, FTP, ACAB, FTuo

    Support your local Red & Black Motorcycle Club

  6. 10Gauge Says:


    My ol lady is something….kinda a mix between 1996 and 1956 (of course only in the best of ways). She does not ride her own scoot, and many moons ago when she first started to ride with me she was more than a little disconcerted by the “aggressive nature” in the way we ride…this includes much lane splitting fully loaded and packing……and passing…especially in a tight and fast pack….she did not enjoy it as you do….I hade a conversation with her during which I explained that not only did I not have a death wish….but was actively trying to keep my brothers, me, and sometimes us from being killed!
    It actually made sense to her…as she is admittadely much smarter and rational than me.

    I was taught by the best that riding is serious fucking business…and if your not the fastest most aggressive motherfucker on the road…you will get run over.

    “..if it wasn’t for us…the fast lane would rust”

  7. Oldskewl Says:

    A friend of mine from Utah came and visited me last year (I live in N Calif) and we decided to spend a weekend in Santa Cruz. I told him that once we got down to San Jose we were going to have to split lanes through the mountains, he nodded yes but I could see he was concerned..

    After we arrived in Santa Cruz he told me that understood why we split lanes here… he couldn’t imagine riding through all the congestion for hours on a bike.

    It’s just 2nd nature here..

  8. Paul Says:

    Don’t lane split and probably wouldn’t even if legal as I have fun sudden slowing/stopping, sudden accelerating, bobbing, and weaving, all along the DC beltway. It gets better the further you get from that cesspool.

    Funny enough, I also learned not to use turn signals while around DC at all. Apparently, they are not what they should be for a bike (as all the time I used them I got cut off, impeded, etc…).

  9. Paladin Says:

    I’ve been riding and splitting lanes in CA for so long, I have to constantly remind myself not to be doing it when traveling out of State.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  10. sherides Says:

    I have not done any lane splitting as a driver.

    But, one time, in the summer of either ’84 or ’85, I caught a ride on the back of my friends boy friends best friend Charcoal Gray Shovelhead.

    It was a week day around 2:30 in the CA High Desert. We left Hesperia heading through Apple Valley on Bear Valley Road. Back then, this was still a two lane road. One brief section had a passing lane, if memory serves. This particular afternoon, traffic was backed up and moving very slow. School buses were just beginning their routes.

    We’re in this traffic for maybe a half mile or so when I hear “don’t stick your arms out. I’m going down the middle”! And so we did. Right past cars, trucks, and buses. And real close to oncoming cars. We did this for miles. We actually weren’t traveling more than 60 mph or so. I was having a great time. Drivers around us had varied reactions. That ride was probably the most intense ride I ever had as a passenger. In terms of fun thrill rides anyway.

    There really are no occasions to justify lane splitting in my area. I am just now getting used to riding my bike in big cities. If doing it meant the better outcome from a potentially worse situation, I would.

    That’s the only time I ever “rode the line”.


  11. 10Gauge Says:


    Not just that but it really keeps the hands warm….especially when traveling through the valley…

    High bars and narrow stance are the most important factors.


  12. Bill Says:

    Can’t really call this lane splitting I suppose, and it was in a car anyway, not a bike. Went like this: four lane rural straightaway between Chandler and Phoenix, a summer afternoon in 69. I was in a 61 Triumph TR-3, top down, blasting along about 75 I suppose, in the left lane. Suddenly ahead, maybe 300 yards, someone attempts a left turn onto the highway, from a cross street on the right, but they’re stuck broadside in my lane, because there’s no room for them to make the turn in the oncoming traffic, the rear end of the car still in the lane to my right. Beside me is a semi, I’m in a small open sports car, and I can feel the truck as much as hear it, its front bumper just beside my rear. I hit the brakes immediately and basically nothing, the speed probably dropped a mile or two, just enough to lose a couple more feet on the truck. I can now see it clearly in my peripheral, though I never turned to look directly at it. I knew what I had to do, and there was no time for anything else. I floored it and aimed for the had-to-be-there gap between the stopped car’s left rear, and the truck’s left front. Unable to stop, I was now instead going as fast as I could possibly go. It was completely all or nothing, beyond intense, a truly rare experience. My spot was there, and I flew through almost as if into another dimension. I’ve never felt my heart beat like that. The whole thing lasted maybe three seconds, but I probably lived more in that three seconds than in a normal three years. Again, certainly not true lane splitting, but something like it anyway, and unforgettable.

  13. Uesque Says:

    Now I understand why all the California FXR guys are running hand guards. Splitting seems like a religion with them.

  14. Grumbler Says:

    Posted this back in October 18th, 2009 at 4:44 pm under Waiting For Samcro … it’s relevant rather than off tangent.

    It was a cold winter night. Just the way I liked it as there’d
    be little or no traffic. Full leathers, engineer boots and a thick
    watchcap anchored by goggles kept me warm. Had fired-up the
    big Shovelhead a couple of minutes ago. Was good to go.

    We took the Hellyer Ave on-ramp to northbound US-101 and, after
    seeing no headlights behind me, gave the throttle a big twist.
    The slashcut glass-packs boomed louder and louder as the revs
    climbed. It never failed to send shivers down my spine.

    After several miles the I-880 exit loomed up. It seemed almost
    criminal having to slow down. The 3.50×19 and 5.10×16 Avon Road-
    Runners carved smoothly through the on-ramp to Milpitas. At this
    time of the night I-880 was usually deserted.

    Here, I unleashed the reins and let the 74-inch motor blow-out all
    the carbon at around 80mph. The wind caressed my face in an icy
    embrace. It was intoxicating. I was Paul Bunyan on Babe, the
    blue ox … a larger than life sensation that mere words cannot
    describe. We crested the overpass at Brokaw Rd and, a mile
    or so down the road, saw two vehicles driving side-by-side.

    As I homed in on them, could discern that there was a white Toyota
    pickup with solo driver on right lane and a black or midnight blue
    Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the left occupied by two passengers. Both
    vehicles remained in their positions as the seconds ticked by almost
    agonizingly. Both were locked in at about 55mph.

    Slowing down was not an option. It has always been in my nature
    to relish a challenge. No comfort zone buffers applied here. It was
    either do it right or spend a sleepless night in bed. I needed my

    Suddenly, I was upon them as my headlight shone into their rear
    windows. My chest almost exploded with the adrenaline rushing
    through my heart as I aimed for the narrow margin between the
    two vehicles – an arrow seeking the bull’s-eye.

    Just then the Monte Carlo moved right, attempting to cut me off.
    You fools, I screamed to myself, knowing that I was going to slam
    into their trunk and slide down onto the road. In a nanosecond,
    I could see my beloved FLH careening on its side grinding metal,
    chrome, paint and rubber as gasoline spilled out. A spark ignites
    the leaking gas. The explosion sends a burning fireball streaking
    towards the stars.

    While all that was going on in my mind, the white Toyota pickup
    jerked to the right, opening up an escape route between it and
    the Monte Carlo. I didn’t have to think, it was instinctive much
    like a timber wolf skirting around a trap. I blew through the
    narrow margin with a thunderous roar echoing between the
    vehicles. And then, the silence of the night enveloped me.

    I glanced into my rear view mirror and saw the Monte Carlo
    angrily flashing its lights at me. A smile formed on my face.

    After putting some distance between myself and the Monte
    Carlo, I grabbed the CA-237 exit and pulled into the parking
    lot at the local 7-Eleven store.

    The clerk eyed me warily. I was used to getting those kinds of
    looks and nodded to her. She almost laughed when she saw the
    items I placed on the counter; a package of oatmeal cookies
    and pint of milk. I slept very well later that night.

    True, it had very nearly become a disaster and might have cost
    me my life, but I had survived. Seems as if it happened just
    the other night although it was actually back in 1978. It was
    not just another ride – it had been a memorable one.

  15. Mag Says:

    @ElleElle – “This particular split-tail will now use the proper
    decorum and get back to living in the moment which is the fine art of splitting eggs in half to make breakfast for my very wonderful O.M.”

    That’s funny. I’d wager Mr. Mandler doesn’t have an early morning accommodating split-tail himself, and secretly wishes he did. Probably why he’s such an absolute killjoy.

  16. Base Says:

    Ah yes, another Sanctimonious ass hole displaying his morally superiority. Trapped in his beliefs that his actions and/or affiliations are of greater virtue & value than of everyone else.

    Maybe it’s the moon cycle, there seems to be an up tick of the Self-righteous commenting on these pages of late and true to form they are completely intolerant of the opinions or behaviors of others.

    Splitting lanes.

    I don’t do it all the time but I diffidently do it, running red lights also. Not that I am overly impatient but when your the only vehicle at a 4 way I don’t need a freaking light to let me know when it’s safe to go. Now that many city’s have introduced those pressure sensing lights, fogitaboutit!

    Matters little if I am on the Glide or that stripped down Shovel it comes down to skill level and balls. I am not disrespectful or overly aggressive but some people have a real hair about bikes splitting lanes. I have had my share of incidents.

    Now many of these sport bike guys & gals can get straight up stupid about it.

    But hey, you get out of life what you put in.

    If it’s a whole lot-ta stupid, you get a whole lot-ta stupid back

    Look through your turns.


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