Sergeant Mark Pope, Statewide Coordinator for the California Motorcyclists Safety Program and the CHP spokesperson who’s been quoted in various articles about the recently released CHP lane splitting guidelines, graciously took some time out this week to answer some questions about the guidelines, lane splitting legislation and motorcyclist training. Here’s our conversation:
LSIL: What was the impetus behind publishing the guidelines? Is this the CHP “taking a stand” on lane splitting, a preventative measure against anti-splitting legislation, etc?
Sergeant Pope: Last year the CHP learned that approximately half of the motoring public did not know that motorcyclists are allowed to move between lanes at a safe and reasonable speed. The guidelines were placed on our web site in an effort to improve public safety by raising awareness. The CHP routinely provides guidelines to help educate the public and enhance public safety.
LSIL: I’ve heard some folks were opposed to putting the guidelines out there – can you share their stated reasons?
Sergeant Pope:We have not received any direct opposition, however, a recent survey conducted by the Office of Traffic Safety found that many of the people who opposed lane splitting in California were unaware of its legality. The guidelines were established for public education and represent a cooperative effort between the CHP, OTS, Cal Trans, and DMV.
LSIL: You guys chose “splitting” (which is how I’ve been saying it for many years). There’s an ongoing debate in the California moto community about saying “lane splitting” versus “lane sharing” or even “filtering.” Why did the CHP choose to use splitting? Who/what organizations were involved in the discussions?
Sergeant Pope: We categorize vehicles moving between traffic in three basic ways:
Filtering – a vehicle slowly moving between stopped traffic to reach the front.
Sharing – two vehicles, moving or static, which are side by side within the same lane.
Splitting – a process whereby a vehicle moves between stopped or slower moving traffic in a safe and reasonable manner.
Note: A vehicle which is being operated unsafely is in violation of the law. (E.g.; tailgating, speeding, following too close, unsafe lane change, etc.)
The guidelines were drafted by a committee composed of traffic safety stakeholders and motorcycle safety experts from civilian, governmental and academic communities.
LSIL: There’s been lots of good PR work by the CHP since the guidelines were published – for example, the PSA video. What else is coming?
Sergeant Pope: A media campaign will be kicked off on May 1, in conjunction with Motorcycle Safety Awareness month.
LSIL: What’s the CHP’s stance on SB 350? Has State Senator Beall consulted with the CHP on his bill?
Sergeant Pope: Although the CHP actively monitors legislative bills for impact on our Department, we do not comment on pending legislation.
LSIL: Does the CHP work with folks in other states in support of legislation to legalize lane splitting? Can you share anything on AB236 (Nevada) or SB 541 (Oregon)? Is the CHP working with anyone in other states on potential legislation?
Sergeant Pope: No.
LSIL: The MSF classes don’t offer much advice about lane splitting to new riders. Where should newbies turn to for advice and skills in this area and general street riding beyond the basics in the MSF classes?
Sergeant Pope: DMV provides some good info and the motorcycle handbook on their website. We also encourage riders to be lifelong learners by seeking out and attending training on a regular basis.
LSIL: Anything else to share on this topic?
Sergeant Pope: Please encourage all motorcyclists to follow the Four R’s or “Be-Attitudes” of Lane Splitting:
Be Reasonable, be Responsible, be Respectful, be aware of all Roadway and traffic conditions. Remind motorists to look twice for motorcycles. Getting everyone home safe is a shared responsibility.
He also shared this helpful clarification about MSF training and lane splitting in the curriculum:
Sergeant Pope: One thing I can probably clear up. The CMSP is a CHP program. MSF is employed by the CMSP in California. Before MSF there was a different contractor. (Potential contractors bid for the state contract). CMSP has been around training motorcyclists in Calif since 1987. More than 800,000 students have passed through our program. You will find the guidelines prominently displayed on the CMSP site.
I am currently working to have Calif law contained in the curriculum. Until now students have gone through a CMSP class to learn the ‘mechanics’ of riding, and get a DL389 to waive the skills test at the DMV. They themselves (the students) have been responsible to study the DMV handbook (and/or vehicle code) in order to pass the DMV’s written test.
The CHP is grateful for all the hard work and dedication the men and women of the MSF contribute to make the CMSP as successful as it is. Their contributions to motorcycle safety within California have been invaluable!
Huge thanks to Sergeant Pope for taking time out to talk to us!
We use the term “lane splitting” for simplicity, because that’s the language the CHP used in their guidelines and because we think that’s the term non-riders are likely to be familiar with, but the clarification on splitting versus sharing versus filtering is interesting and helpful. We’re also excited to see what the CHP will be up to in May, in conjunction with Motorcycle Safety Month. If you haven’t seen the CHP lane splitting PSA, here it is again.
Also, a bit more about the CMSP and MSF programs. MSF provides the Basic RideCourse for the CMSP. But outside of the CMSP, MSF also has a myriad of other motorcycle training courses which they offer to the public.