SB350 Is Apparently Dead—California Lane Splitting Stays As-is, for Now

January 2014 has been an upcoming dark spot on the calendar for us here at the LaneSplittingIsLegal HQ—SB350, the bill that would introduce substantially restrictive limits on how we split lanes in California, was supposedly going to be revisited in the new year. We’ve been hounding Senator Jim Beall, who introduce the bill last February, for status updates, without much luck until now. We’ve just received confirmation from a staffer in Senator Beall’s office that SB350 is dead—for now.

Senator Beall does not plan to take any action on the bill next year in light of the lane-splitting guidelines issued by the California Highway Patrol. He wants to evaluate how well the guidelines work and as well as their effectiveness, which may obviate the need for any legislation.

SB350—which was referred to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee last February—would have amended the California Vehicle Code by adding the following:

21658.5
(a) Notwithstanding any other law, and except as provided in subdivision (b), when a highway has been divided into three or more clearly marked lanes for traffic traveling in the same direction, a person operating a motorcycle shall not pass another vehicle in a portion of a lane occupied by that vehicle unless the following conditions are met:

(1) The passing occurs during traffic congestion.
(2) The passing occurs at a safe speed.
(b) This section does not apply to a peace officer in the performance of official duties.

The bill was ridiculously vague, and riders argued about what the bill actually changed: did it restrict splitting to roads with three or more lanes in the same direction or only apply to roads with three or more lanes? We then quickly heard—unofficially—that the bill was on hold until January 2014, supposedly to allow for the Berkeley SafeTREC motorcycle crash study to be completed. Today, we’re breathing a massive sigh of relief at the apparent abandonment of the bill.

We’ve inquired with Beall’s staff as to whether the 2013 OTS Lane Sharing Survey results, preliminary data from the upcoming OTS-funded, Berkeley SafeTREC motorcycle crash study (which we’ve heard isn’t negative) or CHP PR efforts around lane splitting influenced this decision. We’ll update this article as we get more information.

That said, “does not plan to take any action” isn’t as awesome as if they’d said something like “we’ve abandoned this bill because, let’s face it, motorcycles are awesome and lane splitting is good for everyone.” But we’ll take it.

For now, this means that going into 2014, we here at LaneSplittingIsLegal can focus on our core mission—increasing awareness of the legality and benefits of lane splitting in California—instead of gearing up to fight a pointless lane splitting bill. It also means—more than ever—that riders need to be good ambassadors for lane splitting and motorcycling in general. Pay attention to the CHP lane splitting guidelines: keep your speed differential reasonable, don’t split when traffic is moving too fast, maintain a consistently high awareness your surroundings on the road. Those of you who split crazy-fast and regularly hit mirrors while crying about how the “damn cagers” are always cutting you off—cut it out. It’s up to us as riders to keep Senator Beall (or some other politician) from deciding (again) that banning lane splitting/sharing/filtering is a good way to score points with California drivers who are frustrated with “idiots on donor-cycles” that “come out of nowhere” and “weave in and out of traffic” and “cut in line.”

If you’d like to support our mission, order some lane splitting stickers and put ‘em on every vehicle you own and maybe even some you don’t—but you didn’t hear that from us. :) Every sticker we sell funds the distribution of  free stickers around the state, not to mention keeping this website live. Thanks for your support!

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14 comments on “SB350 Is Apparently Dead—California Lane Splitting Stays As-is, for Now
  1. Sasha says:

    Well, I guess inaction is better for us. Nice work informing/pestering Senator Beall and keeping Lane Splitting active in our state!

  2. ” Those of you who split crazy-fast and regularly hit mirrors while crying about how the “damn cagers” are always cutting you off—cut it out.”
    Quote of the year!

  3. Leonard says:

    Did any one read Senators Beall’s quote.” He wants to evaluate how well the guidelines work and as well their effectiveness, ” WHICH” may obviate the need for any legislation. Where in here do you see S.B. 350 is dead.
    S.B. 350 is in the California Senate Housing Transportation Committee very much a live bill ready to move.. When Senator Beall removes S.B. 350 out of the Senate and kills it, then it is dead.

    • Surj Gish says:

      Leonard, his office also stated that he has no plans to take action on the bill next year—2014. If he does as he says, the bill is effectively dead. However, it could be revived, or another bill could be created—thus the need for riders need to be good ambassadors for lane splitting and motorcycling in general and adhere to the CHP lane splitting guidelines, to avoid create reasons for Beall or anyone else to tackle this again. Quite frankly, as a community, we’ve got a way to go on this. Too many riders splitting too fast and generally acting like asses. It’s these riders that drivers remember.

  4. Leonard says:

    Then why does he not take it it out of the Senate Housing Transportation Committee and Kill the bill?He can do this at anytime. If he does not move in 2014 yes the bill is dead then why keep the bill alive till January’s Legislation?

  5. Leonard says:

    In regards to the C.H.P. Guide Lines to safely split lanes. Everyone i know are adhering to the guide lines. So yes on this point I agree with you we definitely need to get the word out to the few who have not received information on how to properly split lanes thus protecting the right we already have.

    • Surj Gish says:

      Leonard—I don’t know where you ride, but I commute every day on my bike here in the SF Bay Area and see lots of examples of riders blatantly ignoring the guidelines every day: splitting way too fast, erratically, and so on. I think there are more than a few riders who haven’t heard about the guidelines, and many who ignore them even though they know. Apparently these types don’t understand—or don’t care—that the actions of a few hurt us all.

  6. Buck says:

    SB350 is not dead, based on a phone call to the secretary of the Senate Transportation Committee. She stated it was going to be heard in January. If Beall wanted to kill the bill…it takes a phone call.

    • Surj Gish says:

      Buck—who’d you talk to? This information is directly from Beall’s office, and corroborated by contacts at ABATE who were told the same thing.

      • Buck says:

        Just call up the Senate Transportation committee and ask em. Mis information has been generated by ABATE before. And I have to wonder why ABATE first put out that the bill was dead, then recanted and stated it is supposed to be dead in January. As you stated, everyone is waiting for the Berkeley report…including Beall. BUT the skuttlebutt I heard was the report is negative not positive…but won’t know until it is released to the public. Remember ABATE came out in support of SB350…which made many of us wonder why an MRO would support a bill that restricted our freedom. And as you know…many a politician has lied to us in this fight for freedom before.

        • Surj Gish says:

          Hey Buck—I was wondering if you talked to a staffer or someone more senior (who’d have a better idea of the situation) at the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. The bill is technically still “in committee” as it has been since February of this year, but if no action is sought on it by the sponsor then it’s extremely likely nothing will happen. This happens all the time, for example, in Oregon this year, SB541 and HB3310—bills that would have legalized lane splitting in Oregon—were technically “live” for quite some time, in committee, but long dead in reality.

          Whether ABATE’s announcement holds water or not is kind of irrelevant—I sourced this information myself, from the sponsor of the bill. Furthermore, it was the AMA that reported the bill withdrawn and then changed their statement. ABATE announced “Per the Senator’s staff — Contrary to the AMA’s announcement, SB350 has not been withdrawn, rather it’s now a 2-year bill. This means that while it may be possible that the bill is heard in April (April is the deadline for submission to the Senate Trans Cmt for all policy making bills); the likelihood is that it won’t be heard by Committee until next January 2014.” The whole story on both announcements is here.

          As to the SafeTREC study, I’ve been discussing the preliminary results with folks directly involved in the project at OTS and SafeTREC. Thus far, I’ve only heard that the preliminary results are not negative.

          • Buck says:

            When you say “sponsor of the bill” do you mean Jim Lombardo? In regards to the Berkeley report I guess we will just have to wait and see.

          • Surj Gish says:

            The bill sponsor is Senator Jim Beall—the guy who introduced it, and who now tells us he won’t seek action on it in January.

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