Lane Splitting Discussion With The CHP’s Mark Pope

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.

For more info on the CMSP go here.
For more info on MSF go here.

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7 comments on “Lane Splitting Discussion With The CHP’s Mark Pope
  1. TheRiddler (Matt) says:

    His follow-up comment about the MSF/CMSP curriculum seemed to allude to a possible shift. As a coach, I was taught that we let student’s decide the level of risk they’re willing to accept if they choose to split (and riding in general), but we emphasize the concept of a “space cushion.” While lane splitting, you have no space cushion.

    • LaneSplitPersonality says:

      It’s a trade-off, right? In some ways, you get more of a cushion forward and protect your backside, but in return you get very little room to move side to side.

      I think there will potentially be a shift in the program to where there’s more of a study component along with riding piece.

    • George Erhard says:

      The rationale for my lane-splitting decision was, I was willing to sacrifice the space cushion to the sides (less dangerous) to gain a big space cushion to the rear. If you impact a vehicle to either side while splitting /safely/, you will likely get bruised, maybe a broken limb. Contrast that with waiting at the back of the queued traffic, and getting rear-ended because someone lost your taillight among all the cars and ran into you (nearly always fatal to the rider). When splitting, the danger is being cut off from the front, which if you’re paying attention you will see this coming. There’s virtually NO risk of getting hit from behind.

  2. Streetjudge says:

    From an enforcement perspective, riders who do not ride safe for conditions can and have been cited for 22350 of the CA Vehicle Code- Basic Speed Law. Which, in part, indicates that all drivers must not operate their vehicles greater than a speed that is reasonable and prudent… As an example, a rider who splits lanes at 60+mph when traffic is stopped or traveling slow is violating 22350vc and could be cited regardless if they are on the freeway or not. 22350vc can be used on the freeways as well when articulated by the citing officer regarding traffic and visibility conditions and the driver not having due regard for the safety of persons and property. At such differences in speeds, there simply is not enough time and room for a rider to react to hazards of any type. Of course, the citing officer should specify the hazards that were present or not readily apparent to the rider.

  3. George Erhard says:

    Quite happy to see the official positions posted here.

    As a frequent lane-splitter during my commute from Martinez to San Ramon and back, I will add a few “tips”:

    1) Slow it down. There’s no need to blow through traffic at more than 10-15 mph difference between you and the other vehicles. You want time to react to inattentive (or belligerent) drivers, and the faster you ride through, the less time you have.

    2) Install a Headlight Modulator. These are devices that pulse your bike’s high beam during daylight hours, to make the bike more noticeable. They are legal in all 50 states, and they work very well. When installing them, be sure and install the light sensor correctly, because they are designed to disable the pulse function when it gets dark, and if the sensor registers oncoming headlamps and starts to pulse, or doesn’t get enough light cos it’s inside the fairing or under the bike, then the device won’t work in the intended manner. My experience with a headlamp modulator was that traffic ‘parted like the Red Sea’ when it was active. Best $200 I ever spent on my ride.

    3) Install a brake light modulator, or supplemental LED “Back Off” lights. They do a great job of discouraging tailgaters and keeping your bike from getting lost in a sea of brake lights. Again, well worth the cost.

    4) Loud pipes don’t do anything but annoy drivers (and make life difficult for the riders behind you). Keep the revs low and the stock cans on.

    I’ve since moved to TX, and while it’s “legal” to lane-split here now, the motoring public still thinks it is not, so it hasn’t really caught on yet in the Lone Star State.

  4. Sue Leeper (from Flyers at West El Camino and Gateway Oaks) says:

    I would like to contact Sergeant Mark Pope. Can you help me ? I’m an old aquaintance of his and I’d like to ask about something

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