Splitting the difference
I used to go to San Francisco regularly and often. And every single time, as I was driving across the Bay Bridge, some squid on a crotch rocket doing at least double the speed limit would pass within millimeters of mine and my fellow road users’ outside mirrors. A move that was, and still is, perfectly legal.
California’s Vehicle Code does not specifically address the issue of lane splitting, aka overtaking in the same lane as the vehicle being overtaken or between lanes of vehicles. From the perspective of law enforcement, the squid was not breaking any law by riding between lanes, so what he/she was doing was legal. Stupid, perhaps, but not illegal in California.
But in light of an increasing number of motorcycles (and, I’m guessing, scooters) on California’s highways—and an increase in the number of crashes—the California Highway Patrol has has issued the state’s first-ever lane-splitting guidelines. In a nutshell, don’t be like the squid—lane-split only when traffic is moving 30 mph (50 km/h) or less, and don’t be going more than 39 mph (63 km/h).
CHP officials cite the reduced time to react at higher speeds among the reasons for setting speeds where they are. However, they admit motorcyclists lane-splitting unsafely are difficult to catch because their patrol cars can’t fit between lanes the way motorcycles can.
As this is written, Washington (RCW 46.61.608) and Oregon (ORS 814.240) specifically prohibit lane splitting. However, a bill before the Oregon Legislature would revise the law by making lane splitting legal if traffic is moving 10 mph (16 km/h) or less, provided the rider does not exceed 20 mph (32 km/h) in doing so. Oregon resident Moto Lady has posted a a pre-written letter to Oregon legislators urging passage of the bill, ready for you to cut and paste.
Washington’s Legislature is not deliberating on any similar measure, but there is a petition you can sign electronically, though it’s probably too late for any action in the 2013 session.
Several years ago, riding into Paris from CDG airport, the taxi got passed repeatedly by lane-splitting motorcyclists. The driver said lane splitting was illegal in France, but people did it all the time. And as if on cue, a blue Gendarmerie nationale BMW zipped by. But the cop wasn’t going as fast as the squid.