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Motorcycle lane-splitting: back to the drawing board

How quickly things can change.

Just a few short weeks ago, the future of motorcycle lane-splitting in California seemed to be well charted and eminently clear. Myriad media sources across the state reported the success of legislation explicitly authorizing the practice, noting the passage of a motorcycle lane-splitting Assembly bill through that body.

Our blog, too, reported material developments concerning the legislation, noting the expectation that the bill would face imminent scrutiny and a quick vote in the California Senate (please see our May 31 entry).

And then the notable momentum surrounding lane-splitting stalled out, quite suddenly and in a manner that likely surprised many persons who have been closely tracking the legislation.

Why the sudden retreat?

It appears that the bill's author, Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), had some misgivings regarding ambiguities in the legislation and wants to tighten up the language more before the would-be law faces further scrutiny.

Consequently, he has pulled the bill back from further consideration pending adjustments to its particulars. In doing so, Quirk recently noted "concerns about how ... the bill will be implemented in real life."

Some people will certainly understand the assemblyman's cautionary approach and stress on getting things right, although others might question the sudden hesitancy after the bill was already written and voted upon in the state Assembly.

Getting things rights is of course a valid concern, given the very real safety-related considerations attached to motorcycle lane-splitting. Critics -- including, centrally, many drivers of passenger vehicles -- have long disdained the practice, viewing it as startling and dangerous. Conversely, bikers generally endorse lane-splitting as a safety-promoting practice.

Quirk says he will solicit "more discussion with stakeholders" -- including law enforcement officials, who are reportedly concerned with enforcement rules and procedures -- before resubmitting the bill for further consideration.

We will keep readers duly posted regarding any material developments that surface regarding this singular roadway practice.

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