CHP officials say they sometimes ticket motorcyclists who are lane-splitting, but citations are based on an officer's determination that the rider is going too fast for conditions, or that the rider's lane changes are unsafe.
CHP officials acknowledge that motorcyclists get away with unsafe lane-splitting at times because it's hard to stop them.
"A lot of us are in patrol cars. It is hard for us to catch them," Sacramento-area Sgt. Mike Bradley told The Bee in an interview for a previous story on the issue.
CHP numbers show that more than 9,600 people in California were injured in motorcycle crashes in 2010, the most recent year measured, up 25 percent since 2000.
But state officials say they know of no comprehensive studies focused on lane-splitting dangers, and they do not have data on the number of lane-splitting-related crashes. Police say they do get reports of side rear-view mirrors being ripped off and occasional crashes, including fatalities.
Pope, of the CHP, and Chris Murphy, head of the state Office of Traffic Safety, said the state has engaged UC Berkeley researchers to study motorcycle crashes to reach better conclusions about motorcycling dangers in general, and lane-splitting in particular.
Depending on the Berkeley study results, the state could adjust its lane-splitting guidelines, Pope said.
Pete terHorst, spokesman for the American Motorcyclist Association, said the new California guidelines could be used by motorcycle advocates in other states to push legalizing lane-splitting elsewhere. But terHorst said advocates nationally typically focus on other motorcycling issues, including broader concerns about causes of crashes.
"We essentially endorse the California position, but we don't promote it in other states," terHorst said.
Some motorcycle advocates are leery of the CHP's guidelines. Gabe Ets-Hokin, editor of CityBike magazine in the Bay Area, said he appreciates the state's attempt to make a statement, but worries it could be a first step toward more restrictions on the maneuver.
"Lane-splitting is a unique lifestyle to California motorcyclists, a subculture," he said. "If we can do it safely, what is the problem?"
He and other advocates contend lane-splitting makes motorcycling safer by allowing riders to avoid dangerous situations in heavy traffic.
Motorcycle safety class instructors teach another technique, suggesting that cyclists ride on one side or the other of their lane, rather than in the middle. That way cyclists can avoid the oilier part of the lane, as well as see ahead better and give themselves more avenues to get out of trouble, Covel said.
The state guidelines can be found at www.chp.ca.gov under "CHP Programs," by clicking on the headline "California Motorcyclist Safety." It also is viewable at ots.ca.gov, under "What's New at OTS."
The guidelines note:
-- Inexperienced motorcyclists should not lane-split.
-- On freeways (when traffic has slowed to below 30 mph), motorcyclists should lane-split only between the two fast lanes. The slow lanes are too dangerous because vehicles there switch lanes more often coming from onramps and getting to offramps.
-- Motorcyclists should not lane-split in toll booth queues.
-- Law enforcement officers can, at their discretion, determine that a motorcyclist is lane-splitting unsafely.
-- Other drivers should not try to impede motorcyclists from lane-splitting. Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059. Follow him on Twitter @tonybizjak.
(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com
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