This is a tricky question to answer since “lane sharing”, though highly discouraged in the California Motorcycle Handbook 2008, is not illegal. Anyway, how often do you see motorcyclists riding perfectly on top of any lane division for that matter? But before we talk about lane-splitting, we need to talk further about lane sharing. On page 15 of this handbook, the DMV states: “Cars and motorcycles each need a full lane to operate safely. Lane sharing is not safe. Riding between rows of stopped or moving cars in the same lane can leave you vulnerable. A car could turn suddenly or change lanes, a door could open, or a hand could come out of a window. Discourage lane sharing by others.” Yet for some reason, they haven’t outlawed lane sharing since lane-splitting is legal. However, you can still get cited for reckless driving or not signaling if you’re weaving excessively between lanes. Many CHP officers use the 10 mph rule, in which a safe pass is one where a motorcycle travels no more than 10 mph faster than traffic. However, you need to be careful about not getting cited for speeding, since most traffic tends to travel at or above the posted speed limit.
With that said, this brings us back to our original question: what about lane-splitting over double yellow lines? Well, the California DMV (v.c. 400(a)) defines a motorcycle as “any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and weighing less than 1,500 pounds.” Since a motorcycle is clearly defined as a vehicle,
v.c. 21460(a) states: “When double parallel solid lines are in place, no person driving a vehicle shall drive to the left thereof, except as permitted in this section”–none of the subdivisions given an exception to motorcycles for lane-splitting.
So can you theoretically argue that you were lane-sharing with the vehicle next to you if you’re pulled over by a cop while lane-splitting over double yellow lane markings? I doubt it since it is almost inevitable that you crossed over the double yellow lines at least once while trying to maintain a safe distance between your bike and the vehicle next to you. Then again, you could drive like this impatient jackass in the above photo who repeatedly crossed over the double yellow lines into opposing traffic by several feet while trying to bypass traffic on Coldwater during rush hour. Did this guy want to become an organ donor before the evening news? Given Coldwater’s winding nature and blind turns, he was basically guessing at whether or not he would encounter a vehicle in the opposite lane of traffic each time he tried this passing maneuver (or splitting, as he would undoubtedly defining it). I actually witnessed a near miss as he swerved back into our lane of travel just before I took this picture. At the very least, one could clearly define what he was doing as excessive weaving without signaling.
Wrong, wrong, WRONG thing to do. On a similar note, people often ask if it’s legal to split lanes over the double yellow lines that separates the #1 and carpool lanes on freeways, since traffic is traveling in the same direction on both sides of the lines. Well, given that it’s legal for motorcycles to drive completely in the carpool lane, why split? Rather, split the #1 and #2 lanes on the freeway instead. And again, the California Vehicle Code does not give special allowances to motorcycles regarding double yellow lines.
So in summary, don’t lane-split over double yellow lines, lest risk receiving a citation or becoming a permanent fixture on someone else’s windshield.