If you’ve ever seen the Sparrow — a futuristic looking three-wheeled enclosed bike — then you’ve seen the type of vehicle to which this law applies. California Motor Vehicle Code 21714 makes it a crime to drive a fully-enclosed three-wheeled motorcycle or mini-car in the car pool lanes. You also cannot split lanes in these vehicles by driving between two cars that may be driving in front of you.
Sparrows were built in California from 2000 until around 2002 and run on several batteries. The cars are electric hybrids and are designed to travel up to 70 miles per hour. Sometimes they have two wheels in the front; sometimes the two wheels are in the back.
These cars/bikes do not have a lot of safety equipment to protect you if you are involved in an accident. This is most likely why you are not allowed to drive them in the car pool lanes, where much larger cars are driving very fast. In addition, they usually hold only one passenger.
These car/bikes are wider than normal motorcycles. This is why they cannot split lanes. California is one of the few states in the nation that allow motorcycles to drive between the cars in front of them. Even though it is legal, lane splitting is a very bad idea. Cars and trucks will not be looking for you to drive between them, and they may even try to cut you off if they think what you’re doing is illegal. This could cause a deadly collision if you’re on the freeway.
With the new Zcars and Spiders out on the market, three-wheeled cars may have a future in the carpool lanes. For now, however, stay out of the HOV lanes if you don’t want a $100 ticket.
To find out more on this and other traffic laws, please see the complete listing of California Motor Vehicle Codes.