Six states consider allowing lane-splitting motorcycles

March 20, 2019

Keith Goble

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The practice of driving motorcycles between traffic lanes, or on shoulders, to bypass congestion is a practice seen throughout the country. More and more states are looking to make the lane-splitting maneuver legal.

In 2016, the state of California adopted a first-of-its-kind law to permit lane splitting with motorcycles. Previously, state law neither permitted nor forbade the practice of riding motorcycles between rows of stopped or slowed traffic.

The Golden State’s law defines lane splitting and sets educational guidelines for the practice.

In addition, the law clarified the state police would develop educational guidelines related to lane splitting to help ensure the safety of motorcyclists and occupants of other vehicles.

Advocates say that lane splitting is beneficial because it saves motorcyclists time and fuel. They say the practice also helps many motorcycles avoid overheating while sitting in traffic.

Some people in the trucking industry have raised concerns about motorcyclists attempting the maneuver around large vehicles.

Below is a rundown of recent action at statehouses around the country to address the issue.

Connecticut

A bill in the Joint Committee on Transportation is simply worded to permit motorcyclists to operate between lanes of traffic.

Connecticut law does not explicitly permit or forbid the practice of lane splitting.

SB629 would change that distinction.

Massachusetts

Two identical bills in both statehouse chambers would authorize motorcyclists to travel in the right breakdown lane, left access lane, or split the lanes to pass slow-moving traffic.

H3064/S2077 specify that motorcyclists may make the maneuver at speeds up to 25 mph.

The bills are in the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Missouri

The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee has voted to advance a bill the covers the operation of motorcycles on certain roadways.

SB102 would permit motorcyclists to drive on the shoulder of a limited-access highway or interstate during traffic jams or slowdowns. Specifically, the maneuver would be permitted when traffic is moving below 30 mph.

Motorcycles could not exceed the lesser of 35 mph or 10 mph in excess of the flow of traffic.

The bill awaits further consideration in the chamber.

A House version, HB726, would permit motorcycles to be driven on highway shoulders to bypass slowed traffic. The same speed limitations as SB102 are included.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

Oregon

One effort underway at the statehouse would allow lane splitting, or “lane filtering” as it is described in the bill.

HB2314 would allow the maneuver on roadways with posted speed limits up to 50 mph. Motorcycles would only be allowed to take the action when traffic is moving slower than 10 mph. Riders would only be permitted to travel 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic.

The Joint Committee on Transportation has held a public hearing on the bill.

The Oregon Trucking Association submitted testimony during the bill hearing’s in opposition.

Waylon Buchan, OTA director of government affairs, testified it is not uncommon in the Portland region to see trucks traveling side-by-side in the center and right-hand lanes.

“(Motorcyclists splitting lanes between two heavy trucks) is problematic because trucks are wider than other vehicles, which leaves less room for lane splitting motorcycles,” Buchanan said.

He adds that there are blind spots for large trucks, and because motorcycles are smaller than typical vehicles “truck drivers may not always be able to see a motorcyclist.”

Additionally, he said that legalizing lane splitting could complicate crash liability in the state.

“It places an additional burden on commuters and motor carriers who must convince an insurance adjuster that a crash involving lane splitting was, in fact, not their fault.”

The Oregon and Portland transportation departments also oppose the legislation. In addition, Gov. Kate Brown’s advisory committee has voted to oppose the bill.

Texas

A bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would permit lane splitting when traffic is slowed to 20 mph or less on controlled access highways.

Sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, SB288 specifies that motorcycles could not be driven more than 5 mph in excess of the speed of traffic.

The House version, HB1270, is in the House Transportation Committee.

Utah

One bill on the governor’s desk would authorize motorcyclists to travel between lanes only on roads posted at 50 mph or less.

HB149 would require that traffic on roadways with two adjacent lanes be stopped and that the motorcycle is traveling at less than 15 mph.

The bill includes a sunset date of July 1, 2022.

 

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.

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