Momentum is building to legalize lane splitting outside California. The practice of riding between lanes of stopped or slow moving cars is legal in most of the world but not in most of America.
Something called “lane sharing” has always been legal in California. It allowed two motor vehicles to share the same lane. It also allowed bullying cops to cite motorcyclists for things like driving on the white line or stopping at a light with your tires in one lane and your left foot in another.
The California Highway Patrol put a stop to the madness about two years ago when they issued an official bulletin titled “Lane Splitting General Guidelines.” The document explained to California bikers when they would and wouldn’t get a ticket for splitting lanes. Then the CHP backed down when a long time state employee named Kenneth Mandler “petitioned the California Office of Administrative Law in 2013, claiming the CHP created an ‘underground regulation’ by formulating and distributing guidelines for safe lane splitting.” Whether Mandler likes it or not, the underground regulation has stuck. In California, at least, everybody now seems to be on the same page about what is legal and what is not.
Now legislation has been proposed in four other states, Washington, Oregon, Texas and Tennessee that would legalize lane splitting there. The legislation in all four states has been supported and endorsed by the American Motorcyclist Association.
Three days ago the Wall Street Journal ran a feature that reports that. “some traffic-safety officials – and many automobile drivers – see the practice as unsafe.” The Journal also cites research that indicates that “lane splitting, when done in a safe and prudent manner, is no more dangerous than regular motorcycling,” The paper reports that legislation in California may be forthcoming that would formally allow lane splitting when the speed differential is less than ten miles an hour in traffic moving at less than 30 miles an hour.
Washington And Oregon
The legislation to legalize lane splitting in Washington is Senate Bill 5623. It would allow motorcyclists to pass a car in the same lane when traffic is stopped or is moving at 25 miles an hour or less. If you split under the proposed law, you can’t legally go more than ten miles an hour than the flow of traffic. The bi-partisan Washington bill is sponsored by Democrats Tim Sheldon and Steve Conway and Republicans Jan Angel, Mark Miliscia, Randy Becker and Judy Warnick.
There are two bills to legalize lane splitting In Oregon. Senate Bill 172, introduced by Brian Boquist, would permit riders to pass in a lane with traffic if traffic is stopped or has slowed to less than ten miles an hour and the lane-splitting rider is traveling at a speed of 20 miles an hour or less. Senate Bill 420, introduced by Jeff Kruse, would allow lane splitting if traffic is stopped or slowed to 25 miles an hour or less and the motorcycle operator is traveling at 35 miles an hour or slower.
Texas And Tennessee
There are also two bills in Texas. House Bill 813, introduced by Sergio Muñoz, Jr. would allow motorcycle riders to ride between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, if traffic is traveling 20 miles an hour or slower, and if the motorcyclist is not traveling more than five miles an hour faster than other traffic. Lane splitting would be prohibited in school zones and in areas where the posted speed limit is 20 miles an hour or less. And riders and passengers must wear helmets. A similar bill, Senate Bill 442, introduced by Kirk Watson, omits the helmet provision, but restricts lane splitting to limited-access or controlled-access highways.
Tennessee House Bill 1102, introduced by Timothy Hill, would permit lane splitting when traffic is traveling at 45 miles an hour or less and the motorcyclist does not exceed posted speed limits. Lane splitting would not be permitted in marked school zones when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation.