Nevada will probably become the second state to legalize lane splitting. Nevada Assembly Bill 236, sponsored by Representatives Skip Daly, Richard Carrillo and Jame Healey, was approved by the state assembly on April 18th and is now in the Senate Transportation Committee. If the bill is approved by the state senate, it will go into effect on January 1, 2014.
California has always permitted something called “lane sharing,” which allows bikes to “safely” occupy a lane with another motorcycle or car. But the definition of riding safely was always vague. Technically, stopping at a light with your left boot in one lane and your front tire in another was an illegal lane change. Earlier this year, the California Highway Patrol issued a set of guidelines that told bikers how to split lanes legally. Splitting lanes is legal in most countries except the United States.
California’s tolerance for lane sharing dates from the days when virtually every motorcycle was air-cooled – including the ones ridden by the Highway Patrol. Motorcycle patrolman understood that air-cooled engines overheat in freeway traffic jams on hot days. Anyone who has ever been stuck in traffic on the strip in Vegas in the daytime in August understands that the proposed Nevada law is just common sense. It is already legal for cops to split lanes in Nevada. It’s is just not legal for anybody else.
What Will Be Legal
The current version of the Nevada bill would allow motorcycles to split lanes but not mopeds. Bikers would be required to white line “in a manner that is reasonable and proper, having due regard for the traffic, surface and width of the highway, the weather, and other highway conditions.” The law also forbids splitting lanes while moving at more than 30 miles per hour and forbids splitting at more than ten miles an hour above the prevailing speed.
The California guidelines let you split at 40 if the surrounding traffic is only going 30.
Skip Daly, the author of the bill, also thinks lane splitting will reduce the number of bikers who are hit from behind. Daly told The Associated Press, “When you have the ability to do lane splitting, it increases the statistics about the safety of the road.”
The Moron Opposition
The Bill is opposed by people who couldn’t find the start button on a bike if their lives depended on it, the fun house mirror that is Vegas television news – multiple news stories described lane splitting as “bikers zooming in and out of traffic” – and some, but not all, Nevada police.
After the bill passed in the Assembly, a Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper named Loy Hixson was everywhere. He told Las Vagas ABC affiliate KTNV “Drivers are not used to seeing motorcycles. A vehicle may be tempted to make a lane change and that’s where we can see an accident occur.” Then during his standup with CBS affiliate KLAS Hixson declared “The biggest thing is, it’s unsafe. They (meaning us) will take that chance and they will do it because it will help them get to their destination quicker.”
But before the bill passed, Bob Roshak of the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association told lawmakers that legalizing lane splitting would “significantly” reduce the number of motorcycles struck from behind. “I think it’s safe if it’s followed in the way the bill is written,” Roshak said. “With the low speeds it makes sense.”