State legislators across the United States have introduced bills to allow motorcycle lane splitting, a practice which is currently only legal in California.
Motorcycle lane splitting refers to a two-wheeled vehicle moving between roadway lanes of vehicles that are travelling in the same direction. Another term frequently used is “lane filtering”—however this usually describes when a motorcycle rider moves alongside vehicles that have either stopped at an intersection or are moving very slowly. Both practices occur in many countries throughout the world but it is largely prohibited in the United States.
In California, Lane Splitting is a Gray Area
Lane splitting/filtering is not officially approved in California, but neither is it banned. The practice is generally permitted if done in “a safe and prudent manner”—the definition of which is very much up to interpretation. The California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles have previously posted guidelines on lane splitting, but they were removed after opponents claimed the agencies were endorsing the practice.
A bill to formally legalize lane splitting passed the California State Assembly on May 28, 2015 by a margin of 58-14. Assembly Bill 51 must now pass the Senate and receive the Governor’s signature to become law. Some advocates of lane splitting oppose the bill because of the new restrictions it imposes. The legislation would allow motorcycles “to be driven between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane if the motorcycle is not driven at a speed of more than 50 miles per hour and is driven no more than 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic.”
Study: Lane Splitting is Safe
A UC Berkeley study released last year by the California Office of Traffic Safety found that lane-splitting motorcyclists were no more likely to be seriously injured than other motorcyclists, as long as they weren’t moving too much faster than surrounding traffic — in fact, they were significantly less likely to face such an injury.
Do you think lane splitting should be legal?
Share your thoughts on this controversial topic in the comment section below.
Lane Splitting in Ohio
Although no law expressly prohibits lane splitting or filtering in Ohio, since state statutes do not specifically authorize lane splitting or lane filtering, motorcyclists who attempt such maneuvers in Ohio can still be ticketed. Citations may be issued for improper use of turn signals, following too closely, reckless operation or other traffic violations.
The American Motorcyclist Association endorses lane-splitting legislation, as long as bills do not include language that would diminish existing rights (that is, no mandatory helmet laws or mandatory minimum medical insurance coverage provisions). They have helped write model legislation, which can be seen in some of the following state bills.
As introduced, House Bill 1102 would permit lane splitting when traffic is traveling at 45 mph or less and the motorcyclist may not exceed posted speed limits. Lane splitting would be prohibited in marked school zones when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation. The bill has been assigned to the Transportation Subcommittee.
Texas House Bill 813 would only permit lane splitting/filtering if traffic is traveling 20 mph or slower, and if the motorcyclist is not traveling more than 5 mph faster than other traffic. Lane splitting would be prohibited in school zones and in areas where the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less and riders and passengers must wear helmets. A separate bill is making its way through the Senate (S.B. 442), which omits the helmet provision, but restricts lane splitting to limited-access or controlled-access highways. The bills were referred to the Transportation Committee in February, where they are expected to languish due to a lack of widespread support.
Real progress has been made on a lane-filtering bill in Oregon. In April 2015, the state Senate approved legislation, which would allow motorcycle riders to “filter” through traffic jams, bypassing cars traveling less than 10 mph on highways with speed limits of 50 mph or more. Senate Bill 694, which passed 18-10, also requires that when lane splitting, riders must drive “in a cautious and prudent manner” and cannot exceed 20 mph.
As originally written, Washington’s Senate Bill 5623 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. Under the bill, motorcyclists who split the lane could travel no more than 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic. The bill also makes it an infraction for a motorist to intentionally impede a motorcycle that is attempting to pass.
In March 2015, the state Senate passed an amended version of legislation that would only allow riders to pass on the left:
The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken, except on the left-hand side of a vehicle traveling in the left-most lane of traffic on a numbered state highway. . .
Critics have lambasted politicians for adding this provision, calling the amendment “ridiculous” and “idiotic.”
On the left-hand side of a vehicle traveling in the left-most lane of traffic!
Hmm, let me think… I feel like there is something usually there. Oh yeah. Cars coming the other direction! (revzilla.com)
Other states that have recently considered lane-splitting legislation include Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada and New Jersey.
If an accident happens while a motorcycle is lane splitting, fault for the accident is often attributed to the motorcycle rider. Furthermore, in a civil suit, any motorcyclist found guilty of violating traffic laws is automatically considered negligent and can be found liable for any resulting injuries—a legal concept known as free dating sites in rotherham.
I don’t think this is a safe riding practice and should not be legalized
Riding is dangerous enough with a public that just inherently doesn’t see us. The argument for lane splitting is usually based on gas savings and that’s a weak argument at best. Finally, why should riders be entitled to “break in line”. I’ll just wait like everyone else thank you.
Done properly it is just as safe as waiting in traffic lines. Actually I feel safer doing it and it’s much better than hearing screeching brakes coming up behind me. I’ve nearly been rear ended several times thanks to cell phone addicted idiots. The onus of responsibility is still on the rider and if you’re going a reasonable speed there’s plenty of time to react safely. Normally you’re by most drivers before they even know you’re there even if you’re only going 10mph faster than them.
Living in Ohio I traveled by motorcycle to California. I was informed by a guy in the group, from California that we would be “splitting lanes”. My response was immediate, “are you crazy? hell no you won’t find me splitting lanes”.
Arriving in California I noticed the 6 lanes of traffic and the ease at which the cars and motorcycles used the highway, splitting lanes. It didn’t take long to observe and come to this conclusion:
1. The law enforcement organizations have been splitting lanes for years and now the general public is also.
2. Cars are aware of motorcyclists and move over as much as they can when we lane split.
3. Ease in which motorcycles are able to move through “stuck traffic”
4. It was a two way street, both motorcyclists and cars showed a mutual respect for each other. No 3rd finger in your face as in Ohio.
So for those that are voting no and haven’t experienced “lane splitting” you better put your bike where your mouth is – Split lanes then vote.
On another note California has dedicated parking throughout the cities and businesses. Some with meters.
Parking in car parking spots usually gets the iPhone toting driver pulling into the empty car space and knocking the bike over. It’s nothing it’s just a bike. If we park anywhere else we’re subject to fines.
I am totally in favor of Lane Splitting only after the politicians don’t impose their stupid ideas. Education for the riders and public must occurs before this is enacted.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with lane splitting. Just out of curiosity, could you please share which “stupid ideas” imposed by politicians to which you are referring? As we shared in this post, the model legislation has been altered by states in varying degrees, including restrictions on maximum speed, speed differential, etc.
A post was left that said a politician wanted to restrict motorcycle traffic to the left side of the cars. (oncoming traffic).
There was also a new politician in office and she wanted motorcycles to have “seat belts”.
Unfortunately most of us receive this type of info 3rd person a lot can change from the original communication.
I wish this would pass in Ohio.
Ken, I really think lane splitting will come to most states. It’s a novel idea to most and a whole lot of education and changing of attitudes will have to be done prior to actual use of lane splitting. The public and motorcyclists will be governed by strict guidelines to accomplish this in a safe manner for all concerned.
It was a blast to split lanes in California.
Unfortunately in Ohio the general public tends to go a bit “postal” if we divert from normal driving standards.