The American Motorcyclist Association supports lane-splitting legislation that is under consideration in Oregon and Washington state during this legislative session. The legislation would permit riders to travel between cars using the maneuver commonly known as lane splitting.
Two bills under consideration in Oregon would legalize this practice.
S. 172, introduced by state Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), would permit motorcycle and moped riders to pass in a lane with traffic if traffic is stopped or has slowed to less than 10 mph and the lane-splitting rider is traveling at a speed of 20 mph or less.
S. 420, introduced by state Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg), would allow lane splitting if traffic is stopped or slowed to 25 mph or less and the motorcycle operator is traveling at 35 mph or slower.
Another bill is under consideration in Washington state. S.B. 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.
The bi-partisan bill is sponsored by state Sens. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch), Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard), Mark Miloscia (R- Federal Way), Randi Becker (R-Eatonville), Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake), and Steve Conway (D-Tacoma).
“Research and evidence suggest that lane splitting may reduce a motorcyclist’s risk exposure in traffic, while helping to ease congestion,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations. “That is why we support these bills and the motorcyclists who helped call attention to the need for change.”
The AMA says that one of the most dangerous situations for any motorcyclist is being caught in congested traffic, where stop-and-go vehicles, distracted and inattentive vehicle operators, and environmental conditions increase the risk of physical contact with another vehicle or hazard.
Reducing a motorcyclist’s exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce front- and rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic. A 2014 study conducted in California supports this assertion by demonstrating that motorcyclists engaging in responsible lane splitting were less likely to be rear ended, suffer a head injury or be involved in a fatal crash.
Other potential benefits include an increase in conspicuity because the motorcyclist is moving relative to other traffic; a reduction in motorcyclist fatigue from constant shifting and braking in stop-and-go traffic; a lessening of the risk for engine damage for air-cooled engines; a reduction in motorcyclists’ exposure to ambient heat in the summer and car exhaust year-round due to fewer hours spent in traffic.
Motorcycle lane splitting is a common practice in California and many countries throughout the world—particularly in the highly urbanized areas of Europe and Asia. Long recognized as a way to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the risk of crashes, the practice nevertheless remains largely prohibited in the United States, with California currently being the exception.
More information about the AMA’s position on lane splitting can be found here.
Washington residents can find their lawmakers on the state legislature’s website.