Arizona Passes Lane Filtering Law

Arizona is the fourth U.S. state to legally sanction lane filtering

Lane filtering lane splitting
Photo by Kevin Wing

Lane filtering, also known as lane splitting, where motorcycles share lanes with cars and trucks to reduce traffic congestion, is a widespread practice around the world. Two studies in 2014 showed that the practice is safe.

In the U.S., only California allowed the practice for many years, though it was not legally sanctioned until 2016. In 2018, Utah became the second state to legally recognize lane filtering, and Montana passed a similar law in 2021. Arizona is now the fourth state to allow lane filtering.

The following is a press release issued by the American Motorcyclist Association:

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a law legalizing lane filtering after the bill cruised through both the Senate and House chambers with strong bipartisan support. The law now puts the state in the company of California, Utah, and Montana.

The passage of Senate Bill 1273, sponsored by Sen. Tyler Pace (R-Mesa District 23) and championed by ABATE of Arizona, allows riders to cruise slowly between lanes at speeds no faster than 15 mph if the other vehicles are stopped. Modeled off Utah’s legislation, the practice can only be done on roads posted at 45 mph or less. It does not allow riders to pass on the shoulder or on the median.

“This law has been four years in the making,” said Michael Infanzon, legislative director for ABATE of Arizona. “But we had a really great sponsor for the bill this year with Senator Pace. He is an active motorcycle rider and it was key to have someone who understood the danger of being rear-ended. This is all about safety and nothing more than part of the plan to reduce motorcycle fatalities in Arizona.”

With the law set to be in effect 90 days after adjournment, likely to be mid-September, ABATE of Arizona and the Arizona Motorcycle Awareness and Safety Foundation will be working with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Department of Public Safety to educate riders and the public on the new legislation.

“Once the legislation was sent to the Governor’s desk, we started collaborating with the government to get PSAs and TV spots moving,” said Infanzon.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s most recent data, 30 percent of all motorcycle crashes in 2020, including 11 out of 106 fatal motorcycle collisions, were the result of rear-end collisions.

“ABATE of Arizona put up a strong showing to successfully get this law signed,” said the American Motorcyclist Association’s (AMA) Western States Representative Nicholas Haris. “It is a welcome sight to see more states adopting commonsense safety laws that protect motorcyclists when they are most vulnerable to a collision. The AMA is committed to working with riders nationwide on efforts to pass similar legislation and educating the public about its benefits.”

Meanwhile, Utah has extended the authorization for motorcyclists to lane filter for an additional five years to allow state officials to review the practice and gather data on its safety benefits. With the passage of H.B. 10 on March 22, the state is affirming that its initial experience has been a success worth continuing.

“With the signing of H.B. 10 Utahans have recognized the benefits of lane filtering,” said AMA On-Highway Government Relations Manager Tiffany Cipoletti, “which allows motorcyclists the choice to filter in traffic when it is safe to do so.”

Utah legalized lane filtering in 2018 with the initial bill and now the extension sponsored by state Rep. Walt Brooks (R-St. George District 75).

“I am very happy to have the support of the Department of Public Safety and of the legislature to extend lane filtering for an addition five years,” said Rep. Brooks. “The original sunset of three years, and dealing with COVID, did not provide the data needed to remove the sunset. I am confident that as riders use lane filtering properly over the next five years, the general public will become familiar with the practice and the data will prove this is a good policy for Utah, and will become permanent.”

Rep. Brooks has been a vocal supporter of the practice as a motorcyclist himself, and has assisted efforts in other states like Arizona to legalize the practice. The AMA is grateful for Rep. Brooks’ support of motorcyclists and the safe practice of lane-filtering.

“We are fortunate to have motorcyclists in elected office like Representative Brooks and Senator Pace,” said AMA Director of Government Relations Michael Sayre. “Brooks’ firsthand experience as a rider and work to gain the support of law enforcement in Utah were very important and have helped lay the groundwork for success in other states.”

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The AMA endorses lane splitting, given the long-term success in California and the University of California-Berkeley research study showing that the practice enhances motorcycle safety. The AMA will assist groups and individuals working to bring legal lane splitting and/or filtering to their state.

“As lane-splitting support continues to gain traction across the country,” the AMA’s Cipoletti said, “we are eager to help more motorcyclists engage their state legislatures on this issue.”

Currently, the AMA is actively engaged in supporting a lane filtering bill in Oklahoma (H.B. 2667), too.

39 COMMENTS

    • Never is a long time. I’ve seen a lot of changes in laws (for both good and bad) over the years that “never would happen”.

      Even though the law is not effective for several more months, I saw an early adopter the other day. If we riders are reasonable, and there is a decent information campaign, this will be a great thing for AZ riders.

    • Sounds like the opinion of someone who has never used lane filtering. It’s actually safer than being sandwiched between the front and rear bumpers of cars/trucks, especially with drivers who are looking at their phones.

  1. I’m not familiar with lane filtering. What happens at a traffic light when the light turns green, especially where there are multiple lanes of traffic all headed in the same direction. What about multiple turn left only, or turn right only lanes at major intersections. People who do not ride motorcycles don’t understand and will purposely scare the crap out of you. Not good.

    • At traffic lights, motorcycles can easily accelerate ahead of other vehicles when the light turns green, whether going straight or turning left. As in all cases with riding in traffic, prudence and good judgment should be the norm. If traffic conditions don’t lend themselves to lane filtering, then don’t do it. It’s not required. But it does provide a way to reduce traffic congestion (especially where there are more motorcyclists) and increase safety by not having motorcycles sandwiched between the front and rear bumpers of other vehicles.

  2. I am looking forward to the campaign on public awareness of this change, and I am sorry that you failed to point out some of the specifics, such as requirements for at least 2 lanes of traffic in your direction.

  3. This needs to happen in Texas next. Makes me wonder if there is or has been any effort currently or in the past to get it done. We have so many California transplants here, I’m sure we have the grassroots support to make it happen.

  4. As a transplant from Ca, I am grateful this has passed. It gives riders a pass up to the front of the stop light, and helps us from not getting rear ended by mindless drivers on there dam cell phones.
    It also helps the car drivers to be more aware of what is around them.

  5. My understanding, lane filtering and lane splitting are NOT the same thing. Lane splitting allows a rider to move between lanes of traffic while they are moving, usually below 20 mph. Lane filtering allows a rider to move between stopped traffic, to the head of the line at a stop light.

    • I’d be willing to bet the only experience drivers have had with lane filtering/splitting in states where it’s not legal is with the reckless/aggressive motorcyclists willing to break the law. I’m a rider and those people piss me off. If drivers knew it was legal and were presented with the evidence that it’s safer and more efficient for everyone AND see it done responsibly a survey like you’re suggesting might be meaningful.

  6. I have been riding street bikes for 40+ years and don’t see the necessity of lane-splitting laws. I use my mirrors and know at all times what is happening around me. As a motorist, I have experienced being startled by loud, unmuffled motorcycles zipping past my SUV on freeways in California – – inches from my driver’s side of vehicle. Seems quite dangerous to me as a riding technique. That said, I don’t have strong opinions about things that others should/can do. I know I won’t be zipping past or weaving through and between cars in moving traffic. But, hey go ahead and do that sort of thing in a state where it is legal if you choose.

  7. I’ve been riding here in Calif for many years but have never been comfortable with lane splitting as most cage drivers don’t understand that its not an invitation to be a jerk to the motorcyclist. If cars don’t purposefully interfere with the bikes, its a great idea! More driver education is necessary.

  8. I have mixed emotions about it. I think it is good, I think public education is paramount! Even though CA has had it for some time, there are still plenty of the ‘jealous’ types that interfere with the splitting.

    Either way, my bike is too big, and I doubt it would work well for me. But it would be nice to take advantage if I could….

  9. This law was initially sponsored by personal injury attorneys in California.

    IF the rules are followed (MC rider no faster than 15mph and ONLY on roads posted 45mph or less), this might work. I have my doubts that the law will be followed.

    I have almost creamed bikes on CA roads that were lane-splitting faster than the 65 mph speed limit because they didn’t want to wait on traffic. When I called CA Highway Patrol (because I didn’t want to see the rider killed), they said it was legal. YET if I hit him it’s my fault!!! When I am in my truck in slow traffic, I shouldn’t have to look 1/2 mile back before I change lanes!

  10. Lane filtering has been legalised in some states in Australia for several years. In NSW, the following rules apply:-

    Motorcyclists must only lane filter when travelling less than 30 km/h

    Motorcyclists can lane filter through stationary and slow moving traffic

    It is illegal for motorcyclists to lane filter:
    next to the kerb
    next to parked vehicles
    in school zones

    Only fully licensed motorcyclists are allowed to lane filter

    Filtering and Splitting are distinguished as 2 separate things. Splitting which is illegal is defined as ‘filtering’ above 30 km/h. Not sure but I think California may allow splitting.

    I have read where an ex-moto cop has advocated the use of the breakdown lane on motorways/freeways where traffic is congested, up to a speed of 80km/h, although this has never gained traction.

    No studies that I am aware of here to determine the impact of filtering and many drivers clearly still not onboard with the practice.

  11. IT SCARES ME. Too many times I started to change lanes, and a motorcycle zooooms past (riding the dashed line between cars). If timing had been different, I would have moved my car in front of the cycle’s path.

    And yes I check my mirrors, but the cycle is often hidden by other cars, trucks. I don’t see the motorcycle until it’s just 3-4 behind me.

  12. That study says over 8000 lane splitters have accidents each year. It also said lane-splitting is safe if “the motorcycle speed exceeds the traffic speed no more than 10 mph”

    – In California this rule is violated all the time. Cycles fly by at 20 mph above car traffic.

    – According to the study, that increases Head injuries in 20% of the accidents.

  13. I am a resident of Florida but I spent some time riding on the roads of Southern California. I can tell you, “Lane Filtering” or “Splitting Lanes” whatever you call it, is a much safer to commute. I feel much more relaxed knowing the chance of getting rear ended and sandwiched into the vehicle in front of me is greatly reduced. The congested areas around South Florida, Tampa and Jacksonville etc. would benefit from more commuters switching to two wheelers as a way of combating traffic congestion.
    Bring it on Florida!

  14. Utah allows lane filtering, although significantly more restrictive than California. It helps in stop/go traffic in town during busy times. I use it occasionally when in just the right situation, but still get dirty looks from drivers who don’t know the law. Since it’s only allowed on roads with speed limits of 45MPH or less, it doesn’t help on freeway road construction standstills.

    Outline for Utah law is at:
    https://ridetolive.utah.gov/lane-filtering/

  15. One of the most dangerous things I can think of is to ride my motorcycle anywhere near another vehicle. If I can’t get a few hundred yards away from it, I get off that road.

    Of course, I live in northern New England, and there’s a reason for that.

    • So much to think about here. Around here I can’t imagine lane splitting with moving traffic even at slow speeds because you simply can’t trust autos to behave. They won’t see you and will move lanes into you path leaving you no time to react. Even if this lessens rear enders it seems it opens up other accidents to both m/c’s and autos who disregard commen sense and are just being impatient regardless of how the law is written. Even if traffic is stopped and the bike filters his way to the front at the light and all cars have crowded the crosswalk then the bike is stuck waiting between cars for the green light. Again around here cars take off like their at a drag strip. You have got to be super aggressive to get the jump and get back into a lane. Don’t see how you can prepare for all the unintended consequences. Bikers may figure this out. But auto driving public after decades of not having to deal with this? I wonder.

      • To your point about cars taking off like they’re at a drag strip – filtering in AZ will only be legal when the road is at least 2 lanes in the same direction, so the biker has two lanes to choose from. So if I get the sense that a cager on my left is going to be aggressive, I’ll go to the right lane. And if both are aggressive? Let them both go, and filter in-between before the next car in whatever lane isn’t being a jerk. But TBH I find that the majority of people aren’t jerks, and they would rather not be that guy that lays a biker down if they can help it. I don’t really see this being that big a concern.

        Meanwhile if I can take advantage of this new law to keep from getting rear-ended by cagers not paying attention, or not seeing me when facing the sun at sunrise and sunset (which can be very blinding here in AZ, believe me!) I’m all for it.

  16. If done properly lane sharing is certainly safer than sitting in stop & go traffic. However, I agree that lane splitting at speeds much higher than traffic is flowing rightly upsets drivers and puts the rider at risk. As always it is the riders responsibility to control risk. I will lane split in the right circumstances when riding solo but it makes my wife nervous so when on the freeway with her if traffic stops, we stop. We rode from Santa Monica to San Diego one day in stop & go for over 4 hours. If alone I could had cut an hour off the ride by even slowly splitting lanes. And surface streets that day wouldn’t have been any faster. So, understand the guidelines and do, or do not.

  17. Only on roads at 45 or under ? It’s the most useful when your on the freeway in stop and go traffic. So many brain dead people on the road posted at 55mph an two people will drive 45- 50 side by side.

  18. It makes sense to filter when traffic is stationery (or very nearly stationery), to the offside (not driver’s side) and of course where the carriageway provides sufficient space and the bike’s not too wide ! I agree that it shouldn’t just be on low speed plated roads since as ‘a thing’ it’s only really going to happen when traffic’s stationery – and that can be on motorway/freeway too. (Once traffic’s moving you’re ‘overtaking’, which is surely different, mostly legal and depends on lane markings and other factors of the locality.)
    But hey, all that sounds like common sense to me ! In the UK, where I am mostly, filtering/splitting is legal and an advantage a bike has over a car, especially for urban areas. If I think about a journey I often make I have a choice: Take 10 mins to gear up and get bike out then make up time filtering through some stationery traffic or jump in the car and spend 10 mins sitting in a traffic jam. But regardless of legality, it’s something one does with full regard for the risks. Which is how one should ride anyway. It’s a riskier transport (but more fun of course !)
    The real risk (to my mind) is (car) door flingers; (passenger getting out into stationery carriageway) which is why filtering can only be done at very low speeds and with extra awareness. Perhaps door flinging and getting out the car is a more European thing – passenger has an appointment and thinks they’ll walk there quicker – hence I’m inclined to suggest that the more urban and ‘downtown’ the area, the more likely that risk is gonna happen. On the highway and where there’s a lane-locking hold-up, there’s less logical need for someone to jump outa the car, so trickling by at a low speed is somewhat safer.

    • Sorry, left/right confusion – it’s a ‘Brit problem’. Filter on driver’s side of carriageway – offside in UK – passenger’s side is nearside. The issue is on a multi-lane road where riding between two vehicles and driver is on one side and passenger on other. Sorry, I was confused too !

  19. ToddAZ. I guess I look at it like any other tool. Some will use it correctly, some will abuse it, others will use common sense, then there are those who have none. I can think of very obvious situations where it would be very stupid to execute. Like wise I can seem strong advantages. But you have to THINK before you do this and not assume all is safe. I have ridden for over 60 years and over 600k miles and I will always believed “you can be right, but dead right”. Think about it.
    One of the most important points would be motorist education. Bill boards, commercials, etc. There will always be those motorists who will be offended and try to make some thing of it. They are usually the same persons that try to run you off the road currently.
    Be safe.

  20. It’s interesting to read all these comments, as a motorcyclist for 35 years the drivers in these comments act like they don’t violate any traffic laws ever. I’ve been driving heavy trucks, small trucks & cars. By farther is more traffic violations by motorists than there are by motorcycles. Based on the volume alone.

    If you don’t feel safe doing it… then don’t! I challenge anyone to pull over before an on-ramp and watch the traffic come onto the interstate/freeway nobody can merge in the traffic at the posted speed limit regardless what time of day it is.

    I do a lot of driving in my profession and there’s always a large percentage…maybe 85% has no idea how to merge how or change lanes in traffic. If those types of things are scaring you don’t get on the freeways or roads over 35mph.

    I my self will be Lane filtering. My .

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