Is Lane Splitting Gaining Traction?

More States Pass Lane Splitting / Filtering Laws

Picture this... you're stuck in traffic. Just ahead, there's a gap between the vehicles in front of you - a gap your bike can easily pass through.

You've got someplace to be, and right now, unless you do something, you're going to be late.

Do you risk it?

As populations soar and traffic becomes more dense, legal, or not, more and more motorcyclists are taking the risk. However, in some states you may not even have to consider the risk, because they already have lane splitting / lane filtering laws.

You may have known about California passing its lane splitting law, but did you know about the other states allowing it? In 2019 there were four states that have some form of lane splitting / lane filtering law, and Arizona has just been added to the list.

What is lane splitting / lane filtering? These terms are often used interchangeably in articles because they are very similar. Lane Splitting is riding between lanes or rows of slow moving or stopped traffic moving in the same direction. Lane filtering is moving through traffic that is stopped. An example is traffic at a red light.

Is it considered safe? This is highly debated, and there are a lot of factors that go into it. If you have an air-cooled bike, it is safer for the bike and can prevent over-heating. If the rider is traveling at a slow rate of speed and can react to drivers that may not see them are changing lanes, it can be safe. However, when it is first implemented many drivers are not trained to look for motorcyclists riding between lanes. It takes time for drivers to become accustomed to something new. One important part to safety is motorcyclists are less likely to get rear ended by inattentive drivers when lane splitting, because the other vehicles would have to be small enough to fit into the same gap as the motorcycle. Also, some drivers can be frustrated and intentionally block the path. So, be cautious when you are lane splitting.

California lane splitting guidelines:
Lane Splitting Safety Tips for Motorcyclists in California. Consider the total environment when you are lane splitting (this includes the width of lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles, as well as current roadway, weather, and lighting conditions).
Danger increases at higher speed differentials.

  • Danger increases as overall speed increases.
  • It is typically safer to split between the far-left lanes than between the other lanes of traffic.
  • Avoid lane splitting next to large vehicles (big rigs, buses, motorhomes, etc.).
  • Riding on the shoulder is illegal; it is not considered lane splitting.
  • Be visible – Avoid staying in the blind spots of other vehicles or lingering between vehicles.
  • Help drivers see you by wearing brightly colored/reflective protective gear and using high beams during daylight.

LANE SPLITTING—Defined by California Vehicle Code Section 21658.1 as driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.

Visit the California Highway Patrol article, California Motorcyclist Safety for many more tips.

Lane filtering in Utah guidelines:

  • The speed limit must be forty-five miles an hour or less
  • The vehicle(s) a motorcyclist is passing must be stopped
  • A motorcyclist cannot be traveling more than fifteen miles an hour while passing another vehicle
  • A motorcyclist must be traveling on a roadway with two or more lanes in the same direction

Read the Utah Department of Public Safety article on lane filtering, Utah’s New Lane Filtering Law.

Lane splitting in Hawaii Guidelines
While it is not technically lane splitting Hawaii passed a bill in 2018 that allows motorcyclists to “shoulder surf” if the traffic is stopped, and they do not exceed ten mph. The bill passed automatically even though it was left unsigned and un-vetoed by Hawaii’s governor. Bills do not require the governors’ signature to become law in Hawaii if they are not vetoed. You can read the full bill here Hawaii HB2589.

Lane filtering in Montana
Montana keeps it simple.

  • The road must be wide enough to pass safely.
  • You are traveling less than twenty miles per hour when overtaking.
  • And conditions are reasonable.

Then you can lane filter. Read the Senate bill SB0009.

Lane Splitting in Arizona
Arizona has been the most recent state to pass a lane splitting bill, although it has not taken effect yet. The bill does not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session which usually ends in April. What are the key details of the bill?

  • Only at stoplights- Traffic must be completely stopped.
  • Only at slow speeds- Only roads with a speed limit of forty-five miles per hour or less, and the motorcycle can only travel at fifteen miles per hour or less.

Read the bill SB 1273.

And what about Washington State? 
It is currently illegal to lane split in Washington State. In the past, bills have been introduced to allow lane splitting with SB 5623 stalling out in 2016 and HB 1157 stalling out in 2022, it doesn’t seem like the Washington legislature is willing to accept lane splitting just yet.

If you would like to know more about these bills you can read our previous articles WASHINGTON SENATORS TALK LANE SPLITTING BILL and THE “LANE SHARING FOR SAFETY” BILL.

Also, if you would like to debate the safety of lane splitting, you can read our article IS LANE SPLITTING SAFE?

As always, if there is something we missed, or you want to let us know what you think leave a comment below.

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