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State Representative Drew MacEwen has introduced a bill, HB 1157, “Lane Sharing for Safety,” in the Washington state legislature. The bill allows motorcyclists to ride between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic. The bill restricts lane-sharers to traveling ten miles an hour or less over the speed of traffic with a maximum speed of thirty-five miles an hour.
The bill is in the Transportation committee, but has not had a hearing. Democrat Derek Stanford and Republican Larry Haler are co-sponsors of the bill.
Similar legislation has been introduced in Oregon and Montana.
The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) has endorsed lane-splitting and has links where bill supporters in Washington, Montana, and Oregon can support the bill. Click here to learn more. According to the AMA, the Hurt Report is the most comprehensive study of the causes of motorcycle crashes so far, and it notes that 59.2% of the crashes it studied happened in moderate to heavy traffic. Motorcycles mixed with cars and trucks that are constantly stopping and starting, that are driving by irritable and easily distracted drivers, are at high risk of collision. Letting motorcyclists carefully use the space between lanes of traffic does a little bit to relieve the congestions and gets the motorcyclists out of the “line of fire.”
The National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS) recommends that we study lane splitting and says, “A motorcycle’s narrow width can allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on roadways where the lanes are wide enough to offer an adequate gap. This option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind.”
The AMA doesn’t give lane-splitting a blanket endorsement, largely because unwanted amendments might be added during the legislative process. And, it reminds all motorcyclists that lane-splitting is your choice—it’s not mandatory.
Last year, California, where lane-sharing was never actually illegal, passed legislation that made lane-sharing explicitly legal and allowed the California Highway Patrol to regulate it. The California Highway Patrol is currently consulting with motorcycling groups to determine what regulations are needed. The requirement to ride no more than ten miles an hour faster than the slowed traffic is in the guidelines they issued in 2013 and then withdrew. However, some reasonable speed limit should be expected once the consultation process is finished.
The AMA also warns that just passing a law is not enough. The general, non-motorcycling, public must be aware that lane-splitting is allowed. What if, as has happened in California, an irate motorist opens their car door right in your path? It would seem that, if lane-splitting is legalized in Washington State, some funds be allocated to educate the public about it.
Contact your state legislators and let them know what you think about lane-splitting, pro or con. And let’s talk about it on Eagle Leather’s Facebook page.