Modified Lane Splitting Passes in Washington

Bill 5623 Passes with Amendment

Washington Riders Can Now Pass on the Left in the Further Left Lane

Bill 5623, which allows motorcyclists to pass very slow or stalled traffic, passed by the Washington State Senate on March 7. The original bill would have allowed lane splitting—motorcycles would have been allowed to go between two lanes of traffic going in the same direction or on the right-hand shoulder when the cars were going 25 miles an hour or less.

One of the bill’s sponsors, state Senator Tim Sheldon amended the bill to allow motorcyclists to pass on the left of the leftmost lane, but not to drive between lanes of cars. This change met the objection by other senators that seeing a motorcycle between lanes might startle drivers and thus lead to accidents. Once it was amended, the bill passed 35 to 24.

Motorcycles may only go ten miles an hour faster than the car traffic according to the bill. That isn’t much faster, but it allows riders to avoid being rear-ended and cuts chances of overheating while idling. The bill also states that drivers who try to stop riders from passing this way are guilty of a driving infraction.

The legislation is bi-partisan. Senator Sheldon, from Potlatch, is a Democrat. The leading sponsor of companion Bill 1515 in the House is Drew MacEwen, a Republican from Union.

During hearings, Larry Walker of the Washington Road Riders Association asserted that lane-splitting would save lives. “I do not want to get hit, but if I have to make the choice, I will take the 10 mph nick above the 60 mph rear-ender,” he said.

Although California is the only state where lane-splitting is permitted (there is no law forbidding it), it’s common in Europe and Asia.

California is the only state where lane-splitting is permitted. The law there doesn’t say it’s allowed but doesn’t say it’s prohibited, so riders do it. Brian Lange from ABATE of Washington cited studies done in those countries that showed that crashes while lane-splitting resulted in half the head injuries and fatalities of other crashes. In the European Union, he said, lane splitting was involved in less than a half-percent of collisions.

But Shelly Baldwin of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission pointed out that in the last four years, motorcycles have been rear-ended only 21 times. More often, she testified, motorcycles rear-end cars.

The bill must still pass the House, where it is in committee, and then be signed into law. If you have an opinion on this law, contact your Representative. It’s easy. Just click here. The Representatives are listed alphabetically. Just click on “email” and you’ll see a form you can use. You can use CTRL-F and enter the district number in the little box that pops up in the top right if you know what district you live in. And if you don’t know that, go to the map here, enter your address and you’ll get the legislative district number.

We’d like to hear from you, too, on Eagle Leather’s Facebook page.


  • Nope

    Yeah it’s a misleading title, the bill never passed and has been dead since March 1st 2016… personally splitting at a red light in dead stopped traffic isn’t an issue, or using a section of shoulder to get to an exit, but splitting on the highways is reckless I see people in 25 to 30 mph traffic going at least 45 flying between trucks and cars all while people are changing lanes and barely being missed. Our roads aren’t built for it and neither are most drivers here.

  • kevin

    Ever see how fast a mom can pull over onto shoulder when a child is choking in car seat in back. Shoulders are ment to keep clear, emergency only and for short term.

  • Joe Appleton

    I lived and rode motorcycles in California for over 20 years and it should be allowed especially in stop and go traffic do to the dangers of being rear ended and having to breath exhaust fumes.

  • Christopher Provonsha

    I live in the UK 6 months of the year and Washington the rest. I have bikes in both. Lane splitting is completely legal in the UK and is encouraged. It’s much safer in slow or stopped traffic and allows you to get to the front at traffic lights. This needs to be legal in Washington!

  • Jim Ross

    Lane splitting up s absolutely a stupid idea, as a Commercial Driver I have on more than one occasion almost hit a motorcycle doing this. Personally you want to commit suicide no problem, just be completely honest with everyone involved.
    Riding a motorcycle is a privilege not a right. If you are worried about overheating don’t ride on hot days.

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