Modified Lane Splitting Passes in Washington

2 comments by Eagle Leather
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.


2 comments


  • 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.


  • Mike Marlow

    Wondering about the motorcycle bill.. my guess is it’s old now but lane splitting etc.. in high traffic it could be good to allow when it’s a higher than usual or just high heat or maybe adverse weather maybe it’s raining or rain eminent.. cars with cabs have either air conditioning or the option for cold beverages or food etc to maintain in higher temperatures plus they aren’t geared up with helmets and heavy jackets or sometimes pants/chaps so heat sucks more for a biker when stalled in traffic if we could ride past it even if on the shoulder it would save the potential for a heat stroke or exhaustion.. rain or other adverse weather is similar as we don’t have the protection of a vehicle’s cab to keep us dry or protected and as such our clothes could get saturated and make it more difficult or dangerous to ride so even for the short period we could avoid the traffic it would be helpful.. sorry using my phone and ranting my idea so probably several grammatical or spelling errors actually probably more like one long run-on sentence haha but still my point is there and probably has been addressed by someone already but if not maybe it will help.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.