Washington Senators Talk Lane Splitting Bill

Your "Modified" Lane Splitting Questions Answered

Senators Conway and Sheldon Talk About Bill 5623

Senator Steve Conway represents Eagle Leather’s district and is one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 5623 on lane splitting. His staff gave us the background information needed to clarify some points about the amended bill that allows motorcycle riders to pass very slow or stopped traffic by using the left side of the leftmost lane. Our questions came from your comments on the Eagle Leather Facebook page.

If passed, the law would allow passing on the left side of cars in the leftmost lane.

  • Does this include the HOV/HOT lane? Yes, it does include HOV/HOT lanes.
  • Does this apply only to divided highways? Yes, it only applies to highways with at least two lanes in each direction and a division between directions of traffic.
  • Does this include interstate freeways? Yes, it includes interstate freeways. It includes all numbered highways in the state. It excludes most county roads because they have only one lane in each direction and no divider.

We were then able to speak with Senator Tim Sheldon, another sponsor of the bill. We asked him:

  • The left side often has a lot of debris. Are there any plans to keep that area clean and safe for motorcycles? That would be a possible part of the overall state spending bill and the responsibility of the highway department. Remember, too, he told us, that passing motorcycles will be going just 25 miles an hour, maximum, so avoiding debris should not be a major problem.
  • Is there any plan to remind automobile drivers that motorcycles can share that leftmost lane, maybe with stencils of cycles on the pavement? The senator thought stencils were a great idea, and show what good things people can come up with when we put our heads together.

We asked the senator whether he thought the bill would pass this year. He said that when he introduced the bill, he had only five senators in agreement, but after discussion and compromise, it passed with 34 votes. He’s had a meeting with Representative Judy Clibborn, Chair of the Transportation Committee in the House and is hopeful that the bill will get a hearing in that committee.

“I am and have been open to the concerns of my fellow legislators as well as the motorcycling community. We’ve gotten this far by being flexible and willing to compromise when that is possible.” He reminded us that the bill has a long way to go before it becomes a law and that the language may change along the route, so you have time to make an impact with your opinions pro and con and with your ideas.

Opposition to the law hinges on safety issues. Many people made comments on the Eagle Leather Facebook page to the effect that actual lane splitting, with riders going between two lanes of slowed or stopped cars would be safer than passing as the amended law would allow.

Others thought that lane splitting was not safe at all. What if a driver or passenger suddenly opens a door? What if a driver changes lanes without noticing an overtaking motorcycle?

We’ll take a hard look at safety issues in a coming newsletter. Meanwhile, let’s continue the discussion on the Eagle Leather Facebook page. Eagle Leather is neutral on this and all political issues; all points of view are welcome.

And remember, whether you are for or against lane-splitting, you can contact your legislator to make your opinion known.

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