Utah has joined California as the second state to legalize lanesplitting for motorcyclists. The state just passed HB 149, which allows riders to filter through stopped traffic in places where the posted speed limit is 45 mph or less. It means you won't see bikes cruising through gridlock on the interstate, but it should do plenty to alleviate the nightmare of riding in dense urban areas. This is a huge win for riders in the United States, who, unlike our brethren in the rest of the world, generally aren't allowed to legally filter past stopped cars and trucks. You probably have some questions. Let us help.
Isn't lanesplitting dangerous?
No. California codified lanesplitting on January 1, 2017, giving both riders and drivers a framework to understand how the process works, when it's safest, and when it's legal. That year saw a 30-percent drop in motorcyclist fatalities. Why? Few places are more dangerous for a rider than between two vehicles in stop-and-go traffic. It only takes one second of inattention to rear end someone, and on a bike, that could mean death. And, when drivers know to look for riders in their mirrors, they're more likely to yield an extra inch or two of room, allowing everyone to get where they're going safely.
That doesn't seem fair.
Motorcycles have long been relegated to toy status in the United States, but elsewhere in the world they serve as a legitimate transportation option, reducing congestion and commute times for everyone by removing cars, and thus traffic, from the road. That rider passing you now might be one less car ahead of you in the future.
You seem biased.
I sure am. As a rider and a driver, I was long against lanesplitting until I visited a friend in the traffic hell that is Los Angeles. Riding with him opened my eyes. It turned a two-hour drive into a 30 minute ride, and I felt much safer on the move than waiting to be run down by someone staring at their phone. The statistics indicate I wasn't wrong. Drivers in LA know to expect bikes, and the kind ones move over and give a wave.
But won't riders go flying past stopped cars at dangerous speed?
No. The Utah law specifically prohibits filtering at speeds faster than 15 mph, and law enforcement has a provision that allows them to cite anyone for unsafe riding, lanesplitting included.
What happens next?
That depends on Utah. The law automatically expires on July 1, 2022. If things go well, the state could expand filtering to highways. If it doesn't, lawmakers may simply allow the law to die, and lanesplitting will be illegal again.
Are any other states considering similar legislation?
Oregon lawmakers are currently reviewing House Bill 2314, though the legislation is the inverse of Utah's new law. It would only allow filtering on highways.
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