Motorcyclists living in the fine State of Oregon (this author included) have something to celebrate today, as the Oregon State Senate passed SB 694 (18 to 10, with two abstentions): proposal that would make lane-filtering or lane-sharing legal under certain conditions.
The bill now goes before the Oregon House of Representatives, where it will be first heard on April 27th. If voted on successfully in the House, Oregon will become only the second state to permit lane-filtering of some kind on public roads.
While today’s news is a boon for motorcyclists in Oregon, there are some serious caveats to the bill that has passed through the Senate, namely that it only permits lane-sharing during specific instances.
Under the language approved by the Senate, a motorcyclist can only filter through traffic if their motorcycle or moped has two wheels, the posted speed limit is 50 mph or faster, the traffic is going 10 mph or slower, and the motorcyclist travels “safely and prudently” only 20 mph or less.
This means motorcyclist would not be allow to filter through traffic on city streets, nor would they be able to filter forward when traffic is stopped at a red light, for instance.
Judging from the resistance to the very notion of lane-filtering in Oregon by the state’s Department of Transportation, having lane-sharing be legal only on the traffic-jammed highways helps limit the times and instances when motorcyclist can engage in the practice, thus reducing the laws impact.
It should be noted however that the bill can still be amended while it’s in the House of Representatives, though any changes would then have to go back to the State Senate for approval.
It should also be noted that this bill is the more restrictive of two bills originally drafted for this legislative session, both of which were more restrictive than the guidelines put forward by the California Highway Patrol (California being the only state in the USA that permits motorcycles to lane-filter).
It is interesting that Oregon’s involved executive bodies have rejected the precedent shown in California, a state with an extensive background in lane-filtering.
That rejection is noteworthy because the California Highway Patrol has shown in a study done in conjunction with the University of California, Berkeley that when done safely, lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general.
Lane-splitting also adds the benefit of decongesting traffic on roadways, protecting riders from rear-end collisions, and saving costs on wasted fuel by idling vehicles.
Ideally, Oregon would adopt a law that is similar to the CHP’s guidelines, which would bring the benefits of lane-filtering, for both motorcyclists and automobile drivers, to fruition on both city roads and highways, and thus maximize the benefit for all the State’s citizens.
It would also be helpful if an organization, like the American Motorcyclist Association, would draft a sample law for legislatures to use and build upon, which would aid politicians in not only drafting legislature, but also ensuring a common set of riding laws exists throughout all the United States.
In the meantime, we highly encourage all Oregonian riders to contact their State Legislature, and urge them to support lane-filtering in The Beaver State.
Source: Oregon State Legislature