Your run-down on what's up with lane splitting and filtering.
Lane splitting, lane sharing, lane filtering, shoulder surfing... there are as many laws as there are possible maneuvers and keeping track of everything can be a bit dizzying. Especially since the laws greatly vary from state to state. Worry not, we’re here to (try and) keep up on them and let you know where you can do what. We updated the map with the latest information about that so let's have a closer look.
Over the past few years, there have been loads of bills introduced to legalize lane splitting and filtering. Some have passed, some have died, and some are still undergoing committee consideration.
There are many states that do not have written laws explicitly forbidding lane-splitting but the maneuver is not quite specifically legal either. It is up to the discretion of every police officer you pass whether they are letting you get away with it or they are having a bad day. Here's a handy graphic for you.
Keep in mind that while these particular riding techniques may be legal where you’re riding, you’re never under any obligation to perform them. It’s just an available option should you decide to proceed.
- RED States: Lane splitting and filtering are specifically illegal.
- ORANGE States: A bill to legalize lane splitting or filtering is being considered but the practice remains specifically illegal.
- YELLOW States: Lane filtering or shoulder surfing are legal.
- GREEN State: Lane splitting is specifically legal.
- GREY States: Lane splitting is not specifically illegal, but neither is it legal. It is up to the discretion of local law enforcement.
All that said, let’s roll out exactly what’s going on where:
After a first attempt at changing the law on the matter of lane splitting with Senate Bill 1007, an effort that ultimately fell through, Arizona is back in the lane splitting game. In January 2020, House Bill 2285, was introduced by Representative Noel Campbell to restart the discussions about legalizing the maneuver. The motion is currently being considered.
This forward-thinking state has allowed motorcycles to lane-split for some time by dint of a vague "it’s not illegal" stance. In 2016, lane-splitting was made explicitly legal, making California the only state to allow it to such an extent. Yay, riding in California! Try it when you’re there; it works and it’s magical.
Lawmakers in the Nutmeg State are actively considering Senate Bill 629. If passed, would make both lane splitting and filtering explicitly legal. The bill has been introduced and referred to the Committee on Transportation but there’s been no movement since.
The Hawaiian islands made shoulder surfing legal for motorcyclists. Due to Hawaii’s narrow roads, lane splitting and filtering are often not an option, but motorcyclists are now permitted to ride the shoulder of the road when there is congestion.
On March 3, 2021, Montana governor Greg Gianforte officially signed SB9, titled “An act providing for motorcycle lane filtering,” into state law. Under law, riders of two-wheeled motorcycles in Montana may now lane filter on roads with lanes wide enough to pass safely, not to exceed speeds of 20 mph when overtaking slowed or stopped vehicles.
By Montana’s definition, lane filtering consists of the act of overtaking and passing other vehicles that are either stopped or traveling at 10 mph or under in the same direction of travel, and in the same lane of traffic.
This law goes into effect on October 1, 2021, so if you’re reading this between March and October, 2021, please be aware that it is not legal just yet.
SB574 is currently located in the Oregon state Senate’s Joint Committee on Transportation as of March 5, 2021. It is the fourth lane-splitting bill to attempt to make its way through Oregon’s state house. If passed as written, its provisions are almost exactly the same as those found in the 2019 House Bill 2314, on which time ran out.
The text of SB574 would allow lane sharing on roads with posted speed limits of 50 mph or higher, and with traffic that is either stopped or moving in the same direction at 10 mph or less. It would only allow two-wheeled motorcycles or scooters to lane share; trikes or sidecars would not be allowed. Additionally, two-wheeled motorcycle and scooter riders could only travel up to 10 mph faster than traffic, must not impede normal traffic flow, must safely merge with traffic if that traffic’s speed exceeds 10 mph, and must only pass traffic going in the same direction.
In March of 2019, Utah legalized filtering becoming the second state after California to formally rule on a motorcycle-specific maneuver. Lane filtering is not as permissive as lane splitting but can help motorcyclists avoid being tailgated.
In January 2020, Representative Tony Wilt submitted House Bill 1236 to amend the Code of Virginia and allow motorcyclists to lane split in the state. The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation.
The West Coast state introduced a bill to legalize lane splitting in 2015 that ultimately fell through. In January 2019, lawmakers reintroduced it as Senate Bill 5254 and it's currently in the hands of the Committee. It was reintroduced and retained in its current status on January 13, 2020. If you live in Washington, get on the phone.
Honorable Mention: Toronto
Honorable mention goes to the Canadian city of Toronto, where filtering throughout the city, as well as allowing motorcycles to “use reserved lanes” in some specific areas of the city, is all up for discussion with City Council Agenda Item MM43.53. This agenda item also includes a discussion about dedicated motorcycle parking zones, and of course how to enforce that, and the tax revenue that might be generated from the ticketing. Cheers, Toronto; keep up the investigation!