[Update, March 22, 2023: SB 422 is moving quickly through the Oregon state legislature. After a public hearing and a work session earlier in March, on March 17, the Judiciary committee officially recommended that this bill be passed with a single amendment.
What’s the amendment? If a motorcycle or moped were to unlawfully pass in a lane with a vehicle (in other words, not in accordance with the text of this bill), that it be penalized as a Class A traffic violation. The original text of SB 422, as noted in our original piece below, would penalize it as a Class B traffic violation. According to Oregon state law, a Class A violation could result in a maximum fine of $2,000, and a minimum fine of $225. The Class B violation had a maximum fine of $1,000, and a minimum fine of $135.
On March 21, 2023, after the third reading of SB 422 A in the Oregon state senate, it passed with that new amendment intact (hence the addition of the A at the end of the bill number). The aye votes were 27, the nays were two, and one state senator was excused at the time of the vote.
As of March 22, 2023, SB 422 A now sits in the Oregon state house of representatives, where it awaits its first reading.]
Original piece follows.
On March 2, 2023, the 82nd Oregon Legislative Assembly, in the 2023 Regular Session, held a public hearing regarding the state’s latest lane filtering legislation. If passed as enacted, Oregon’s Senate Bill 422 would allow motorcyclists within the state to legally participate in lane filtering activities under very specific circumstances.
If this concept sounds familiar, that’s probably because in 2021, the Oregon Legislative Assembly passed very similar legislation. At that time, Senate Bill 574 enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the state Senate and the House, and passed through both houses to land on the governor’s desk as the last step before officially becoming state law. Ultimately, Oregon’s governor at the time, Kate Brown, vetoed that bill in May, 2021.
If passed as currently written as of March 13, 2023, SB 422 would allow motorcyclists to operate a moped or motorcycle between lanes of traffic only if the following conditions are met, which we will quote directly from the bill:
- Traffic is stopped or has slowed to a speed of 10 miles per hour or less; and
- The motorcycle operator:
- Operates a motorcycle with two wheels between lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction
- Travels at a speed of no more than 10 miles per hour greater than the speed of traffic
- Operates the motorcycle in a prudent manner that does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic
- Overtakes a vehicle that is proceeding in the same direction
- Merges with the regular traffic flow when traffic begins traveling at a speed of more than 10 miles per hour; and
- Is operating the motorcycle on a highway for which the speed limit established in ORS 811.111 or the designated speed posted under ORS 810.180 is 50 miles per hour or higher
Please note, SB 422 does not use the terms “lane filtering” or “lane splitting,” although the practice it describes in detail is clearly the accepted definition of “lane filtering,” as it takes place only at extremely low speed, or even between completely stopped vehicles. It also does not use the phrase “lane sharing,” although that phrase did come up in the public hearing that was held on this matter on March 2, 2023.
There are also some clear exceptions to the allowance of lane filtering on Oregon roads, which are spelled out in this legislation (for instance, in school zones where children are present, or when there are flashing lights). Furthermore, the legislation states that violation of these rules would constitute a class B traffic violation in the state. As of March 13, 2023, Oregon state law says that class B violations can result in a maximum fine of $1,000.
What’s changed between 2021 and 2023? Oregon state senator Michael Dembrow remains the chief architect of 2023’s SB 422, as he was with 2021’s SB 574. Although some of the cosponsors have changed, support for SB 422 remains broadly bipartisan. In fact, much of the text between the two bills remains the same, as well.
One big change since 2021 is that on November 8, 2022, Oregon elected a new state governor—Tina Kotek. It’s not clear what her position on such a bill may be, but attempting to pass broadly popular legislation that almost became law under a new governor seems like a logical next step.
Another change between 2021 and 2023 is that the state of Oregon both broadcasts and makes video recordings of its Legislative Assembly proceedings available on its website. The SB 422 public hearing starts at around the three minute and 15 second mark of the link we’re including in our Sources, and goes for a very orderly 20 minutes or so, including several impassioned testimonies both for and against the bill.
One rider (who is also a proud Army veteran), an AMA representative, and a legal representative were among the persons who spoke in favor of the bill. A trucking representative and a law enforcement representative spoke against it. SB 422 is currently in the Oregon state Senate Committee on Judiciary, where it was referred on January 14, 2023. The next action scheduled is a Work Session on March 15, 2023.