The letters and numbers "HF 5247" don't exactly roll off the tongue, but motorcycle riders in Minnesota have good reason to celebrate it anyway. 

Why, you might ask? This unassuming collection is the name of the budget bill that Governor Tim Walz officially signed on May 24, 2024. But riders in Minnesota will likely know it best for finally legalizing motorcycle lane filtering in the North Star State.

Tucked in amongst all the other language related to highway bonds, transportation policy, construction codes, and more, you'll find amendments to Section 61 of Minnesota Statutes 2022, section 169.974, subdivision 5. The whole of this section deals specifically with motorcycles.

Minnesota Legalizes Lane Filtering For Motorcycles - Screenshot Captured May 28, 2024

Minnesota Legalizes Lane Filtering For Motorcycles - Screenshot Captured May 28, 2024

The first segment of this part deals with what is and is not considered a motorcycle seat, as well as prohibitions upon carrying more passengers on a bike than a motorcycle was designed to hold. Also, passengers must be able to reach the footpegs, according to this amendment. 

The second segment of this part amends existing Minnesota statutes to allow lane filtering under certain circumstances. Yay, but what does it say?

Quoting directly, it reads: "A person may operate a motorcycle and overtake and pass another vehicle in the same direction of travel and within the same traffic lane if the motorcycle is operated at not more than 25 miles per hour and no more than 15 miles per hour over the speed of traffic in the relevant traffic lanes."

It also states in no uncertain terms that "motor vehicles including motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and no motor vehicle may be driven or operated in a manner so as to deprive a motorcycle of the full use of a traffic lane."

In other words, legally speaking, cars and trucks shouldn't suddenly come over into the lane a motorcycle is using while the motorcycle is occupying the same space. While most riders might have thought that was already illegal, it usually doesn't hurt to have additional reinforcement in writing. 

Is The Minnesota Legislature Anticipating Angry Drivers?

Minnesota Legalizes Lane Filtering - Screenshot Captured May 28, 2024

Minnesota Legalizes Lane Filtering - Screenshot Captured May 28, 2024

Elsewhere in the text of HF 5247, you'll find a gem that reads, "An operator of a motor vehicle must not intentionally impede or attempt to prevent the operation of a motorcycle when the motorcycle is operated under the conditions specified in section 169.974, subdivision 5, paragraph (g)." 

In other words, when that motorcycle is legally lane filtering as spelled out in this new Minnesota amendment, drivers cannot purposely block riders. Or worse.

I haven't ridden or driven enough in Minnesota to be comfortable offering my personal observations on how drivers and riders interact. But I've ridden in enough different places that I can tell you that there's a marked difference between how drivers and riders get along together depending on what the local norms are. 

In Chicago, which is both where I'm from and also where I'm most familiar with riding, there are absolutely drivers who will get super aggro if they feel that you're getting ahead of them unfairly.

These are absolutely the sorts of drivers I can easily picture coming over and closing gaps to disallow riders from legally filtering to the front, if lane filtering was to ever become legal in Illinois. (Please note that at the time of writing on May 28, 2024, it is very much not a legal thing in Illinois.)

By contrast, in California, where lane splitting is legal, it's a completely different story. Drivers there can and do purposely move out of the way to allow more room for riders to pass. 

On tight two-lane canyon roads, where there are turnouts that allow slower vehicles to pull over and let faster vehicles pass, cars and trucks will regularly pull over to let riders pass. I was even on a ride earlier this year where an entire semi pulled over on one of those roads to let myself and some other bikes pass. We just waved at each other as the bikes passed, and both we and the truck went on about our business.

At least, most of the time Californians move. Executive editor Jonathon Klein, who lived in Los Angeles for about a decade and commuted to work on a bike, recalls a number of interactions where car drivers felt aggrieved due to him being able to lane-split in heavy traffic and intentionally blocking his flow. One instance saw him pinched between two trucks and nearly squeezed between them.  

In Bangkok, Thailand, riders regularly filter to the front of the line at traffic lights. It's simply expected behavior, and drivers are used to it and behave accordingly. While it might seem like sensory overload at first, you quickly begin to realize that it's more like a tightly choreographed dance between riders and drivers. It's easier to recognize if you're riding rather than watching, but it's hard to unsee once you've seen it.

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Minnesota's Lane Filtering Doesn't Go Into Effect Right Away

Now, just so we're clear, this amended statute allowing lane filtering for motorcycles will not go into effect immediately. Both that amendment and the one about drivers not impeding motorcycles from passing don't go into effect until July 1, 2025. 

So riders will have to wait a little bit longer to legally lane filter, but it's officially on the way.

If you ride in Minnesota, are you excited and looking forward to it? Are you concerned about education and communication to make sure that other road users know what's going on ahead of time and can adequately prepare themselves? Let us know in the comments.

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