Bill would let motorcyclists drive between cars

Senate's 18-10 vote on Thursday sends the measure to the House

A new bill would allow motorcyclists in Oregon to pass by cars during periods of heavy congestion on specific highways. April 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
A new bill would allow motorcyclists in Oregon to pass by cars during periods of heavy congestion on specific highways. April 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Oregon could soon pass a law that would allow motorcyclists to travel between cars in certain situations.

Motorcyclists told KOIN 6 News the practice, often referred to as lane splitting, would make roads safer for everyone.

“It’s having that car come behind me, and I don’t have the ability to get out of the way,” motorcyclist Elise Arnett said. “That, to me, is terrifying.”

The Oregon Senate has backed a bill allowing motorcycles to pass between cars or trucks during highway traffic jams. The Senate’s 18-10 vote on Thursday sends the measure to the House.

Attorney Chris Slater said he’s been working for years to help make lane splitting legal.

“The practice is actually more efficient and safer, when done properly,” Slater said.

According to motorcyclists, being able to move between cars during traffic jams will not only reduce congestion, it will help keep them out of harms way without having to break the law.

“I can look in my side view mirror and see that a car is coming up at speed, I can maneuver right out of the way and avoid it entirely,” Arnett said.

The proposed lane splitting law, Senate Bill 694, calls for a limited application: Motorcyclists would have to be on highways with speed limits of 50 mph or higher to gain the right to pass between vehicles if traffic moves at no more than 10 mph. On top of that, they would have to drive no faster than 20 mph during the lane splitting.

“At first, to most people when they hear about lane splitting motorcyclists it’s like, that’s irrational, it’s dangerous,” Brian Edwards said. “So there’s a public misperception.”

A misperception, advocates told KOIN 6 News, would change once drivers see the positive effects of lane splitting.

“We need to start thinking about how we are going to make commuting more efficient for everyone,” Slater said.

But many disagree, saying motorcyclists should have to follow the same rules as all drivers. Critics worry it will increase the risk of collisions.

The measure is the second highway bill approved this week. The House voted Tuesday to designate the far left lane of as a passing lane on high-speed roads.

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