Legislative Action Alert 20 February 2015

SB 5623 , the Lane Sharing bill is rapidly approaching being on life support with death imminent.  Currently there is not enough support to move the bill out of committee, and there is absolutely zero declared Democratic support.  Senator Sheldon has requested that the riders of Washington contact their senators and ask that they support moving the bill out of committee (if your senator is on the Transportation Committee) or, if they are not on the committee, ask that they speak to their colleagues on transportation in favor of moving the bill.  If the bill does not clear the committee by this coming Friday is will be effectively dead.

Most people are already aware of the positives for lane sharing; clearing congestion, protection of the rider by removing the exposure to rear end collision, saving heat related wear and tear on both rider and motorcycle, etc.  I have put together some bullet points to address some of the push back that I have heard, both during committee and in my numerous conversations throughout the campus.  We need to make senators comfortable with the actual facts so that they do not make decisions based on assumptions and scare tactics.

Lane Sharing Rebuttal Points

  • Accidents will not increase.
    • By moving between lanes the need to scan the rear 180 degrees of area is eliminated, and the need to side scan is lessened, allowing the rider to concentrate forwards, locating potential conflicts well in advance.
    • Maximum speed differential between bikes and autos will be 10 MPH (15 FPS) allowing a 2-3 car length minimum distance for rider reaction.
  • Injuries will not increase.
    • With the 10 MPH (15 FPS) speed differential any collisions that might occur will be more as a bump or brush than the catastrophic collisions that could occur at greater differential speeds incident with a rear end collision.
  • Vehicles will not change lanes into motorcycles.
    • With the 2-3 (minimum) car length advance scan available riders will see the potential lane change situation developing well enough in advance to mitigate the hazard. Any spot opening up in a lane that will allow a vehicle to change lanes will be spotted by the rider as it opens up so that they can respond appropriately.
  • As an overtaking vehicle, a motorcycle will still bear the responsibility incumbent with being an overtaking vehicle.
  • Enforcement will not be any more difficult than with the current statute.
    • Enforcement could even be easier, as an officer could make the discretionary call that lane sharing/splitting is being done in a safe and sane manner, therefore no enforcement pursuit is necessary.
    • High speed lane splitting (illegal under current and proposed statutes) will continue to be problematic for pursuit and apprehension.

I will be working the halls next week, and it would be great to hear from senators that they are hearing lots of positive feedback on the issue.  It’s time to “call out the dogs” as Karen Bolin used to say and rock the phone lines.

If you aren’t sure who your senator is (for shame) look here.


Until next time, ride safely and legislate well.


“Texas” Larry Walker

Washington Road Riders Association Government Relations


8 comments to Legislative Action Alert 20 February 2015

  • Doug Barritt

    I commented to the Legislature on SB-5623 and HB-1515 back on Feb 7th: I’m very much AGAINST it. The bill has not one iota of appeal to me, and I totally disagree with your contention that there won’t be more motorcycle-related accidents, leading to strong adverse public reaction. How can this be a “positive” for motorcyclists?

    Here is the actual COMMENT I submitted to the Legislature:

    “As a long-term motorcyclist, my first concern is rider safety. Car drivers here are notorious for distracted driving, lane-changes without signaling, failing to use their mirrors, and tailgating. If we throw lane-splitting into the mix, there are going to be more accidents involving motorcycles, even if the rider isn’t at fault. From the car driver’s perspective, they will be surprised by the sudden appearance of lane splitters on either side of the car, and the first time a lane-splitting related accident occurs and ties up the freeway for several hours, the public reaction will be strong and negative, deserved or not. Motorcyclists have enough of an image problem already. We already have a good federal law which allows riders to use the HOV lanes. That law actually INCREASES safety for the motorcyclist by separating motorcycles from cars, while providing the rider the convenience of faster travel.”

    Doug Barritt, Maple Valley
    Member, WA State BMW Riders (30 years/500K miles)

    PS: I have spoken highly of the WRRA to the WSBMWR club, but have also mentioned that Meg and I don’t always agree with the WRRA position. This is one of those times.

  • Chris Baldini

    HI Doug,

    I am also a long-term motorcyclist, and I completely agree with your comment about distracted drivers in Washington, which is why I whole heartedly support this bill. I see accidents on my daily commute almost everyday. I would guess that two thirds of them are rear end collisions. Most of the accidents between cars appear to be simple fender benders, but if you were to throw a motorcycle into the mix could very easily become fatalities. I would much rather allow lane splitting and give us motorcyclists some level of control, versus making us sit in stop and go traffic waiting to be rear ended by someone texting and driving.

    Chris Baldini

  • Ron Fryer

    If you watch the testimony in favor of lane splitting, you will see that there is much testimony about rear end collisions; however, in the testimony against allowing lane splitting the numbers come out that in a four year study there have only been 21 fatal rear end collisions, which amount to about 5 a year. Also in the testimony, there was one gentleman who testified that he “narrowly escaped” a rear end collision by watching his rear view mirrors and scooting out of the way (in between cars) at the last minute. This is not lane splitting; it is accident avoidance. This maneuver is taught in the beginning rider class in Washington State, and could easily prevent rear end collisions. The rear end collision is not a valid reason for allowing lane splitting. It would make much more sense to require new riders to take the safety class, like they do in Florida. One other thing to consider: for many years ABATE and other MRO’s have advocated EQUAL rights of the road. I concur. However, lane splitting allows one group of motorists to pass and get ahead of all other motorists. This is not equal, nor is it fair to the other motorists. Motorcyclists should not get special privileges that other motorists cannot receive. Let’s get back to EQUAL treatment.

  • Cory Harris

    It’s very strange that we all note the distracted driver problem in WA state, but can’t agree that any advantage given to the least protected motorists (in terms of tonnage) is a good thing. As motorcycle riders, we can see distracted drivers probably more clearly than most other vehicle operators because we physically cannot be distracted in the same manner because our hands are not able to access any of the various devices that are so tempting to 4 wheeled motorists. As motorcycle riders, we typically operate with a very high level of awareness compared to those in enclosed vehicles. This heightened awareness and much improved perspective gives us distinct advantages in close quarters traffic. We can safely navigate narrower passages like traffic jams at low speed to maintain a more favorable set of conditions around us. We can move past distracted motorists rather than being caught between them stopped in traffic. I personally work to actively control my position in traffic and to move myself to a better “space” when I encounter distracted drivers or those whose exhibit poor vehicle control or erratic behavior. Supporting legal lane sharing is just an extension of this same desire for more control over my safety and the environment in which I operate my motorcycle. This increased control that lane sharing offers comes at zero cost to those around the motorcycle rider.

    It’s just incredible to me that all riders do not support this legislature. The facts show that awareness of the law and safety increase every year in California and the others countries where filtering is legal. The smart riders know that having the legal option to lane split when safe to do so is very valuable whether one actually intends to do so or not. The public awareness campaigns that accompany legal lane sharing helps to raise motorcycle awareness for all riders – whether lane sharing or not. With the advantage of legal lane sharing, there comes the increase in motorcycle riders that also heightens awareness simply by the fact that motorcycles will be a larger percentage of the vehicles on the road. As motorcycle riders, I’d expect all of us to be encouraging others to give motorcycles a try and the potential of reduced commute times might be just the thing to make motorcycles more attractive to the public at large. The more people that ride, the safer we all are.

    I strongly support the legalization of lane sharing. There are only benefits for those that wish to lane share. Those riders who would be fear mongers can continue to ride as has always been legal. Change probably isn’t a good thing for some riders, but for the thinking rider, this is an opportunity. To say lane sharing isn’t safe just serves to maintain the status quo out there on the road – distracted and aggressive drivers will continue to set the tone for commuters and there is no legal means to escape them.

    For the fear mongers, here is the study that you should have looked at – http://www.ots.ca.gov/pdf/Publications/2014MCLaneSplittingSurvey.pdf

  • Doug with all respect you are missing the point. Taking motorcycles out of the blind spot and putting them in clear view of the side mirror is SAFER not more dangerous. You don’t HAVE to lane split, but is an option hat riders should have. 40% of all motor vehicle accidents are rear-end accidents and drivers pull into a rider’s lane often because they cannot see them due to the blind spot. CHP release a study – in lane-splitting accidents there were 55% FEWER fatalities than non-lane splitting accidents. All other injuries were also between 15-45% lower in lane splitting accidents.

    This is how everyone else in the civilized world rides. I would think as a self-proclaimed high miler you would know this and appreciate how it can work for our safety.

  • Well you know the Senator broke down the fear mongering quite well this week. I wish I had known more about this earlier in the process.


    When I sent the Excel spreadsheets from the Petition to the Committee members there were about 950 signatures but equally compelling were the 325 comments……


    We must keep on pressing. If we can get it out of Committee it will open things up tremendously. I spoke with a WSJ reporter from CA the other day who is working a story but couldn’t get an answer as to timeline.


  • Brian Gallucci

    This bill will expedite congestion, keep bikes moving away from distracted drivers, keep bikes in view of mirrors and keep our bodies safe from over exposure to the elements (sun, rain, exhaust) while sitting in gridlock traffic on the interstate. Motorcyclists are already responsible for NEEDING to drive defensively in a world where people think they’re safe when they strap into their cars/trucks/etc. Less restrictions, more freedoms.

  • Doug Barritt

    Thanks to Cory for providing a link to the “Motorcycle Lane-Share Study among CA Motorcyclists and Drivers, 2014”. It’s an excellent study with well-phrased questions, and a good sample size: 709 motorcyclists, and 951 vehicle drivers. “Data is good”, and fits well with my engineering background and aviation-oriented safety-conscious nature.

    The data in the referenced Lane-Sharing study confirmed my suspicions that a significant number of lane-splitting accidents are occurring, even in an area where the practice has gone on for years, and where the weather is nearly always perfect (unlike here). It also revealed that a significant majority of the CA vehicle-driving public does not particularly approve of the practice, even though most drivers recognize that it is “legal”.

    Here are a few items that caught my attention from the CA Lane-Sharing report:

    In the last 12 months:
    1. 6.5% of lane-splitting motorcyclists had an accident with a vehicle (vehicle hit them, or they hit the vehicle). That’s 46 accidents out of 709 riders. (Table M16)
    2. 20.5% of lane-splitting motorcyclists (LSM) “nearly hit a vehicle”. (M17)
    3. 54% of LSMs have experienced drivers trying to prevent lane splitting. (M35)
    4. 3.3% of vehicle drivers have hit, or been hit by LSMs. (Table V10)
    5. 26.7% of vehicle drivers have “nearly been hit” by LSMs. (V11)
    6. 8.1% of vehicle drivers have witnessed a collision involving a LSM. (V19)
    7. 60.8% of vehicle drivers “somewhat/strongly disapprove” lane splitting (V21)

    Frankly, these numbers are all a lot higher than I expected.

    The message I got from the study is that even with years of experience with lane-splitting in CA, including a public education campaign, there is still quite a bit of “contact” going on, and that vehicle drivers are generally negative toward the practice. Admittedly the type of accidents experienced are mostly minor (though there were a fair number of “knock downs”), but what car owner wants his mirror ripped off, or the side of his car scratched up? Let’s not forget that repairing cars, motorcycles, and injured bodies costs money; do we have any idea what effect a lane-sharing law might have on our motorcycle insurance rates?

    Anyway gentlemen, I respect your various opinions on the subject at hand, and I’ve enjoyed the discussion, airing out the pros and cons of it all, and looking at plenty of data from a well-run study. The study didn’t convince me I should become a lane-splitter, but to each his own. Increasing the number of motorcycle accidents and pissing off the public seem counter-productive to me. But I don’t get to vote; it’s up to the Legislature now.