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Splitting hairs *updated

March 13, 2015

In our episode-before-last, you’ll recall the Washington State Legislature was considering an eminently sensible bill that would allow lane-splitting in a safe, reasonable manner on pretty much any road in the state.

Well, you’ve heard the old adage about how lovers of sausage and the law should never watch either being made, haven’t you?

Here’s the original bill (Senate Bill 5623; House Bill 1515 was identical). Pretty simple, no? Change a few sentences in an existing law to allow reasonable, prudent actions at reasonable speeds.

Well, somehow or other SB 5623 morphed into this.

Lane-splitting ONLY on NUMBERED STATE HIGHWAYS? Only in the FAR LEFT LANE? Oh, and in the new bill, operating a motorcycle between lanes or between lines or rows of vehicles is… ILLEGAL. Wasn’t the idea to, um, LEGALIZE that?

How did this happen?

I’ll tell you how: of the Washington legislature’s 147 members, maybe two or three ride motorcycles. I’m told the Senate Transportation Committee hearing about the bill mostly looked like a casting call for some biker-gang reality TV show. But mostly the Washington State Patrol (which I’ve long ago concluded firmly believes the only people who should be riding motorcycles are its own officers) said LANE-SPLITTING IS DANGEROUS!!!

They obviously didn’t bother reading the year-long study conducted by the state of California (you know, where they’ve been doing it FOREVER) that found lane-splitting no more dangerous than motorcycling generally.

Guess what? SB 5623 passed in the Senate. If it passes in the House it would become law if signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. Who has shown no indication that he even THINKS about motorcycles.

The fact remains, in the United States and Canada, motorcycling exists at the margins of society. Those who ride are rebels, outlaws, or at the very least, nonconformists. The bike is an accessory for a lifestyle that, sorry folks, most people find, at the least, off-putting. That the societal majority refer to groups of motorcyclists or scooterists as “gangs” is not a good thing, folks.

The squid videos on YouTube aren’t doing anyone any favors, either.

Bicyclists provide an excellent model for political action—they’re organized, they have specific goals, and most importantly speak to the people with the power to change the law in a language those people understand. Notice all the bicycle lanes, bicycle parking, etc?

In the meantime, do what I’ve always done. Make sure there’s no cop nearby, and if it can be done safely, go for it. Favicon

  1. March 13, 2015 8:37 pm

    I think it’s a volume issue.

    In most places in Canada and the US motorbikes are only usable in three seasons. That means fewer riders than in most places in Europe where year-round riding is an option.

    We also have much less congestion in our urban centres. That also means fewer people inclined to riding rather than driving.

    Fewer riders means less political clout.

    Less political clout means no lane-splitting or filtering amendments.

  2. March 14, 2015 8:23 am

    Leave it to legislature to muck up something so simple.

    Numbered state highways? Really?

    Explain to me how does someone lane split on a rural, county two lane road? The purpose of lane splitting would be to split lanes (of stopped traffic) on a four lane highway, hence the name “highway” or “numbered state highway”.

    And far left lane only? So does that mean next to the yellow line, a concrete barrier or opposing traffic? Brilliant!

    And cars lane split all the time, whenever I make a left turn and a car pulls up beside me on the right… that’s lane splitting. Whenever I make a right turn and a car pulls up beside me on the left… that’s lane splitting. How come they’re not ticketed? What’s the difference? They’re sharing my lane!

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