Starting this fall, Montana will permit motorcycle lane sharing

Here’s some good news that sneaked up on us. The state of Montana will allow limited forms of motorcycle lane sharing, after the state’s governor signed S.B. 9 into law on March 2.

The bill was sponsored by state senator Russ Tempel and state representative Barry Usher; you can read the whole text here. It takes effect on October 1. 

Unlike most legalspeak, the text of S.B. 9 is incredibly brief. It’s a one-page bill, with the following text:

Section 1. Lane filtering for motorcycles. (1) An operator of a two-wheeled motorcycle may
engage in lane filtering when:
(a) the operator of a two-wheeled motorcycle is on a road with lanes wide enough to pass safely;
(b) the overtaking motorcycle is not operated at a speed in excess of 20 miles an hour when overtaking the stopped or slow-moving vehicle; and
(c) conditions permit continued reasonable and prudent operation of the motorcycle while lane filtering.
(2) As used in this section, “lane filtering” means the act of overtaking and passing another vehicle that is stopped or traveling at a speed not in excess of 10 miles an hour in the same direction of travel and in the same lane.

Section 2. Codification instruction. [Section 1] is intended to be codified as an integral part of Title
61, chapter 8, part 3, and the provisions of Title 61, chapter 8, part 3, apply to [section 1].

If only all traffic legislation was so short, sweet, and simple!

Now, there are three US states with lane sharing legalized for motorcycles: Montana joins California (where riders have done it since time immemorial) and Utah (which legalized filtering in 2019, allowing motorcycles to ride between cars to the front at stops). Hawaii also has a really lame form of lane sharing legalized, restricting motorcycles to simply passing on the shoulder for right turns at stops.

Montana falls in between California’s laissez-faire attitude towards lane sharing, and Utah’s fairly strict regs. Montana allows riders to pass moving cars, but only if they’re traveling at very low speeds. It’s probably sufficient for Montana, a state that’s hardly known for mass traffic jams, but it would unlikely go far enough for the crowded LA County freeways.

So what about Canada? After talk of a lane sharing pilot program in the GTA a few years back, there’s been no real movement on the issue for years. In the US, there are three or four states examining the issue every year now, yet Canadian rider advocacy organizations don’t seem too anxious to touch the issue—unlike the American Motorcyclist Association, which holds this position.

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