Colorado Gets Lane Sharing … For Three Years

Colorado is the latest US state to legalize lanesplitting. Sort of. It’ll be called lanesplitting by many, but technically, most motorcycle pedants would call this “lane filtering.” And, unfortunately, the law is only currently on the books for three years.

When people think of lanesplitting, they think of motorcyclists riding between moving cars, often at unsafe speeds. That may be an unfair assumption, but it’s a stereotype that legislators are keen to avoid; often, any talk of motorcycle lane sharing begins and ends with fears over high-speed sideswipes.

In Colorado, riders aren’t going to be allowed to share a lane with on-the-go traffic. Instead, they will only be allowed to lane filter between stopped vehicles, and there are several guidelines they must follow.

Under the law, motorcyclists are only allowed to filter between two lanes of traffic that are headed in the same direction—no riding down the centreline to get around stopped cars, no riding on the shoulder. Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of Hawaii’s watered-down lane sharing bill, which only allows riding on the shoulder to get around cars. The maximum speed allowed while lane filtering is 15 mph (24 km/h) and if traffic starts moving again, the motorcyclist must get back in line with everyone else.

Obviously, there’s a potential problem there—what if selfish drivers won’t let the motorcyclist rejoin the flow of traffic? Colorado’s law also creates another potential problem by saying bikes can only filter if the lanes are wide enough to filter safely, but it does not say how wide that is.

So, there may be some wrinkles to iron out. Colorado’s lawmakers also wrote the new legislation so that it expires in September of 2027; this means there’s time to improve the law, if there are obvious changes to make it better. But it also means that in three years’ time, lawmakers could once again return lane sharing to the legal wastelands.

That seems unlikely; the US is more and more keen to legalize lane sharing, with constant appeals from lawmakers from west to east. In the past few years, Utah, Montana, Hawaii and Arizona have all passed some form of lane-sharing bill (Hawaii’s take on it is very, very weak). Other states have come close (Oregon’s governor shot the idea down when the bill reached her desk in 2021).

Here in Canada? Our queue-up-as-friendly-Canadians-should attitude seems to still keep politicians back from the idea, for now.

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