Sheldon bill gives motorcyclists right to ‘split lanes’

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… A measure sponsored by state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, allowing motorcyclists to pass between cars in traffic jams got its first hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Senate Hearing Room 1.

Senate Bill 5623 makes it legal for Washington motorcyclists to pass between cars when traffic is slow or at a standstill – a right extended to motorcyclists by the state of California and many other countries. “The more our freeways look like those of Los Angeles, the more we need to think about such things,” Sheldon explained. “This is really a safety measure. When our highways become parking lots at rush hour, this will reduce the risk of rear-end accidents and keep at least some traffic moving.”

The measure would permit a practice known as “lane-splitting” or “stripe-riding,” allowing motorcyclists to pass a car in the same lane when traffic is stopped or is moving at 25 miles an hour or less. Washington law currently prohibits motorcyclists from passing vehicles in the same lane. Under the bill, motorcyclists that split the lane could travel no more than 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic. The bill also makes it an infraction for a motorist to intentionally impede a motorcycle that is attempting to pass.