Confirmed victory

Pass SB 5623 and HB 1515 for safer motorcycling and reduced traffic congestion.

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Watch the video interview with Primary Sponsor Senator Timothy Sheldon.



I/We the undersigned, have read and thoroughly considered the pending bill as drafted and sponsored by Senator Tim Sheldon:


AN ACT Relating to modifying the operation of motorcycles on roadways laned for traffic; amending RCW 46.61.608; and prescribing penalties.


Sec. 1.  RCW 46.61.608 and 2013 c 139 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:

(1) All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a lane and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such a manner as to deprive any motorcycle of the full use of a lane. This subsection shall not apply to motorcycles operated two abreast in a single lane.

(2) The operator of a motorcycle ((shall not))may overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken. ((However, this subsection shall not apply when the operator of a motorcycle overtakes and passes a pedestrian or bicyclist while maintaining a safe passing distance of at least three feet.))

(3) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles unless the operator of a motorcycle is traveling at a rate of speed no more than ten miles per hour over the speed of traffic flow and not more than thirty-five miles per hour. Any operator of a motor vehicle that intentionally impedes or attempts to prevent any operator of a motorcycle from operating his or her motorcycle as permitted under this subsection is guilty of a traffic infraction.

(4) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.

(5) Subsection((s (2) and)) (3) of this section shall not apply to police officers in the performance of their official duties.

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On review of the measure, as avid motorcyclists we support this measure for several reasons: First, it is a well-drafted bill that promotes responsible lane-sharing for increased traffic flow.  Second, reduced travel time for motorcyclists is obviously a benefit, but third, we also believe that lane sharing is also safer for motorcyclists and we will also see less traffic congestion in general.  Lastly, there is also a general benefit to be enjoyed by all of us because as we encourage more efficient modes of transportation we reduce our overall carbon footprint.

Some have questioned the safety aspect and at the February 3 hearing footage was shown of people engaging in conduct not authorized by the proposed law. We encourage a thorough review of the facts, which include the fact that rear-ender motorcycle accidents account for as much as 40% of motorcycle accidents involving multiple vehicles. Lane-sharing would reduce that figure toward zero. All of the information I can find, I am hosting on my journal page:

Several recent reports contain useful information. To wit:


“But every filtering rider has a positive effect on traffic flow that benefits every other motorist. A 2012 Belgian study found that if just 10 percent of drivers were to switch to motorcycles and filter through traffic, travel times would decrease for the remaining car drivers by some eight minutes per journey. This benefit would not exist if motorcyclists ignored the inherent advantages of their smaller, narrower vehicles and sat in line like cars.

The same study found considerable environmental benefits to lane splitting. Not because bikes emit less carbon (many larger bikes are as bad as cars), but because every bike that lane splits actively reduces the amount of time every other vehicle on the road spends sitting in traffic jams.”


As far as safety is concerned, a rider on Pacific Northwest Riders Group wrote “SB 5623 will give us a choice to move between vehicles to safe guard our own lives legally. California has been doing this for years. There, it’s not just for safety, but to reduce traffic as well. One motorcycle between lanes is one less car effecting traffic. Does Seattle have a traffic problem? I think we all can testify to that.

We all have a responsibility to safety. We all take risks every second on the road. Can’t we make it a bit safer for the people of this state who enjoy riding motorcycles? We’re not asking for much. We’re only asking for a legal choice to be safer. A choice that could save a life. Isn’t that worth it?”


In a recent Berkeley study undertaken with the California Highway Patrol’s assistance, 7,836 motorcycle crashes were examined closely, with some 1,163 of these crashes having occurred while the rider was lane splitting.

Riders who were splitting at the time of their accident were significantly less likely to be injured in every category than those who weren’t: 45 percent fewer head injuries, 21 percent fewer neck injuries, 32 percent fewer torso injuries, 12 percent fewer arm/leg injuries, and 55 percent fewer fatalities.

This is quite possibly because the majority of those splitting accidents happened at speeds between 1 and 30 mph (50 km/h). The data also shows that the safest way to lane split is to travel at less than 30 mph, and less than 10 mph above the speed of the surrounding traffic. 

The bill dovetails with these facts and is a responsible measure that should be supported in bipartisan fashion by all subcommittees and the entire House and Senate.

Respectfully submitted,

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