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Why Support Lane Sharing?

Conversations

Talking with folks about lane sharing? Here are our favorite conversations and talking points … take a look, they may be helpful!

Safety

"I always remind riders that lane sharing is OPTIONAL. If you don't want to, you don't have to! I lane share when I ride in California, but not all the time. Some people think motorcyclists are crazy, but we want to get home in one piece just like everyone else."

"A motorcyclist on a freeway that's stopped, with both feet down ... is really, practically a pedestrian, and really a sitting duck. You lose your maneuverability when you're not in motion. [HB2314] is an opportunity to take care of another sector of [Oregon's] citizens ... the motorcyclist."

“One of the best things about House Bill 2314 is that it’d legalize lane sharing only on freeways and highways. I too am concerned about pedestrian and bicyclist safety, but HB2314 doesn’t jeopardize their safety because of the way HB2314 is written. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t see pedestrians or bicyclists on freeways. Even if you did, under HB2314 would still be illegal to lane share between the right-hand lane of traffic and the curb or shoulder.”

“Lane sharing is dangerous? Shoot, driving is dangerous. Walking down the street is dangerous. Life is dangerous! You want zero traffic fatalities in the state of Oregon? Then ban cars, and trucks, and motorcycles. You know that’s not realistic, so let’s talk about practical, realistic ways to make motorcycling safer. Numerous studies, especially the Berkeley Study, show that lane sharing increases rider safety."

“There's no data about whether or not lane sharing increases or decreases the likelihood of accident, under the conditions outlined in HB2314. Even the Berkeley Study explicitly states that it doesn’t have the right kind of data to draw a conclusion either way, and it’s the largest motorcycle crash study ever conducted in the U.S. I have to remind people that their ‘hunch’ that lane sharing is dangerous doesn’t mean it’s a fact.”

Fairness

“I used to commute from Hillsboro to Portland on Highway 26. Stuck in traffic an hour each way -- at least! -- I used to watch the MAX train whiz by. I didn't think it was unfair that MAX riders weren’t stuck in traffic like me ... after all, I'm the one who decided to drive, rather than take the train. There are lots of ways to get around Oregon, each with their plusses and minuses.”

“Despite the fact that they share the road with cars and trucks, motorcycles are a unique transportation mode, with their own benefits. Each transportation mode -- cars, bicycles, pedestrians, motorcycles - should do what they can to help reduce congestion. Each mode can and should play a role in a comprehensive congestion-reduction strategy.”

“You're not ‘stuck in traffic’ ... you ARE the traffic! There's nothing stopping YOU from riding a motorcycle or scooter; then you could help reduce congestion, by lane sharing. I appreciate that you may need to drive sometimes. I myself drive every few days, when I need to pick up the kids, or go to Fred Meyer. But just because I’m stuck in my car doesn’t mean motorcycles should be stuck in traffic too. They aren’t cars any more than bicycles or lightrail trains are cars … it doesn’t make sense to regulate them like cars.”

“When motorcycles lane share, the line gets shorter for everyone. Remember the last time you were in a long line at the supermarket checkstand? When the next register opened up, and the clerk grabbed a couple people ahead of you and brought them over to his register, you didn't think that was unfair, did you? Nope ... you were glad that there were two fewer people in line ahead of you. As far as I’m concerned, when motorcycles cruise on by that’s just fewer people in front of me.”

Congestion Relief

“I’ve had people say to me ‘There aren’t enough motorcyclists to make a difference to Oregon's congestion problems.’ Not everyone remembers this, but 20 years ago people used to say the same thing about bicyclists. Sure, it didn’t happen overnight but now bicycles play an important part in relieving congestion, especially in the larger metro areas like Portland, Salem, and Eugene."

"Because Oregon doesn't allow lane sharing, I leave my motorcycle in the garage. I'd ride it more often if lane sharing were legal. Less wear and tear on the roads, I'd get to my destination quicker, and wouldn't just be another schmo stuck in traffic.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Is lane sharing legal in Oregon?

A:  No.  But House Bill 2314 would legalize it. You can help legalize it, with just a few minutes of your time.

Q:  Will I be able to lane share anywhere?

A:  No.  Only under the limited conditions proposed in the bill, summarized below.

Highways only:

  • lane-sharing allowed only on roads with a posted speed limit of 50MPH or higher

Traffic on the road:

  • must be stopped, or moving at 10 miles per hour or less

The rider:

  • may travel no more than 10 miles per hour faster than traffic

  • must not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic

  • must safely merge with traffic, if traffic speed exceeds 10 miles per hour

Riders cannot lane share:

  • between a traffic lane and the curb and bicycle lane (on either side)

  • between a traffic lane and a row of parked vehicles (on either side)

  • in a school zone

Riders should also use common sense when lane sharing, and err on the side of caution:  "If you can't fit, don't split".  The California Highway Patrol has defined guidelines for safe lane sharing; they're worth a look.

Q:  Is lane sharing dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists?

A:  Not under HB2314.  HB2314 legalizes lane sharing only on roads with posted speeds of 50 mph or greater: highways and freeways. Pedestrians and bicycles are not common on these roads, and in many cases they are not allowed. Also, under HB2314 motorcycles may not lane-share on the right hand side of the right hand lane, next to the curb, shoulder or bicycle lane. HB2314 was written this way to intentionally, to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

Q:  What data is available about lane sharing’s safety benefits?

A:  The best and most relevant data for HB2314 is 2015’s Berkeley Study.  The study’s key conclusion is that in the event of a crash, lane sharing motorcycle riders are less likely to be injured or killed, compared to riders who are not lane sharing. The Berkeley Study is the largest motorcycle crash study ever conducted in the U.S.  Commissioned by the California Office of Traffic Safety, with statewide data collected by California Highway Patrol, the Study was provided as a legal document to the California legislature, to inform legislators on their decision of whether to write lane sharing into law.  The entire study is fairly substantial; for a succinct summary, read the summary letter written by the report’s author. The Berkeley Study also states that “the current data [of this study] cannot be used to compare the collision risks for lane-splitting or non-lane-splitting riders.” That is, the Berkeley Study draws no conclusions — and cannot be used to draw conclusions — about whether or not lane sharing is more or less risky than not lane sharing. This fact is often overlooked, so keep in in mind!

Q: Is lane sharing dangerous for riders?

A: Lane sharing can be done safely. Although any transportation mode has its risks, and steps can be taken to make motorcycling more safe. Trusted research such as the Berkeley Study (commissioned by the California Office of Traffic Safety), indicates that in the event of a crash, lane sharing motorcycle riders are less likely to be injured or killed, compared to riders who are not lane sharing. As Chris Cochran, spokesman for the California’s Office of Traffic Safety, stated: “lane-splitting in and of itself — when done in what we refer to as in a safe and prudent manner — is no more dangerous than regular motorcycle-riding.”

Q:  Doesn’t lane sharing mean more motorcycle crashes? Wouldn’t that cause more traffic problems?

A:  No.  There is no evidence that lane sharing increases crash risk on highways and freeways, under the conditions of HB2314, despite lots of opinions about this question. On the contrary, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) state in their National Agenda For Motorcycle Safety: “There is evidence (Hurt, 1981) that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic. HB2314 applies to exactly these conditions.  Major studies in Europe, where lane sharing is almost universally practiced, have shown that lane sharing was a factor in only 0.5% to 5% of accidents.   (A related note:  The Berkeley Study explicitly states it did not examine whether or not lane sharing increases the risk of a crash; from page 18 of the Study: “the current data cannot be used to compare the collision risks for lane-splitting or non-lane-splitting riders.”  Instead, the study showed that riders who crash fare better if they were lane sharing, than riders who crash that were not lane sharing.)

Q:  If it's legalized, will lane sharing be mandatory?

A:  No.  Lane sharing will be optional for motorcycles.  If you don't want to do it, you won’t have to! As always, ride within your limits and abilities.

Q:  Do enough people ride motorcycles to really help reduce congestion?

A:  HB2314 isn’t a silver bullet that’ll solve Oregon’s congestion problem, but it lets motorcycles make a unique contribution to the solution. Motorcycles share the road with cars and trucks, but they are truly a different transportation mode, and can help reduce congestion in a way cars cannot. Lane sharing benefits everyone: when a motorcycle lane shares that’s one less vehicle in the line of cars.  It boils down to more efficient use of existing roadway space.  Also, many riders leave their motorcycles in the garage every day, because they cannot lane share. If HB2314 passes then these riders have a reason to ride to work.

Q:  Isn’t lane sharing unfair to drivers?

A:  Motorcycles are not cars, even though many of our laws treat them like cars, and even though they share the road with cars. Fairness is a tricky subject, and HB2314 won’t do anything to change human nature.  There are people who think it’s unfair when bicyclists in dedicated bike lanes “cut in the line”, or who think that light-rail passengers should “just get a car.” The bottom line is, lane sharing shortens the line for everybody (see previous FAQ). As we’ve heard from an Oregonian: “I used to commute from Hillsboro to Portland on Highway 26. Stuck in traffic an hour each way -- at least! -- I’d see the MAX train whiz by. I didn't think it was unfair that MAX riders weren’t stuck in traffic like me ... after all, I'm the one who decided to drive, rather than take the train.”

Q:  Is lane sharing enforceable?

A:  Opinions vary: some law enforcement officers say it isn’t, but many say it is. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has no trouble enforcing the practice and has even published guidelines on how to do it safely. For some Oregon perspective, consider this testimony from a former Klamath County Sheriff with 24 years in law enforcement: “I served 11 years riding as a motor officer. During that time, I was certified by the Oregon State Police motorcycle division. I went on to become a motor instructor- teaching and certifying other police officers throughout the State of Oregon … [Lane sharing] can be done correctly and safely and can be legally enforced.Consider also this testimony from a 29-year Oregon State Trooper: “I can't tell you the amount of motorcycle crashes I have investigated that could have been prevented if lane-sharing was available to legally practice in Oregon.”

Q:  What does Team Oregon think about lane sharing?

Team Oregon is Oregon’s superb mandatory rider training program. Team Oregon is "neutral on the concept of limited lane sharing in Oregon", adding that “lane splitting, as legally practiced in California and under certain conditions (at 50 mph or less; speed differential of 15 mph or less), does not appear to create undue risk.” Importantly, they reached this conclusion "after review of motorcycle lane splitting and filtering research, interactions with riders familiar with the practice, and interviews with California law enforcement". You can read their statement here

Q:  How would HB2314 affect liability, in the event of an accident?

A:  There are no changes to civil liability. Motorcyclists and drivers still owe a duty of reasonable care to each other. Motorcycles that ride between lanes outside of the permitted parameters of HB2314 will be subject to legal liability if their violation was the cause of a motor vehicle accident.

Q:  Wouldn’t HB2314 make it hard to get emergency vehicles to a crash scene, in the event of an accident?

A:  HB2314 would not make it any more difficult for emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire trucks, police) to get to a crash site, in dense traffic on freeways and highways.  It is difficult for emergency vehicles to get through any accident-related traffic jam, regardless of who or what caused the accident. Also bear in mind, as noted above, that there is no evidence that lane sharing as proposed by HB2314 would increase accident frequency (in fact, there’s evidence that it may decrease accident frequency). See above: “Q:  Doesn’t lane sharing mean more motorcycle crashes?” 

Q:  What about drivers changing lanes, or opening their doors? Couldn’t they cause a motorcycle crash?

A:  HB2314 applies to gridlock; in such conditions it is unlikely that cars inching along would be able to change lanes suddenly.  And most people don’t open their car doors when stuck in traffic.   In either case, motorcycles traveling at 20 mph or less — the maximum speed HB2314 would legalize — should be easily able to stop in time.  Lastly, lane sharing allows riders to see further ahead than if they are directly behind a car—thereby increasing the motorcyclist’s ability to spot and avoid hazards ahead of time.

Q:  Won’t drivers be surprised by lane sharing?

A:  HB 2314 is a low-speed, limited approach to lane sharing that will minimize the chances of drivers being surprised or startled by a lane-sharing motorcyclist.  New rules of the road and transportation practices are often implemented, and drivers adjust quickly.  Consider the surge in bicycles over the past 15 years and the increase in driver awareness that has resulted. 

Q:  I’ve heard lane sharing is just about protecting motorcyclists from being rear-ended? 

A:  Studies suggest there are many potential safety benefits to be gained from lane sharing.  It’s true that lane sharing removes motorcyclists from being rear-ended or, worse, being “sandwiched” by a car in front and behind.  Even in stop & go traffic such accidents can have serious consequences for a motorcyclist.  With distracted driving at an all-time high, anything that reduces a motorcyclists’ exposure to these accidents is worth pursuing.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) wrote that “There is evidence (Hurt, 1981) that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.” In addition, other safety benefits of lane sharing include:

  • Increases motorcycle’s visibility and takes them out of car drivers’ “blind spot.”  A motorcyclist who is lane sharing can be seen in a car driver’s sideview mirror at all times.  And a motorcycle that is moving, when surrounding traffic is stopped, is more conspicuous and visible.  In places where lane sharing is legal drivers become more likely to look for, and be aware of, motorcycles.

  • Gives motorcycles more maneuverability for accident avoidance.  Lane sharing positions motorcyclists in open road, rather than being directly behind a vehicle, this gives them a path ahead to avoid hazards.

  • Lane sharing increases motorcyclists’ “line of sight.”  Being on open road means a better opportunity to see ahead to predict and avoid hazards. 

  • In the event of a crash, a motorcycle that is lane sharing is more likely to have a “glancing” blow to the vehicle rather than a direct hit.  Such accidents are less severe because the motorcycle rider can keep moving forward rather than stopping instantly.  The motorcycle rider is also more likely to remain upright.

  • Keeps motorcycle riders moving, which reduces fatigue both from heat and from constant stop & go operation of the motorcycle’s controls (the vast majority of motorcycles have manual transmissions and require exertion and dexterity to operate the controls).

Q:  Is lane sharing the same as lane splitting?  as filtering?

A:  For our purposes, yes.  We chose the term 'lane sharing' because it's important to consistently communicate with people about what we're proposing:  allowing motorcycles to operate in ways cars cannot, under the conditions noted above.  Save the arguments about whether it's 'lane sharing' or 'filtering' or 'lane splitting' or 'whitelining' etc. for the coffeeshop.  Please help keep the message consistent until the bill becomes law:  use the term 'lane sharing'.

Q:  What about autonomous vehicles? How does that affect HB2314?

A:  While we are monitoring the increased prevalence of autonomous vehicles, they should not affect HB2314. We are encouraged that organizations like the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) are making sure technology companies consider motorcycles. Please take a few minutes to read this article detailing the work AMA Member Christian Lauterbach is doing on Waymo’s autonomous vehicles team. Christian, who “ride[s] and lane split[s] past our self-driving cars on a daily basis,” writes that “… our radars all around the car can spot you, whether you’re going with a Hi-Viz Roadcrafter or all-black leather.”

Q:  I've got a sidecar on my motorcycle, and my friend rides a trike.  Would we be allowed to lane share?

A:  No.  The proposed bill permits lane sharing only by two-wheeled motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds. 

Resources

General resources

Our lane sharing info sheet (as mentioned in the video).

A printed version of the above FAQs.

An excellent go-to site with lots of links:  lanesplittingislegal.com

An excellent summary of the full Berkeley Study is Rice’s letter to Quirk.  Read this letter; it is written by the author of the full report!

The full “Berkeley Study”, whose official name is Motorcycle Lane-splitting and Safety in California; this study contains compelling evidence for safety benefits to lane sharing riders. This study is the largest motorcycle crash study ever conducted in the U.S., and was commissioned by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Data was collected statewide by the California Highway Patrol, and the final study was provided as a legal document to the California legislature, specifically to inform legislators on their decision of whether to write lane-splitting into law. (California legislators did write it into law!)

Guidelines published by the California Highway Patrol, for safe lane sharing.

The American Motorcycle Association’s endorsement of lane sharing. In 2015 and 2017 the AMA flew up to Salem, to testify in favor of previous bills supporting lane sharing. The AMA wants to help!

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's statement on lane sharing's benefits; note that these are exactly the kinds of roads addressed by HB2314: "There is evidence (Hurt, 1981) that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.”"

A Washington Post article about the benefits of lane sharing. Includes a great quote from Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety: “lane-splitting in and of itself — when done in what we refer to as in a safe and prudent manner — is no more dangerous than regular motorcycle-riding.”

Successful bills

California's Assembly Bill 51, passed in 2016 to clarify that lane sharing is legal on all California roads.

Hawaii's House Bill 2589 - not quite lane sharing (it only allows motorcycles to travel on the shoulder during traffic slowdowns), but important because the bill acknowledges that motorcycles are not cars and should not always be regulated in the same way. 

Some unsuccessful bills:

Oregon's Senate Bill 385 (2017), including testimony from some of your fellow riders; see the History page for more info

Oregon's Senate Bill 694 (2015), including testimony from some of your fellow riders; see the History page for more info

Washington's Senate Bill 5378 (2017)

Nevada's Assembly Bill 236 (2013)