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Where Does Oregon Stand on Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Everyone has their favorite time of year, but most would agree that summertime in Oregon is hard to beat. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, or just sitting on the beach, it is a great time to go outside.

Or you could fall into the camp of people, like many motorcycle riders, who are not really looking for exercise, but are eager to get outside and enjoy the scenery of Oregon. For many, there is no better way to accomplish this objective than to cruise around on a motorcycle. Like automobile drivers, motorcyclists have rules of the road they need to follow to help keep themselves and other drivers safe

One issue common with motorcycle drivers nationwide is called “lane splitting.” In this article, we will discuss where the state of Oregon stands on the issue.

What Is “Lane Splitting” and “Lane Filtering”?

You may hear motorcycle riders talk about “lane filtering” and “lane splitting.” Some define these two terms slightly differently, while others use them interchangeably. Proposed Oregon law references “lane filtering,” while many Oregon news outlets and other publications refer to “lane splitting.” Therefore, we will also use the terms interchangeably.

In general, lane filtering allows motorcycles to ride between traffic lanes on a highway. Many of us have seen motorcycle riders doing this already, but it is illegal in Oregon. However, many people would like the law to change.

Proposed Changes to the Law

In 2023, Oregon lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 422, which allows lane splitting under certain conditions. The bill passed in the Senate by the overwhelming margin of 27 – 2. Under SB 422, motorcycles can lane divided, that is, travel between lanes, provided that: (1) they are riding on a multi-lane highway with a speed limit of at least 50 miles per hour; (2) at least two lanes are going in the rider’s direction; and (3) traffic is stopped or moving at a rate less than 10 miles per hour.

In other words, under the proposed law, Oregon motorcycles would be permitted to go around cars when traffic is slow or stalled. 

There Are Pros and Cons to the Concept of Lane Splitting.

There is no universal agreement on lane splitting. Another bill permitting the practice was passed in Oregon in 2021, but Governor Brown vetoed it based on concerns of danger. Moreover, the Portland Bureau of Transportation opposes the bill on the grounds that the behavior is dangerous.

On the flip side of the coin, many motorcycle riders believe that the practice gives them a measure of safety in slow or stopped traffic. These riders believe that the greater danger is being struck from behind and pushed into the car in front of them. 

Moreover, the American Motorcyclist Association endorses lane splitting. The organization states that the practice has been successful in California and that research from the University of California determined that the practice enhances motorcycle safety.

Call with Questions

Only time will tell if SB 422 will become law. However, motorcyclist safety continues to be a big concern in Oregon. Everyone using the roadway has a duty to exercise reasonable care so that those around them will be safe. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident or car crash, you will likely have many questions about your rights. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will gladly answer all of them for you in a free consultation.