The Washington State Senate has passed EB 5623, a law originally designed to allow motorcyclists to split lanes in slow moving traffic. But amendments to the bill prove that the state's legislators are hopelessly clueless.
The original text of the amendment to the traffic code would've allowed riders to lane-split when traffic was moving at 25 MPH or below and no faster than 10 MPH over the flow of traffic.
The text was changed before passing the Senate, and here's where it gets stupid:
The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken, except on the left-hand side of a vehicle traveling in the left-most lane of traffic on a numbered state highway identified in chapter 47.17 RCW that has two or more lanes of traffic in each direction if the operator of the 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 twenty-five miles per hour.
The logic of passing on the left and staying on the left makes sense if you're accustomed to basic traffic codes and have never ridden a motorcycle.
Obviously, there are a few problems with this.
First, how would a rider filter through traffic at a red light, where space on the left is minimal, at best, and more often nonexistent?
To compound that, one of the primary safety advantages of lane-splitting is allowing bikes to stop between cars at a traffic light, where rear-end collisions are most common. When you've got two cars flanking you, the chances of getting hit from the rear by an inattentive driver are greatly reduced. Making that any harder negates one of the biggest safety benefits, and that's according to UC Berkeley and the California Highway Patrol.
Then there's the notion that riders are going to be able to stay in that minimal strip of pavement between the side of the car and the shoulder.
On a divided highway, there's a massive amount of debris chucked into that section of the road and even if motorcyclists aren't riding on the shoulder (because it's illegal), making a defensive maneuver if a car jukes to the left is putting them in risk of riding over a hellish brew of car parts, construction debris, and overflowing jugs of urine.
And then there's the worst part: what happens if that same driver jukes to the left and forces the rider into oncoming traffic? Bad shit, that's what.
If you're a rider in Washington, here are the two Senators to voice your concerns:
- Sen. Tim Sheldon (35th-Potlatch) - (360) 786-7668 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sen. James Hargrove (24th-Hoquiam) - (360) 786-7646 - email@example.com
The bill is now on its way to the House.
Photo: Nathan Bittinger/Flickr