We’re big fans of lane splitting here at CityBike World Headquarters. I run LaneSplittingIsLegal.com and worked on AB 51, the bill formalized lane splitting in California and eventually resulted in new lane splitting tips from the CHP; and I’ve been part of a lane sharing/lane splitting subcommittee, or maybe a subcommittee of a subcommittee—I’m not really sure, to the Oregon Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety since last year, which most recently has been concerned with looking at Oregon’s HB 2314, which has yet to make it out of the Transportation Committee.
If I was a bettin’ man, I’d have put money on Oregon being the next state to get some kind of splitting/filtering law on the books, mostly by virtue of the recent activity and focused efforts by Lane Share Oregon and other folks, but also because Nevada seems to have given up after getting oh so close with AB 236 back in 2013.
So while Utah’s HB 149 didn’t catch us completely off guard, it happened pretty fast for this kind of stuff, especially compared to Oregon, where there’ve been more bills than I can count in recent years; or Texas, where they’ve supposedly been this close to legalizing it since shortly after the fall of the Alamo.
“But Surj,” you say, “Utah legalized filtering, not splitting!”
True, but that’s semantics, son. Wannabe thought leaders love to admonish ad nauseam about how we’d have splitting in more states if we’d just use the kinder, gentler language of sharing, and yes, filtering is splitting through stopped traffic while splitting is, well, splitting through moving traffic. But “lane splitting” seems to be the umbrella term that covers it all for most people.
Lane splitting “advocates” (which I suppose includes me) think of bills like this as starting points. Utah’s filtering bill expires July 1st, 2022, which provides a built-in opportunity for expansion from filtering to actual splitting, or yes, sharing, if you prefer that language, the legislators presumably start talking about renewing or making the law permanent.
We’ve also been in need of a non-California example of lane splitting (yeah, yeah, filtering), because in conversations with legislators outside the Golden State, the California example is often rejected out of hand with mightily thoughtful commentary like, “Well, yeah, but those hippies are crazy.” Assuming things go well in Utah and there’s not a rash of dooring and premeditated, last-minute lane change assaults leading to increased motorcyclist injuries and death; and riders generally behave and don’t do anything stupid, or at least too much of it, we’ll soon have another example—apart from much of the rest of the world—of how splitting works.
Utah’s filtering law went into effect on May 14th, and their Department of Public Safety is doing their part to ensure that nice clean outcome by providing educational materials on motorcycle filtering for both riders and drivers. Check out this video, for starters:
The DPS’s “Utah’s New Lane Filtering Law” page features a definition of filtering, helpful graphics, links to media coverage, a section on what motorists should expect, and a list of what riders need to know, starting with a reminder that THIS IS NOT CALIFORNIA:
Lane filtering is NOT the same as California’s lane splitting.
Lane filtering can only be performed between stopped vehicles on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or less and two or more lanes in the same direction.
Lane filtering is a CHOICE. Riders do not have to lane filter.
Lane filtering can present unique safety challenges for riders—especially inexperienced ones.
If riders choose to lane filter, they should exercise extreme caution at all times.
I reached out to Utah’s DPS and Highway Patrol, wondering how state agencies would be getting these resources to the people. Sergeant Nicholas Street, an information officer with the UHP, told me DPS has done press conferences and demonstrations of lane filtering and social media posts, and also: “A private citizen was generous enough to donate 20 spaces on digital billboards throughout the state, and we will be putting up reminders for drivers to be courteous to motorcyclists who engage in the behavior of filtering for some time to come.”
The DPS also maintains Ride to Live, a motorcycling safety and education website, which now has a page on filtering, which features more “this ain’t California” reminders, along with more versions of the filtering video and other resources, like this simple breakdown:
All in all, this is good stuff, and frankly, I’m impressed with the level of assets being produced by Utah’s state agencies, especially compared to California, where we have the tiny, under-resourced CMSP serving 1.5 million licensed motorcyclists, putting out documents that look like they were created in Word ’97.