Lane-Splitting. It’s the practice of riding a motorcycle between rows of stopped or slow-moving traffic. You probably know that it’s been legal in California for many years, but what you may not know is that it’s explicitly or implicitly illegal in every other U.S. state.

But what about Texas? After all, Texas prides itself for being filled with rugged individualists who don’t want government telling them what to do. If you’re not hurting anyone – indeed, lane-splitting on a motorcycle reduces travel time for motorcyclists and reduces congestion by encouraging motorcycle commuting, so it’s actually a public good – why would the Great State of Texas ban it?

Well, the truth is that it’s not really illegal, but it’s not a good idea to try it, either. Current Texas law requires drivers of all vehicles – including motorcyclists – to use a separate lane to pass other road users, so you could be cited for an illegal pass. Do it too fast and you could be cited for speeding or reckless driving as well!

When faced with this mess, Texans on bikes have to suck it up and wait in line in the heat with everybody else.

Some confusion surrounding lane-splitting still exists in Texas. In December 2016, State Senator Kirk Watson (D) introduced Senate Bill 288, which would have allowed lane-splitting in Texas, so long as the rider was travelling in traffic moving slower than 20 mph and was going no more than 5 mph faster than other road users. Unfortunately, the bill failed to make it from the committee to the floor of the Senate for a vote, which means it’s likely dead. Currently, there is no word about its reintroduction, according to the Senator’s office.

News of the bill’s introduction and referral to the Texas Senate’s Transportation committee sparked a spate of lane-splitting among motorcyclists. Unfortunately for them, the practice is still illegal in Texas, and many riders were awarded with citations, despite the pending legislation.

So what can you do? Exercise your rights as a motorcyclist! Join the AMA – which doesn’t not support lane-splitting – as well as other rider’s groups in Texas that are working to convince the public and politicians that lane-splitting is safe and saves time for everyone. Ride safe!

  • Pete terHorst

    “Join the AMA – which doesn’t not support lane-splitting…”

    Double negatives are always confusing, so let’s be clear: The AMA Board of Directors adopted a formal position statement supporting lane splitting in 2013. The AMA has been assisting groups and individuals working to bring legal lane splitting and/or filtering to their states, including Texas’s Senate Bill 288. The AMA position statement can be read here: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/About-The-AMA/lane-splitting-1. Questions should be directed to Mike Sayre, AMA government affairs manager, on-highway, at msayre@ama-cycle.org.

    • john burns

      so, No support, in other words, if wearing a helmet is part of the deal:

      The AMA endorses rider responsibility and actions that make roadways safer for motorcyclists. While research and evidence suggest that lane splitting may reduce a motorcyclist’s risk exposure somewhat, we are cautious to issue a blanket endorsement supporting the practice. In particular, experience has taught us that the legislative process and the implementation of new laws are fraught with uncertainty. A straightforward lane splitting bill may easily be amended with provisions that the AMA and the motorcycling community would find unacceptable. Provisions such as mandatory helmet use in an adult-choice state or mandatory minimum medical insurance coverage provisions would quickly poison an otherwise well-intentioned effort.

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    • How should I have written that? If I had written, “The AMA supports lane-splitting,” that wouldn’t have been true, and neither would “The AMA does not support lane-splitting.” I really think that was the best way to express the AMA’s supportive non-support. Or is that non-supportive support? I need a drink.

      • Pete terHorst

        In 2016, lane-splitting bills were considered in Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington and the AMA supported those bills. I am not aware of any rider groups or clubs that have proposed lane splitting packaged with unrelated mandates. (FYI along that same line, the AMA did not endorse Michigan’s 2012 legislation to eliminate its helmet mandate for adults because the bill also required motorcyclists to carry additional insurance.)

  • Lance H

    That’s fine if people want to do that, but to me it creates more risk than I’m willing to accept. All it takes is one car to decide to change lanes at the wrong time. Fortunately I rarely find myself riding in gridlock.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Its a choice, not a mandate.

    • That never happens, though.

  • sweptarea

    “Which doesn’t not support lane-splitting” ?

    Re-hire your copy editor.
    .

    • Sayyed Bashir

      There was a reason for writing it that way. The AMA only supports it if it is not bundled with other restrictive legislation.

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  • Thomas Kuhlmann

    We are similarly working on lane splitting in Washington state and hopefully it will pass. Unfortunately, Oregon Legislature recently took a pass on the same. Having lived and worked in California, I can attest to the benefits and am surprised when I hear other riders wince at the idea. I say don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Going to the head of the line at a red light and cruising through gridlock on the freeway is a beautiful thing. As far as the AMA is concerned, the fact that they are linking their support to helmet freedom and the freedom to not have health insurance–unsurprising. -and another reason I would never give those bums a dime.

    • Pete terHorst

      Hi Thomas, are you saying you would be willing to accept an additional insurance requirement to get lane splitting passed in Washington? If car/SUV drivers were not required to carry that additional insurance, that would be unfair to motorcyclists. CA does not have this requirement… in fact it was in CA that a UC-Berkeley study found that lane splitting is safer when practiced responsibly. So why hit riders with a requirement for more insurance? The AMA position agrees, saying there should not be additional burdens placed on riders to get lane splitting legalized.

      • Thomas Kuhlmann

        I absolutely accept an insurance requirement. -just like I have to carry minimum liability on my cars and motorcycles. Medical or proof of health insurance should be a requirement in states that have optional helmet laws and I would agree with any state law that mandated such.
        As per your fairness question of car drivers vs. motorcyclists, –drivers and passengers are required by most state laws to wear seatbelts, small children in child seats etc. But it’s not fair to require motorcyclists to wear -at a minimum- a helmet??

        • Pete terHorst

          Agree that everyone should carry insurance. My point is that you should not be required to carry a higher amount of insurance (bodily/comprehensive/liability) coverage compared to car drivers just because you ride. That’s a slippery slope…

  • Pete terHorst

    Getting lane splitting legalized in other states should not come with a price tag, such as added insurance, that other motorists do not have to pay. (How is that fair?) If you want to understand why AMA encourages riders to wear helmets, but does not support mandates, read this from the AMA website: http://tinyurl.com/AMA-helmets. Agree or disagree…

    • Does lane-splitting cause increased insurance costs for other motorists in California, France, England, Australia and Italy?

      • Pete terHorst

        Gabe, to my knowledge, there has been no research on this question.