Texas Lane-Splitting Bill Would Make Filtering Legal For Motorcyclists in the Lone Star State

Texas is considering joining California in making lane-splitting legal. But the bill’s merits might not matter.

Will Texas legalize lane-splitting for motorcyclists?
Will Texas become the next state to legalize lane-splitting for motorcyclists?Photo: Zack Courts

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to traffic jams. The Lone Star State is contemplating becoming only the second state, after California, to allow motorcycle riders to split lanes in heavy traffic under certain conditions.

Texas Senate Bill 228 was introduced on December 9, 2016, and if passed would make it legal for motorcycles to ride between lanes of traffic on limited-access or controlled-access highways during periods of traffic congestion at a speed not more than 5 mph above the speed of other traffic, and only if that traffic is moving at 20 mph or less.

Lane-splitting, which was a long-standing but legally-ambiguous practice in California until it was made legal there in 2016, is common in Europe where motorcycles typically "filter" to the front of the line at intersections and ride between lanes of traffic in crowded cities. Lane-splitting advocates in the US cite the safety of the practice overseas as well as its effect on reducing traffic congestion.

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In addition to the usual arguments that lane splitting reduces traffic jams and is safer for motorcycle riders, who are sometimes the victims of inattentive car drivers plowing into them from behind as traffic slows, some Texas lane-splitting advocates advanced the additional argument that motorcycles, especially those with air-cooled engines, can be damaged by lengthy periods of slow moving in heavy traffic in the severe Texas heat, and that their riders are also in danger of dehydration and heat stroke.

SB 228 is set to be considered by the Texas Legislature during its 85th session, which ends on May 29. The merits of the bill, however, might not enter into whether it’s approved. As the Austin American-Statesman points out, in the last session of the Texas Legislature only 20.4 percent of the 6,276 bills filed became law. So while lane-splitting might be a good idea for Texas, the bill legalizing it will have to compete for time and attention with potentially thousands of other bills on the state senate floor before getting final approval.

Texas motorcyclists who are interested in supporting the lane-splitting bill and want to chat with others on the topic can join the Texas Riders For Lane-Splitting Facebook group.