Rep. Jerry Weiers (R-Ariz.) sponsored House Bill 2475, which was supposed to allow motorcycles to weave in between cars in stopped traffic, but Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the proposed legislation.
Arizona law currently does not allow motorcycles to “split lanes” on freeways. In other words, motorcycles are treated the same as all other vehicles and must remain single file within lanes, even in stopped traffic. The vetoed bill would have given motorcycles permission to move between vehicles within lanes if the traffic was stopped.
Possible Benefits of Split Lanes
The main benefit of split lanes, according to Weiers, is that allowing motorcycles to move up in traffic would reduce the likelihood of riders being hit from behind. This is considered one of the greatest dangers of riding a motorcycle, particularly in stop-and-go traffic.
The proposed legislation was also intended to reduce traffic congestion by allowing motorcycles to move ahead. Fewer cars lined up on freeways mean fewer blockages, even though motorcycles take up less room on the road than larger vehicles.
It is also possible that the split-lanes bill would have reduced traffic’s impact on the environment. If motorcycles are allowed to move ahead, weaving between cars, they would reach their destinations faster and therefore use less fuel. Traffic can be a major source of pollution in large cities.
Safety Concerns for Split Lanes
Brewer vetoed the legislation in part because of the safety concerns involved. Splitting lanes can be treacherous for all motorists because it is difficult to know when motorcycles will be moving up right next to cars.
The legislation is vague, intended only for “stopped traffic,” which means motorists would likely be confused about the law. Furthermore, there is nothing to say that more accidents wouldn’t occur because drivers are unaware of motorcycles coming up behind, or between, them.
Another concern is speed. If motorcycles are allowed to split lanes and move through traffic, it is difficult to determine the safe speed at which they could do so. With cars changing lanes even in heavy traffic, the risk of being broadsided counterbalances the lowered risk of being hit from behind.
The governor also expressed concern because the HB2475 as written conflicted with other Arizona law still on the books, had no provision for educating motorist about the change, was scheduled to “sunset” when the legislature would not be in session and without a study to assess the impact of the change, and because of the likelihood that some Arizona jurisdictions would allow split-lane riding and some would forbid it, it created a confusing patchwork of traffic safety enforcement.
Former Department of Public Safety officer Andy Swan suggests that splitting lanes would reduce the danger of motorcyclists being hit from behind and free up traffic.
However, Arizona Highway Safety Director Alberto Gutier has concerns about the legislation, citing driver confusion as the main risk factor. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Department of Motor Vehicles both say that it is unsafe to operate a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving traffic.