Let’s say you’re driving up the Gulf Freeway right now on the way to work. As usual, traffic has slowed to a crawl approaching the South Loop. Suddenly, a motorcycle passes you, using the area between your car and the car next to you. Well, right now, that’s illegal in Texas, but a state lawmaker wants to change that.
“It’s going to help everybody get faster.”
Stephen Polunsky is the director of the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland security. He’s also the spokesman for State Senator John Carona of Dallas, who chairs the committee. Carona has filed Senate Bill 506, which would make lane-splitting legal in Texas.
“That motorcycle that’s sitting there in front of you with all that space between you and the car on the other side, if he can pull in between the lanes and move on up, then that means you can move up too, so we’re hoping people will cheer this.”
Lane-splitting has been legal in California since the early 1980’s. California is the only state that allows it, but other states are exploring the idea. Brian Halton publishes Citybike magazine in the San Francisco-Bay Area.
“It’s been challenged several times in the past by this legislator or that legislator because it appears to be dangerous and statistically it hasn’t proven to be and it has been rigorously defended by the California Highway Patrol. They know it works and they lane-split themselves on their motorcycles.”
There would be some strict guidelines if lane-splitting became legal in Texas. Again, Stephen Polunsky.
“The operator and the passenger have to be wearing helmets. The operator has to operate the motorcycle not more than 5 miles-an-hour faster than the rest of traffic is going. Traffic can’t be going over 20 miles-an-hour and it can’t be done in a school crossing zone or somewhere where the speed limit is less than 20 miles-an-hour. So it’s pretty tightly-limited usage, but at the same time it allows, in traffic congestion, we’ve all been in traffic like that, it’s the opportunity to use the roads more efficiently and to get people where they’re going a little faster.”
At Gulf Coast BMW on the city’s southeast side, talk of possible lane-splitting in Texas has parts manager and rider Greg Holt a bit skeptical. He’s not sure it would work in Texas.
“To have a bike come between you and another vehicle, you’re caught unaware and it’s a little startling. I’ve always been a little leery of that, if cars are changing lanes, you can’t see the bikes. That’s a big problem with motorcycles, that we’re invisible to most motorists.”
A similar House Bill failed to gain support in 2005. Currently, motorcyclists are allowed to use HOV lanes in Texas.