Utah House advances bill to allow motorcycles to travel slowly between lanes when traffic is stopped

(Aaron Favila | AP File Photo) Unlike this 2018 file photo in the Philippines, a bill advanced by the Utah House on Tuesday would allow motorcycles to travel between lanes only on roads with speed limits of less than 50 mph, and only when traffic is stopped — and the motorcycle travels at less than 15 mph.

Utah motorcyclists may soon travel legally between same-direction lanes and cars — but only when other traffic is stopped and the cycle moves at 15 mph or less.

That would allow them to proceed to the front of traffic waiting at an intersection, and should reduce sometimes deadly rear-end collisions of stopped motorcycles.

The Utah House endorsed that practice — called “lane filtering” — by a 54-12 vote on Tuesday, and sent HB149 to the Senate for consideration.

Its sponsor, Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, said that is not the same as “lane splitting,” often experienced in California where motorcycles travel between cars at high speeds.

It also would be allowed only on roads with speed limits of less than 50 mph, not freeways.

Brooks, a motorcyclist, said he has been rear-ended twice. “Unlike a vehicle where you have a headrest and a back seat, my back seat was the car’s windshield behind me. And that didn’t provide a lot of comfort.”

He said between 2011 and 2017 in Utah, “there were 1,288 rear-ends by a vehicle to a motorcycle.”

Brooks said a study by the University of California at Berkeley found the practice is safe when the speed limit is under 50 mph, and the speed differential is under 15 mph. “So we applied those into the bill.” He said Australia found it was low-risk in tests, and enacted it into law to help reduce crash frequency.

He noted the Utah Highway Patrol has also supported the bill.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, opposed it. “I think this is just in a gray area that is going to cause us a lot of issues with insurance. I drive in California, and I can tell you I’ve had many close calls,” even though Brooks said what happens there is different.