Lane Splitting For Motorcycles In Colorado

motorcyclist riding in far left lane of the highway

In April 2024, Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado signed a law allowing motorcyclists to maneuver between slow-moving or stopped traffic lanes. This change in traffic law aims to improve the efficiency of road travel and reduce congestion on Colorado’s highways. Keep reading to learn more about lane splitting and the specifics of this new Colorado law.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting, also known as white-lining, is where a motorcyclist rides between slow-moving or stopped traffic lanes. This technique is often used to avoid traffic congestion and is a subject of debate regarding safety and legality.

Where Is Lane Splitting Legal?

Lane splitting is legal in just a few states: California, Montana, Utah, Arizona, and now Colorado. California was the first US state to formally legalize the practice in 2017.

What Is The Purpose Of Lane Splitting?

The primary purpose of lane splitting is to reduce traffic congestion and enhance traffic flow. Motorcyclists can navigate traffic more efficiently, reducing the time spent on the road and potentially lowering the risk of rear-end collisions in heavy traffic. Additionally, lane splitting can help reduce the overheating of motorcycle riders in stop-and-go traffic and improve overall traffic flow by utilizing unused space on the road.

How Common Are Lane Splitting Accidents?

Studies have shown that lane splitting can be relatively safe when done at safe speeds and conditions. According to research by the University of California, Berkeley, Motorcyclists who lane split in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be rear-ended than those who do not. However, the practice still carries risks, particularly when executed at high speeds without sufficient caution. Accidents can occur due to sudden lane changes by other vehicles or misjudgment by the motorcyclist.

The dangers increase with larger vehicles, such as buses and trailer trucks, which have more and larger blind spots and whose drivers may not anticipate a motorcycle overtaking them in traffic. 

Lane Splitting Laws in Colorado

As of April 2024, Colorado has joined the states that legalized lane splitting. This law is a test run and starts August 7, 2024 and is set to be repealed in 2027. During this test run, Colorado will collect data to see if lane splitting benefits motorcyclists’ safety. The law allows motorcyclists to lane split under specific conditions:

  • The other vehicle must be stopped
  • The lanes must be wide enough to permit safe passing
  • Conditions must be safe to operate a motorcycle
  • The motorcyclist must not pass at speeds greater than 15 mph

The new lane splitting law in Colorado does not permit the following:

  • Passing on the right shoulder
  • Passing in a lane of vehicles moving in the opposite direction
  • Passing on the right of a vehicle in the far right lane (if highway is not limited access)

Lane Splitting vs. Lane Filtering

In general, lane splitting involves riding between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic, such as in high-congestion areas (a.k.a. stop-and-go). The motorcyclist can pass each time the vehicle in front of them comes to a stop. Lane filtering occurs when a motorcyclist moves through traffic where all vehicles are completely stopped, such as at a red light. However, the terms can and are often used as synonyms. 

According to the verbiage of the Colorado General Assembling, lane splitting and lane filtering may be used interchangeably. Provided the above conditions are met, a motorcycle may overtake another vehicle in the same lane or between lanes regardless of whether to vehicle is in slow-moving or completely stopped traffic. 

Road Rage And Lane Splitting

A knee-jerk reaction by many drivers when they consider the notion of a motorcyclist breezing to the front of a traffic jam is anger. It is seen as a form of “cutting in line,” but this is a misconception. Lane splitting and filtering are not meant to prioritize one type of driver over another, but rather to improve road congestion and avoid health hazards for the motorcyclist. Riders in full gear can overheat when sandwiched between vehicles at a full stop in high temperatures. They are also at risk from fume inhalation from vehicle exhaust. 

Motorcyclists who begin to adopt Colorado’s new lane splitting law will want to be on the lookout for disgruntled drivers who are either unaware of the new law or ignorant of its goal of safety and enhanced traffic flow.

Tips For Safe Lane Splitting/Filtering

Motorcyclists and other drivers can take steps to reduce the chances of a lane splitting accident. 

Stay Vigilant

Be sure to continually scan ahead for obstacles and to keep tabs on the flow of traffic. Look for cars signalling to change lanes and watch out for drivers who appear distracted (zoned out, texting, talking to a passenger, etc.) as they may not be aware of your presence.

Stand Out

Increase your visibility to other drivers by wearing reflective gear and always use your daytime running lights (DLRs). Be aware of other driver’s blind spots and don’t linger there longer than necessary. Take extra care when passing a large vehicle, such as a trailer truck.

Go Slow

Maintain a safe speed (under 15 mph). This allows enough time for both you and another driver to react in time to a sudden hazard.

Motorcycle Accidents Attorney Denver

If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident in Denver, The Roth Group is here to help. We can provide comprehensive support, from navigating insurance claims to representing clients in court, ensuring that accident victims receive the compensation and justice they deserve. With the legalization of lane splitting in Colorado, The Roth Group is well-equipped to handle cases involving this practice, offering specialized knowledge and experience to motorcyclists needing legal help. Contact us today for a free evaluation.