Photos by Garrett Stanley
Texas motorcyclists and members of the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents (Texas COC&I) gathered at The Roadhouse in Round Rock, Texas, and rode to the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin, on January 23, 2017, for the annual Texas Motorcycle Legislative Day.
The first piece of legislation the group is seeking is Senate Bill 288, which would permit lane-filtering—when motorcyclists drive between traffic lanes on highways during heavy congestion. “We’re asking for common sense items that will make it safer for the community,” said Austin motorcyclist Steven Cochran, one of several dozens of bikers who rallied at the Texas State Capitol yesterday afternoon. “If we have lane-filtering approved, and 20 percent of the vehicles are motorcycles, they’re not involved in any traffic congestion, they leave.”
According to the bill, motorcyclists could not go faster than 20 mph when passing other vehicles, and they could only drive between cars on highways with exits. Senator Kirk Watson (Dem., District 14) filed the bill last month, and it will move soon to a senate committee. This is the third time similar bills have been brought before the Texas Legislature. (Watson introduced the bill last session, but it did not receive a hearing. Similar legislation was brought up in 2009 by a different senator, but was never voted on.)
If done correctly and with appropriate caution, proponents feel that lane-filtering can be safer than not lane-filtering in some situations. One school of thought is that because motorcycles were traditionally air-cooled, then sitting in stop-and-go traffic in 100+ degree heat would cause bikes to overheat. Allowing motorcycles to keep moving, even at a slow speed of 10 to 15 mph, would keep air flowing over their engine’s cooling fins, and prevent this problem. Whether air-cooled or liquid-cooled, another commonly cited safety reason to permit lane-filtering relates to a reduced likelihood of a motorcyclists being rear-ended at stoplights on city streets.
According to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), “Perhaps one of the most dangerous situations for any on-highway motorcyclist is being caught in congested traffic, where stop-and-go vehicles, distracted and inattentive vehicle operators, and environmental conditions pose an increased risk of physical contact with another vehicle or hazard.” Currently, lane-filtering is allowed in just a few areas of the United States, notably California, but it is widely used in many other countries, as a means of reducing congestion in addition to possible safety benefits.
Another piece of legislation the Texas COC&I is behind is the Red Light Bill: this will permit a motor vehicle operator to pass through an intersection on a red light in the event that the lights do not change.