Friday, April 24, 2015

Bill would let motorcyclists drive between cars during jams

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Senate on Thursday backed a bill allowing motorcycles to pass between cars or trucks during highway traffic jams.

Senators responded to motorcyclists who say it's safer for them to drive around vehicles than to face the constant risk of being hit from behind in stop-and-go traffic.

"This is for those situations, mostly in urban areas, where the road has become a parking lot," said Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Roseburg Republican who sponsored the bill.

The Senate's 18-10 vote sends the measure to the House.

Motorcycle and moped riders on a highway with a speed limit of at least 50 mph would gain the right to pass between vehicles if traffic moves at no more than 10 mph. They'd have to keep their speed below 20 mph and would be required to drive "in a cautious and prudent manner."

The practice, known as lane filtering, is common in much of Europe and Asia but is illegal in most of the United States. It's practiced in California, though it's not explicitly legal or illegal under state law there, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. Proponents say lane filtering improves the flow of traffic in jurisdictions where it's legal and also creates incentives for people to drive motorcycles, which are more fuel-efficient than passenger vehicles.

Critics say bringing lane filtering to Oregon could increase the risk of collisions.

"Motorcycles are inherently very dangerous vehicles," said Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland. "Any time a motorcycle gets into a crash with an automobile, the motorcycle loses...There will be motorcyclists who will die if this becomes law."

The measure is the second highway bill approved this week. The House voted Tuesday to designate the far left lane as a passing lane on high-speed roads.

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