Friday, January 20, 2017
OFF THE WIRE
For the second year in a row, State Senator and former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson (photo above) has introduced a bill in the Texas Senate that would make lane splitting legal in the Lone Star State.
Watson, a Democrat, is a motorcycle enthusiast and a member of the Harley Owners Group who has been sympathetic to bikers concerns in the past. Last year he told Austin television station KTBC that he splits lanes himself and that he thinks the practice “actually makes the roads safer for motorcyclists in stop and go traffic.”
He also gets air cooled engines. He told KTBC, “Most people don’t understand unless they’re acutely aware of the fact that motorcycles need to be moving in order to be cooled, at least mine does. It’s not water-cooled. So if I’m stuck in traffic and we do know that Austin has some particular problems with traffic, my motorcycle is getting hotter and hotter.”
If Watson’s bill eventually becomes law, Texas would be the second state to legalize lane splitting. California has always tolerated lane splitting and formally legalized it last year. The practice is commonplace in virtually every country except the United States.
This year’s bill is SB 288 and it would modify the existing transportation code to allow: “ The operator of a motorcycle operating on a limited-access or controlled-access highway” to “operate the motorcycle for a safe distance between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction during periods of traffic congestion if the operator operates the motorcycle at a speed not more than five miles per hour greater than the speed of the other traffic; and in traffic that is moving at a speed of 20 miles per hour or less.”
The bill has a long way to go. It probably does not help that the few newspapers in Texas to cover its filing have misidentified it as SB 228 rather than SB 288.
SB 288 has been filed and must be approved by a Senate committee before it can be approved by the whole Senate. Then it will have to be approved by the Texas House. The Texas legislature will be in session through May. Finally the new act would have to be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.
If all that happens, low speed lane splitting would become legal in Texas next September 1.