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Minnesota, Colorado laws allow motorcycles to lane filter

BACKGROUND

California of course allows lane splitting and has for decades. Lane filtering is legal—with varying restrictions—in Arizona, Montana and Utah. Hawaii allows riders on the shoulder, which they call “shoulder surfing.” Eleven states and the District of Columbia have no laws either allowing or prohibiting lane splitting or filtering, and 34 states ban both filtering and splitting outright. Massachusetts and Virginia continue to consider legislation to legalize the practices, but nothing seems to come of these efforts year after year. Virginia recently saw one of its biggest proponents of filtering, Matt Danielson, appointed to a position as a General District Court Judge.

Lane filtering isn’t the same as lane splitting; filtering implies traffic is otherwise at a standstill or close to it, while splitting means all the traffic is moving, even if at low speeds. California is the only state to allow lane splitting, which lets motorcycles travel between lanes of passenger vehicle traffic at higher speeds and in nearly any traffic condition.

Photo courtesy of the AMA.

MINNESOTA

On July 1, 2025, Minnesota will become just the sixth state to legalize lane filtering, doing so by an act of the state legislature passed on May 24, 2024. The new Minnesota law allows filtering below 25 miles per hour, but not more than 15 MPH over the speed of traffic in the neighboring lanes; this means riders will have to pay close attention to the flow of traffic to stay within the letter of the law.

Unlike Colorado, the Minnesota law also provides for penalties for passenger vehicle operators who block a filtering motorcyclist, emphasizing that the “operator of a motor vehicle must not intentionally impede or attempt or prevent the operation of a motorcycle” while filtering.

MOA Treasurer and AMA member Phil Stalboerger may well have been key in the passage of this legislature. He was rear-ended on his motorcycle while stopped in traffic; relating this story to several legislators interested in finding ways to help prevent similar incidents from happening.

“After telling my story to a lot of people and educating people on what lane filtering means for the motorcycle community, it’s very rewarding seeing this legislature pass,” Stalboerger said. “There was a nice rally cry from the motorcycle community, clubs, small businesses and others saying, ‘Yes, we want to do this!’ The passage of the legislature illustrates grassroots advocacy at its finest.”

American Motorcyclist Association Central States Representative Nick Sands said, With this new ability to filter through slow-moving traffic and at stoplights, riders in Minnesota will benefit from increased safety on the open road. The recent successes of lane-filtering legislation passing into law in Colorado and Minnesota signal excellent momentum for our efforts in that space and the overall well-being of our road-riding members.”

The legislation was buried in a long supplemental budget bill, which makes it difficult to parse for most people. (The relevant passage is Section 61, amending Minnesota Statutes 2022, section 169.974, subdivision 5). However, a perusal of the bill shows Minnesota has also added motorcyclists to its list of “vulnerable road users,” which means drivers’ education programs will now include awareness of motorcycles on Minnesota’s roads. While this doesn’t re-educate existing drivers, it will help by teaching new drivers to watch for motorcycles on the roads. The full text of the filtering law is:

"A person may operate a motorcycle and overtake and pass another vehicle in the same direction of travel and within the same traffic lane if the motorcycle is operated:
(1) at not more than 25 miles per hour; and
(2) no more than 15 miles per hour over the speed of traffic in the relevant traffic lanes."

COLORADO

Starting on August 7, 2024, motorcycle riders in Colorado will be allowed to lane filter as part of a three-year trial run recently signed into law. The law will automatically be repealed on September 1, 2027, unless Colorado’s legislature acts to extend it or make it permanent. The Colorado Department of Transportation is tasked with gathering data during the trial period.

As with most similar laws outside California, there are restrictions for the congestion-reducing maneuver in Colorado. Motorcyclists will be allowed to overtake or pass another vehicle between two lanes of vehicles provided the other vehicle is stopped, the lanes are wide enough to do so safely, the motorcycle is traveling no faster than 15 miles per hour, and the conditions permit “prudent operation of the motorcycle while overtaking or passing.”

This basically means filtering is allowed when traffic is stopped. Travelling on the shoulder or on the right side of the right-most lane is prohibited, and riders will not be allowed to filter between two lanes of traffic moving in opposite directions. From this rider’s perspective, that’s just a smart restriction, because we all know some knuckleheads will try to filter down the double yellow.

Hopefully, Colorado is preceding the implementation of lane filtering with a widespread educational campaign aimed at informing drivers of the new law; otherwise and as has been the experience of many riders, anyone attempting to filter is likely to be treated with disdain at best, and blocked or even hit by ignorant drivers at worst.

Sam Cole, the Traffic Safety Manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, was clear to note that only lane filtering is allowed. A spokes-officer for the Colorado State Patrol was clear in saying that lane splitting remains a Class A traffic infraction, subject to a fine of up to $100 and points on the rider’s license.

REFERENCES

  • Blumhardt, Miles. "Colorado, are you ready for motorcyclists to legally ride between lanes?" 12 April 2024. LINK
  • Emerson, Jack. "Minnesota passes historic lane-filtering legislation" 25 May 2024. LINK
  • Minnesota Legislature, HF 5247, 4th Engrossment—93rd Legislature (2023-2024), lines 78.28-31. 5 June 2024. LINK

4 thoughts on “Minnesota, Colorado laws allow motorcycles to lane filter

  • I just wish to say I see this becoming a problem . Here in Colorado we have at times long delays in traffic . And people have been sitting for a while . And when you get a bike that just moves to the front of the pack could raise some peoples hackles and now you have road rage .

  • Please note that the law change in Minnesota does not take effect until next year, July 1, 2025.

    • Thanks, it’s been corrected in the article.

  • You jumped the gun on Minnesota Lane filtering. It was just passed, but is not legal until July 1, 2025!
    You may want to send out a correction so people don’t get themselves killed here.

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