Senate bill deals with rules for motorcyclists

PHOENIX – Don’t be surprised if this year a motorcycle pulls up next to your vehicle while you’re stopped at a traffic light.

The maneuver would become legal if Gov. Doug Ducey signs legislation finally approved Thursday by a 54-to-4 margin at the State House. It has already won unanimous approval from the state senate.

Senate Bill 1273 seeks to create an exemption in existing laws that prohibits drivers from passing and overtaking other vehicles in the same lane. These same laws also currently prohibit riding a motorcycle between traffic lanes or between adjacent rows of vehicles going in the same direction.

Michael Infanzon, who lobbies for motorcycle safety group ABATE – the American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education – said it was not designed to ensure motorcyclists are the first to get away from the intersection after the light turns green, although he acknowledged that is probably the case. the result. Instead, he said, it’s to keep runners from getting killed.

Simply put, he said, motorcycles are virtually invisible to many motorists in Arizona.

During his testimony to the House Education Committee, he told them of an accident a few days earlier where a motorcyclist in Buckeye sitting at a stop light was rammed ‘and thrown 365 feet from his motorbike, died on the spot’ . And Infanzon said this situation is not unique, saying 31% of all motorcycle accidents in Arizona were rear-end collisions.

The solution, he said, is something called “lane filtering.”

Infanzon told lawmakers it’s different from “lane splitting,” something legal in California that actually allows motorcyclists to ride their bikes at any time on the white line between lanes — and between cars.

Instead, it would allow these lane lines to be straddled and passed only when traffic is stopped, and only if it can be done safely.

It would also be limited to roads with a posted speed limit of less than 45 miles per hour. This would prevent motorcycles from squeezing in and out of lanes when traffic comes to a halt on a freeway.

And the motorcyclist could move through that space between vehicles at no more than 15 mph.

The idea prompted questions from Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson. She wanted to know what happens when the light turns green and if there is a danger of the driver of an ordinary vehicle colliding with motorcyclists.

Infanzon, who rides a motorbike himself, said that is unlikely to happen.

“I can speed any car on the road, even a Corvette, on my Harley,” he told her. “If the traffic is stopped and I can get from one car to another, I can do it safely,” although he admitted that, given the girth of his Harley, it might not pass between stopped vehicles.

Infanzon said it was no different than when roads with three lanes in one direction narrowed to two.

“All it is is merge like a zipper,” he said. “And that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Barton, however, wondered how many motorcyclists would be allowed to line up on the dotted line.

“I can see it happening,” she said. “People want to be first.”

“You can stack them 100 backwards,” Infanzon acknowledged. “You should always merge safely.”

Infanzon also said it was up to motorcyclists, having passed stopped vehicles, to decide which lane to go after the intersection. And in terms of getting back into traffic, he said it would be up to motorcyclists and motorists “to have a little courtesy”.

That didn’t satisfy Rep. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix. He wanted to know if a motorist hit a cyclist who would be held legally responsible.

Infanzon, however, said the bill requires the motorcyclist to perform the maneuver safely.

“And if they hit somebody, obviously it wasn’t done safely,” he said.

Meza was unconvinced, being one of four House members who voted against the bill.

According to Infanzon, the legislation mirrors a Utah law.

He said that in 2018, when this law came into effect, there were 47 motorcycle fatalities from rear-end collisions. A year later, Infanzon said, it was down to 35.

None of this would apply to three-wheeled motorcycles.

Ducey’s press aide, CJ Karamargin, said his boss doesn’t comment on the bills until he has a chance to review them.

Norman D. Briggs