It almost sounds too good to be true. Starting on October 1, 2021, motorcyclists in Montana can legally filter between cars on the roads, under certain conditions.
Once this law comes into place, it will make Montana the third state to legalize motorcycle lane sharing—or the fourth, if you count Hawaii’s wimpy “ride up the shoulder at a stoplight” rules. California, of course, is the state that’s most lanesplitting-friendly, with no real practical codified restrictions on lane sharing (although police will certainly attempt to ticket someone who’s filtering or lanesplitting dangerously, if they think they can catch up). In California, legislators didn’t suddenly permit the practice—riders have always done it.
Utah’s switch to legalized lane sharing came much more recently. In 2019, Utah’s lawmakers passed a bill that allowed motorcycles to ride between cars under certain conditions (basically, motorcycles can only legally pass stopped cars, riding very slowly—more details here).
Now, Montana’s state government has its own rules for lane sharing, after Governor Greg Gianforte signed S.B. 9 into law on March 2. According to a press release from the American Motorcyclist Association, “S.B. 9 allows the operator of a two-wheeled motorcycle to overtake stopped or slow-moving vehicles at a speed not in excess of 20 mph, to filter between lanes of stopped traffic traveling in the same direction as conditions permit, and specifies reasonable and prudent motorcycle operation while lane filtering.” We shall have to take the AMA’s word for it, as I haven’t actually been able to find the bill’s wording online anywhere. If the AMA’s reporting is true, then Montana’s rules are far more permissive than Utah’s, allowing riders to pass moving vehicles. It sounds as if Montana is basically saying “You can ride between cars, but be sensible about it.” And, that’s the message that should be here all along, with this sort of legislation.
It’s good news, for sure, and a decade back, it was almost unthinkable to see progress here. Now, with several other states proposing similar lane sharing rules in the past few years, we can focus on spreading the practice across the US, and maybe even getting it into Canada, so North Americans can catch up to the rest of the civilized world.
Update: We’ve finally found the text of the bill this morning. See the full document here.