Traffic laws can always be a bit confusing, especially within specific states since each of them have their own laws. Rules specifically pertaining to motorcycles can be especially confusing.
Motorcyclists have been known to use the bike lane on roads. Whether you’re a motorcyclists who’s attempted to or you’ve seen a motorcyclists do this, you may wonder if it is legal in the first place.
Can a motorcycle use a bike lane? In most places, it is illegal for a motorcycle to use a bike lane. Bike lanes are specifically designated for bicyclists who are non-motorized and therefore much slower than the vehicles in the lanes of traffic next to them. A motorcycle using a bike lane can be dangerous for both motorcyclists and bicyclists.
If you’re going to own a motorcycle, it’s important you know the rules of the road to keep you and those around you safe. As a motorcyclists myself, I’ve researched this topic and have been able to find out a lot of information about the subject.
Why It Is Dangerous For Motorcyclists To Use Bike Lanes
It is very tempting to use a bicycle lane while riding a motorcycle. The lane looks to be the perfect size for a motorcycle and most of the time you don’t see any bicyclists on it anyway. It’s still technically the road and you would cause less traffic by getting out of everyone’s way by using the bicycle lane. So what’s wrong with that?
In actuality, using the bicycle lane with your motorcycle is not only illegal in most places, it’s also incredibly dangerous. A lot of people will argue that a motorcycle using a bicycle lane couldn’t possibly be dangerous because you’re taking yourself out of traffic and putting yourself in a less dangerous situation than you would be riding in a normal lane of traffic.
The dangers that are risked by a motorcyclist using a bike lane are not risks pertaining to them, rather it’s dangerous for the bicyclists who could potentially be using said lane.
A bicycle lane was made for a purpose and that purpose wasn’t for motorcyclists to save time during their commute. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), “Bike lanes enable bicyclists to ride at their preferred speed without interference from prevailing traffic conditions and facilitate predictable behavior and movements between bicyclists and motorists.” (Emphasis added).
The whole point of bicycle lanes is to get lightweight, non-motorized vehicles out of the way of heavy and dangerous motorized vehicles and let them have their own way of travelling. Motorcycles are considered motorized, heavy, and dangerous when compared to a bicycle. Think about the difference in weight and speed between the two.
Bicyclists don’t have brake lights, turn signals, or other technology that a motorcycle has. If a motorcyclists comes up behind a bicyclists, the actions of the bicyclists may be a bit unpredictable which increases the risk of the motorcyclist running in to them.
Having a motorcycle using a bicycle lane can also be stressful for a bicyclist. I have several family members who are avid bike riders (and some of which are also motorcycle riders) and have complained on several occasions about almost getting hit by motorcyclists while riding in bicycle lane. They also report how stressful it is to have to be on the lookout for any motorcyclists that might swerve in to their designated lane.
Motorcycles are required to follow the same traffic laws as any other motorized vehicle with a few exceptions (which will be discussed later). You don’t see cars driving in bike lanes, motorcycles aren’t allowed to do that either.
Lanes That Motorcyclists Can Use
With that being said, motorcyclists may be wondering what lanes they can use legally and still be able to get to their destination faster than they would in a car.
Like I stated before, motorcyclists should follow the same traffic rules as any other motorized vehicle. There are only a few exceptions for motorcyclists and some of them do involve the types of lanes you can use while on the road.
A lot of motorcyclists wonder if it is okay to use a bus lane. Not all places have bus lanes and they’re more commonly seen in highly populated cities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and several other countries.
Bus lanes will have signs designating the times of when the bus will be using the lane. For example, there will be signs along the route with a picture of a bus that also states “Mon – Sat 7 am – 7 pm.” This indicates the bus uses that lane every Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and no other vehicle can use that lane inside those times.
Occasionally the sign will have other pictures on it such as a bicycle and a motorcycle. If there is a motorcycle on the bus sign, then motorcyclists are permitted to use that lane both within and outside the time frame stated on the sign.
Motorcyclists are also permitted to use the HOV lane, also known as the “carpool lane.” There are restrictions as to who can use this lane; only cars that have at least two occupants inside of it can use it along with motorcyclists.
The idea for this is to get a higher quantity of people moving through traffic. The rationale for letting motorcyclists go through is for the rider’s safety. They’d rather motorcyclists going through a steady lane of traffic rather than doing a constant stop and go.
Some Exceptions For Motorcyclists
Even if you do know a few of the rules and exceptions about riding a motorcycle, it can still leave you wondering about all the other specific laws out there.
Though motorcyclists are required to follow and abide by the same rules as any other motor vehicle, authorities have recognized that motorcycles are smaller vehicles and have passed some exceptions for riders. For full disclosure, we will discuss all of the few exceptions motorcyclists may have.
The first one is lane splitting (or also referred to as “whitelining,” “lane filtering,” or “stripe-riding”). Lane splitting allows motorcyclists to ride between rows or lines of stationary or slow moving traffic. This lets them get ahead of traffic and is thought to be safer than constantly stopping and going in slow traffic.
Keep in mind that this is not legal everywhere. In the U.S., California and Utah are the only states that have officially legalized lane splitting. So if you’re wanting to do this on your motorcycle, consider the state you’re in and it’s laws.
The second biggest exception motorcyclists have is being able to run a red light. Some traffic lights are run by sensors, meaning they change colors according to the amount of traffic coming from each direction. Sometimes when a motorcycle is waiting for a red light to turn green, the sensor may not pick up that they’re present and not turn green for them at all.
This is incredibly frustrating for motorcyclists because they can’t help how light and noticeable their vehicle is to traffic sensors. Several states have passed a law stating if a motorcyclists is sitting at a red light for a certain amount of time, they may proceed with caution past the red light. Again, this is not allowed in all states or areas, so check with the laws in your state to make sure this is legal.
These are the two main exceptions that motorcyclists have on the road. Motorcyclists are expected to follow the same traffic laws outside of these two exceptions.
Extra Rules For Motorcyclists
Now that’s we’ve described the rules for motorcyclists using bike lanes as well as other specific rules, some may wonder if there are extra rules for motorcycles that normal vehicles don’t have.
The only special rule or law against motorcyclists that regular car drivers don’t have is wearing a helmet. Not all places require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, but some places do.
Outside of that, car drivers are expected to follow the same rules as motorcyclists. All noise ordinances and crazy customizing on vehicles apply to both car drivers and motorcycle riders alike.
Can motorcycles park in striped areas? Motorcycles are not allowed to park in striped areas of any parking lot unless otherwise posted. Striped areas are designated for handicap accessibility, emergency vehicles, or for parked vehicle safety. For more information, click here to see an article I wrote.
Can a motorcyclist get a parking or traffic ticket? A motorcyclist can get a parking or traffic ticket just like any other motorized vehicle. The fines are usually the same as if it was a car receiving the ticket because the ticket is towards the person, not the side of the vehicle.