Motorcycle Lobby Hopes For New Laws To Free Up Roads

Sen. Chris Edwards and Rep. Gene Whisnant have sponsored the “dead red” bill

Motorcyclists may see some new laws on the books after this legislative session, including ones that would let them filter through traffic jams and pass through some red lights. BikePAC of Oregon — the main motorcycle lobby group in the state — has been working hard to persuade legislators to take up a few motorcyclist issues.

Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) and Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) have sponsored the “dead red” bill (SB 533 and HB 2373). The proposed law would allow motorcyclists and bicyclists to pass cautiously through red lights that don’t get triggered by their weight. At stoplights that use motion detectors in order to turn green, bikes and motorcycles would be required to wait for a full cycle of lights before they could proceed through a red light.

There are 16 other states that have similar provisions. The Senate Committee on Business and Transportation heard testimony from a rider who said people in cars get aggressive when she waits at red lights. She said she tries to signal to them that they can come up next to her to make the light turn, but that this law would solve the whole problem in a much simpler way.

The bill came out of the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation with full support on March 4 and is now waiting on its final reading on the Senate floor.

Paula Leslie, the executive director of BikePAC Oregon, says the dead red bill is one of a few she thinks has a good chance of passing this legislative session.

Another issue BikePAC hopes will get addressed is “lane sharing” or “filtering” — letting motorcyclists filter through backed-up vehicles in traffic.

Three bills have been proposed addressing motorcycles and lane sharing. One suggests that motorcycles use the shoulder to pass cars, and the other two would allow motorcycles to pass cars in the same lane.

“The aim is to get motorcycles out of traffic jams,” Leslie says, “not to get them to the front of the line in town.”

Advocates of lane sharing say it is win-win for everyone on the road. By letting motorcycles through, the traffic jams decrease in size. Since motorcycles don’t have air conditioning and rely on wind to cool their engines, they argue being able to move out of a hot pack of jammed cars would make everyone safer. They say passing in the same lane is best, because the shoulders of roads are not a place people consistently watch for traffic.

BikePAC hopes that SB 694 will pass; it addresses lane sharing and is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg). Leslie hopes to persuade legislators to add amendments clarifying when and where lane sharing would be allowed, and at what speeds.

Lane sharing became a controversial topic in California in the past few years, when legislation was proposed to make it officially legal. Currently it is neither illegal nor legal in that state.

The motorcycle lobbyists are also advocating for passage of SB 424, which would require all gas stations to have at least one pump with ethanol-free fuel. That bill passed out of the House and is waiting to be referred to a committee in the Senate.

Finally, BikePAC members say another issue they would like to work on with Sen. Edwards is the anti-profiling bill, SB 486, which would prohibit law enforcement officers from profiling individuals based on a list of characteristics and circumstances. BikePAC wants to add “mode of transportation” to that list.

BikePAC has also initiated HB 2989, which would allow motorcyclists over 18 years of age to ride without a helmet on. That bill has several legislators signed on to it, but Leslie says she’s doubtful it will pass, because the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety has said it will not support it.

Update: According to Bike Portland, it’s not the weight of a vehicle or magnets that triggers the light but in fact a disturbance in the electromagnetic field. The city of Eugene uses these “inductive pavement loops” according to its downloadable fact sheet. Local dog trainer Harold Hansen says he has solved the problem using magnets in this video, though others debate if magnets solve the issue.

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