Is lane splitting legal in Colorado? The short answer is no, but there has been a recent movement to reconsider lane splitting laws in Colorado.
Motorcycles give riders a unique sense of freedom on the road but also present different challenges for riders and drivers alike. One practice that often generates debate is "lane splitting," a maneuver motorcycle riders sometimes use to navigate through traffic.
A question that often comes up is, "Is lane splitting legal in Colorado?" The short answer is no, though there have been efforts (including recently) to reconsider the viability of allowing lane splitting in the state.
In this article, we'll define lane splitting, share its current legal status in Colorado and the penalties for violating related laws, plus look at who is considered at fault in lane splitting motorcycle accidents.
Lane splitting is a maneuver typically practiced by motorcycle riders that involves navigating between two lanes or adjacent lines of cars moving in the same direction. Lane splitting can enable motorcyclists to make efficient progress through congested roads rather than staying in the same lane.
A related but different traffic maneuver is lane filtering, which refers specifically to motorcycles moving between traffic at stoplights or situations involving stopped traffic. While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different practices and are sometimes treated differently under state laws. People sometimes also confuse lane splitting with lane sharing, which typically refers to more than one motorcycle riding side by side within a lane.
Although lane splitting can enable riders to navigate more efficiently through congested traffic, lane splitting can be controversial due to safety concerns and confusion over state laws. Some view it as a dangerous maneuver that increases the risk of collisions, while many motorcyclists argue it can reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for motorcyclists by reducing the chances of getting rear-ended in heavy traffic.
The short answer to the question, "Is lane splitting legal in Colorado?" is no, you cannot lane split in the state. A proposal to legalize lane splitting in Colorado failed to pass in 2016, and the practice is currently illegal.
There has been a recent movement towards potentially revisiting lane splitting’s legality in Colorado, however. House Bill 23-1059, which was introduced in January 2023, proposed creating a study to examine the potential benefits of lane splitting.
The bill would require the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation to conduct and report a study on the feasibility of allowing lane splitting in Colorado by Dec. 31, 2023.
That said, splitting lanes is not legal in Colorado currently, and the law will not likely change anytime soon, even under an optimistic scenario, given the time required to conduct the study and then change the underlying traffic laws.
Lane splitting motorcyclists will often face a traffic infraction that includes a fine and having points added to their driving record.
Note that a rider could also be cited for reckless driving and potentially face stiffer penalties, depending on the context of the violation.
A lane splitting accident in Colorado will often apportion some of the blame on the motorcyclist since the maneuver is illegal.
That said, Colorado has a comparative negligence system, so a lane splitting motorcyclist may be able to recover damages for an accident if they were less negligent than the other driver.
Thus, if a rider is found partly at fault for a lane splitting accident, they may be able to recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, although their recovery may be reduced by their percentage of fault for the accident.
Motorcycles can share lanes with one other motorcycle in Colorado but not with other vehicles.
Motorcyclists can ride side by side in the same lane, sometimes called "co-riding." And doing so can make motorcyclists more visible, potentially reducing the risk of getting rear-ended or other collisions.
But motorcycles cannot ride in the same lane as other motor vehicles (such as cars or trucks) in Colorado.
The only state in the US that explicitly allows motorcycle lane splitting is California.
The specifics of lane splitting laws can vary significantly by state, and even by city, so riders must familiarize themselves with the motorcycle laws in the states where they plan to ride.
For instance, some states--like Arizona, Utah, and Montana--allow lane filtering under certain circumstances. But no other states explicitly allow lane spitting besides California.
There was a failed proposal to change the law regarding lane splitting in 2016, but the more recent Colorado lane splitting law is House Bill 23-1059 which was introduced in January.
The law would call for a study regarding the feasibility of allowing lane splitting by motorcycles in Colorado. The law would not actually change the legal status of lane splitting for the time being.
So, can you split lanes in Colorado? No, lane splitting is currently not legal in Colorado and California is the only state that allows lane splitting,
There has been recent buzz around the topic as the state legislature did introduce a Colorado lane splitting law that would commission a study on the feasibility of allowing lane splitting in the state. But any law legalizing lane splitting would be even further out in the future.
So in the meantime, ride safely and remember that lane splitting is not yet legal in Colorado.