Is Lane Splitting Legal in Colorado?

Posted On December 13, 2023 / By Manning Law / Motorcycle Accidents

Lane splitting is currently illegal in Colorado. State lawmakers rejected bills submitted in the past that sought the legalization of lane splitting. These lawmakers question the safety of lane splitting, while supporters of this practice argue that it is safer for motorcyclists. If a motorcycle accident takes place while a motorcyclist is unlawfully lane splitting, he or she could be found responsible for the crash under Colorado law.

What Is Lane Splitting? 

“Lane splitting” refers to the practice of a motorcyclist riding on the line between two lanes of slower-moving or stopped traffic. It is sometimes referred to as white lining. Rather than remaining within a single lane, a motorcyclist who lane splits rides on the line between two lanes of same-direction traffic. This is typically done to save time in congested traffic.

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

There is much debate regarding the safety of lane splitting. Those who argue against lane splitting say that it brings motorcyclists in closer proximity to motor vehicles, putting them at risk of sideswipe accidents. A lane-splitting motorcycle may also be at risk of hovering in a motor vehicle driver’s blind spot. In addition, drivers may get startled by an unexpected motorcycle in between two lanes, increasing the risk of accidents.  

By contrast, supporters often cite the University of California Berkeley analysis conducted in 2015 – the study that ultimately led to the legalization of lane splitting for the first time in California – which concluded that lane splitting is relatively safe in traffic moving at 50 mph or less as long as motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of surrounding vehicles by more than 15 mph. Advocates for lane splitting say that it enhances the safety of motorcyclists by enabling them to prevent rear-end collisions and exit highways faster.

What Is the Law on Lane Splitting in Colorado? 

As of 2024, lane splitting is illegal in the State of Colorado. The most recent lane-splitting bill to be rejected was House Bill 16-1205 in 2016. This bill requested an exception to the existing prohibitions against lane splitting that would have allowed motorcyclists to ride between rows of motor vehicles when traffic was moving at less than 5 mph, within certain parameters.

Under the current law, if a motorcycle rider is caught lane splitting by a law enforcement officer, he or she could face a citation and fine. Points may be added to the operator’s driving record. Accumulating 12 or more points within a 12-month period can lead to the suspension of the motorcyclist’s driver’s license.

However, in 2023, House Bill 23-1059 was passed: a law requiring the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol to conduct a feasibility study of permitting lane splitting in the future. The results of this study were required to be submitted to the House of Representatives by December 31, 2023. They have yet to be released.

Who Is Liable for a Lane Splitting Accident in Colorado?

If a crash investigation finds that a motorcycle accident involved the illegal practice of lane splitting, the motorcyclist may face liability (legal and financial responsibility) for the wreck. This means the motorcyclist may have to pay for a motor vehicle driver’s property damage and medical bills.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Under Colorado’s comparative negligence law, even if a motorcyclist is found to be partially at fault for an accident, he or she could still be eligible for financial compensation. In other cases, the motorcyclist may have found it necessary to lane split for his or her safety. Contact a Denver motorcycle accident lawyer at Manning Law for legal advice if you get into an accident that involves allegations of lane splitting.