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Maryland bill would allow motorcycle riding between lanes of traffic on highway, at red lights

Maryland motorcyclists would be allowed to ride between lanes of highway traffic and between vehicles stopped at traffic lights under a bill scheduled for a first hearing in the House of Delegates on Thursday.

The measures, known as “lane-splitting” and “filtering,” would make motorcyclists safer and decrease carbon emissions and congestion, according to the bill’s sponsor, Del. Kathy Szeliga, a motorcyclist and Republican lawmaker who represents Baltimore and Harford counties.

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While Szeliga acknowledges that the bill is not likely to pass this session, she wants to start “getting the public comfortable” with the idea.

“It’s a new concept here in Maryland,” Szeliga said. “It’s used quite widely in Europe and Asia.”

It would keep traffic moving, especially on traffic-heavy summer days at the Bay Bridge and other congestion-prone areas of the state, Szeliga said.

“You’re overheating; your motorcycle’s overheating,” she said. “It’s not somebody doing wheelies down the middle of the highway.”

She also said a friend recently was killed in a rear-end collision at a traffic light, and allowing motorcyclists to filter up through traffic to the front of the pack would help prevent such accidents from occurring.

California is the only state that has legalized lane-splitting. Similar legislation has failed in Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, New York, Oregon and Texas. A bill in Virginia, which would have allowed motorcyclists to ride on the shoulder when traffic was stopped or going less than 10 mph, failed earlier this year.

The American Motorcycle Association and ABATE of Maryland, a local motorcyclist group, support the legislation. AAA Mid-Atlantic, which represents nearly a million Maryland drivers, opposes it because it says lane-splitting would create more dangerous roads for drivers and bikers.

“This legislation would leave motorcycle riders and drivers vulnerable to unsafe operation on Maryland roads,” AAA spokeswoman Ragina Cooper-Averella said in a statement. “Lane-splitting is dangerous to both motorcycle operators and vehicle operators and could result in side-swipe and turn-into-path collisions as drivers in moving traffic may not expect to be passed by an object traveling between lanes.”

Szeliga argued that it is drivers’ responsibility to pay attention while changing lanes.

“You should always be looking for motorcycles,” Szeliga said.

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