Hundreds of motorcycles roared down Congress Avenue on Monday, headed for the Capitol where a mass of bikers in jeans, leather vests and baseball caps gathered on the south steps to rev their collective political engine before the new Legislature.
“It doesn’t matter what you ride, or who you ride with,” a speaker told the crowd. “It’s just that you ride.”
Bikers from across the state rode to Austin to show support for several bills that would loosen traffic restrictions for motorcyclists. One of the most popular proposals is House Bill 813, a “lane splitting” bill by state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview, that would allow bikers to cut through congested traffic.
Lane splitting — weaving through slow or stopped traffic, often by driving in narrow spaces between cars — isn’t specifically addressed by Texas law, but the Texas Department of Transportation website says bikers who eschew traffic lanes could be flagged for a safety violation. California is the only state to legalize lane splitting.
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Muñoz’s bill would allow splitting traffic that is moving slower than 20 mph.
State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, who spoke at the rally Monday, introduced a bill last week to allow motorcycles to proceed through a red light if the traffic-control signal doesn't detect the bike, because of its smaller metal mass, "within a reasonable amount of time."
Just for good measure, several speakers also criticized motorcycle-only traffic checkpoints. Texas is already one of 16 states to ban motorcycle checkpoints, but bikers traveling out of state still have to deal with biker "profiling," as they call it.
A new bill in the U.S. Senate would stop federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints.
“We’re not just outlaw bikers,” said Scrap’n Calaveras, an Austin biker. “I have my own company and run my own company. I don’t want to be profiled just because I ride a motorcycle."