There are many motorcycle riders who have this common question in their mind as to whether they are legally permitted to ride their bikes in the carpool lane?
The short answer to this question is YES! Motorcycles are allowed in the carpool lane. The common usage is restricted to only one rider but the primary reason why motorcyclists are allowed to take their bikes in these lanes is to actually promote greater safety for the riders.
However, it’s important to note that although motorcycles are allowed to be ridden in carpool lanes, these rules can be amended anytime by the State DOTs as they are the final authority in this. So, we recommend you follow up with your own State rules to know the current state of the regulations that are in place.
In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss what is a carpool lane, the rules of riding a motorcycle in a carpool lane, and the tips for riding safely. We will cover each of these points in great detail and therefore, if you want information on riding in the carpool lane, you’ve come to the right place.
What is a Carpool Lane?
The carpool lane is also known as the HOV lane which stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. These lanes are basically express lanes designed for vehicles that have 2 or more passengers on them. The primary intention of these HOV lanes is to promote safety and ridesharing.
The idea behind carpool or HOV lanes is that these lanes will have more carpooling that will essentially reduce the number of vehicles on chalk-a-block highways, especially during the rush hours of the day in a metro city.
Now, as a rider, if you are not at all familiar with HOV or carpool lanes, you should know that knowing about these lanes is of importance to you. Why? Because these lanes were designed in the first place to ensure safety for motorcycle riders only.
So, whether you are going to work or you are on a cross-country trip, the option of HOV lanes is great in terms of getting around the congested traffic. On a normal day, an HOV lane will be typically empty compared to the other express lanes.
Can I Drive in the HOV Lane with a Motorcycle Permit?
Motorcycle permit privileges vary from state to state regarding HOV lane use. While some states allow motorcyclists with a motorcycle permit to use the HOV lane, others require a full motorcycle license. It’s crucial to understand your state’s specific regulations and requirements before utilizing motorcycle permit privileges in the HOV lane.
Rules for Riding a Motorcycle in the HOV Lanes
Before we discuss some specific rules about riding a bike in the HOV lane, let’s start by saying that the traffic rules for motorcyclists in the carpool lane remain the same as it is for other vehicles on the road. Having said that, there are a few rules that you need to keep in mind to be safe on your two-wheeler in an HOV lane. These are as follows –
Take Your Time Before You Merge & Double Check the Blind Spots
HOV lanes are typically designed to be on the farthest left on the highways and as a result, you need to change a lot of lanes before you get in there. Therefore, there will be a lot of merging involved and if you are not attentive to it, the event can be quite risky.
Never forget to use your turn signals including your hand signals to make sure that other drivers and riders on the road are aware and alert of your merging. When the traffic is heavy, do not forget to double-check your blind spots as you do not want any dangerous situation to arise unnecessarily when you are trying to get in the HOV lane.
Different states have different sets of regulations for their HOV lanes but generally, there will be certain sections in the lane specified for merging. Usually, these sections are marked by dashed white lines, or otherwise, there will be solid white lines that separate the HOV lane from the regular lanes.
An important point to note here is that whether you are going into the lane or are coming out of it, crossing this solid white line is not legal, and therefore, you could be liable to pay some fine. In the case of other vehicles, if you are a single rider you are not legally permitted to drive in the HOV lane and you can be subjected to fines by State authorities.
For example, in the State of Washington, the WSDOT authorities have introduced a program called the HERO, to specifically reduce solo drivers from going into the HOV lane. Whenever other riders or drivers see a violation of the law taking place, they can simply report the incident by calling a number, and immediately the violator will receive an email, reminding him or her of the State laws and the violation taking place.
As per the State’s official website violating the rules of the carpool lane is 5% less in Washington when compared to the national average.
Be Careful with the Speed of Your Motorcycle
A carpool lane has the same speed limit as other lanes but since these lanes remain fairly empty compared to the usual lanes, there can be a difference in speed for vehicles in the different lanes.
Therefore, always keep an eye on a rider who suddenly jumps out of the heavy traffic to get into the HOV lane. Usually, most GPS services have their local speed limit displayed on a screen on the highway. But if you cannot find one, be on the cautious side and keep your speed in the line of the other vehicles on the road.
Remember, speeding is an offense in the HOV lane and can attract some hefty fines. So, be very careful!
Tips for Riding Safely in the HOV Lanes
As stated earlier, the simple idea behind the design of HOV lanes is to keep motorcycle riders safe. It is considered that it is much safe for motorcycles if they keep on moving rather than being stuck in a stop-and-go mode in congested traffic.
Especially during rush hours, people are much prone to get tangled in road rage. Again, motorcycles lack visibility than bigger vehicles, and therefore, they are much more in a state of danger than others. The HOV lane on the other hand allows riders to bypass such heavy traffic and go to their desired destination in a safe and secured manner.
Here are a few tips for safe driving in an HOV/Carpool lane –
- Always Use Turn Signals When Merging (including hand signals)
- Always Be on the Safe-Speed Side
- Always Check the Mirror & Double-Check Your Blind Spots
- Always Be More Cautious Near the Merging Zones
- Always Yield to Emergency Vehicles
- Always Obey Traffic Laws
Now that you know in great detail that motorcycles are legally allowed in the carpool or HOV lanes and are even encouraged to, for a safe ride. As HOV lanes usually stay empty, instead of starting-and-stopping in the heavy traffic motorcyclists could use these lanes to keep moving during heavy traffic and save some precious time.
Although there are no specific rules for HOV lanes, as recommended in this guide always be on full alert while merging and be careful of your speed limit. In order to save some time, you would not like to meet with any kind of fatal accident, right?
Overall, the carpool or HOV lanes are designed for better management of traffic. So, motorcycle riders should definitely take advantage of it!
Happy Riding to You!