Yes, motorcycles can use the HOV/carpool lane. US federal law states that motorcycles are allowed in HOV lanes in Title 23 section 166(b)(2), meaning it’s legal throughout the country.
Even if state or local law or visible signage states that a vehicle must have “no fewer than two occupants” to use the lane, motorcycles receive an exception under this law and may use the lane with only one rider.
Why Can Motorcycles Use the HOV/Carpool Lane?
Carpool lanes spread throughout the US during the 70s to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by decreasing exhaust emissions. The idea is that since HOV lanes allow cars with multiple people to bypass other traffic, it would encourage more people to carpool to work or otherwise ride together in the same vehicle. This would get cars off the road.
If you think about it, motorcycles accomplish the same thing. Even though it’s still just one rider, a person who’s commuting by motorcycle is taking up less space and producing less exhaust than a person who’s driving a car alone.
As a result, federal authorities decided that the benefits of the HOV lane should also apply to motorcyclists to encourage more efficient commuting options.
Is It Safe for Motorcycles to Use the HOV/Carpool Lane?
Yes, it’s safer for motorcycles to use the HOV lane than other highway lanes. This is because HOV lanes are limited access, so other motorists aren’t allowed to invade your lane. Often, HOV lanes are divided from the rest of the traffic.
Can You Be Stopped or Ticketed for Using the HOV/Carpool Lane on a Motorcycle?
It is legal under federal law across the United States for motorcycles to use the HOV/carpool lane.
Nevertheless, some states or cities may have local laws contradicting this federal guidance, leading to law enforcement officials stopping motorcyclists in the carpool lane and citing them. Riders have reported this happening in New York, for instance.
Motorcyclists can challenge these citations and have them overturned under federal law. However, it can still represent a significant hassle, not to mention court costs, points against your license, and insurance issues. Hopefully, these jurisdictions will come into compliance with the federal guidelines soon.