Some road shoulders to open for motorcycles

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A motorcyclist drives on Kalanianaole Avenue last week in Keaukaha.

In the new year, motorcyclists in Hawaii might have their travel time reduced by a law that will designate the shoulders of some roads as traversable by motorcycle.

House Bill 2589, which passed in the Legislature earlier this year without the signature of Gov. David Ige, authorizes the state Department of Transportation to designate certain roads’ shoulders as legally drivable by two-wheeled motorcycles. The bill was introduced with the goal of improving safety for motorcyclists.


Ellsworth Fontes, owner of Hilo motorcycle shop Ellsworth’s Custom Cycles, said being allowed to ride on the shoulder would spare bikers from being stuck in heavy traffic, which causes significant safety issues for motorcyclists. For example, he said, smaller-sized motorcycles are more likely to be crowded in by larger vehicles.

“The thing about motorcycles is a lot of them are air-cooled,” Fontes said. “So when you’re stuck in traffic, not moving, a bike’s not built for that. It gets hot, and it could overheat. Even being allowed to drive just 10 mph would keep that from happening.”

In a series of hearings held throughout early 2018, the bill was widely supported, with only a handful of parties in opposition due to safety concerns. Nonetheless, Ige announced his intention to veto the bill in June after its final reading in the state House of Representatives. For unclear reasons, Ige failed to do so, and the bill became law in mid-July, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2019.

While designated shoulders will be usable by riders of two-wheeled motorcycles, the law limits what riders will be able to do. Riders will not be permitted to drive faster than 10 miles per hour, or against the flow of the adjacent lane of traffic, nor will they be permitted to make turns from the shoulder.

Riders also are not permitted to use a designated shoulder unless road traffic is completely stopped, and must leave the shoulder when traffic begins moving again. Although the law goes into effect today, there will be no immediate change to any road in the state, and no shoulder is currently designated for use by motorcyclists.


Tim Sakahara, DOT spokesman, said there currently is no timeline for when the department will designate a shoulder, and the process for doing so is not yet established.

If and when a shoulder is designated, the DOT will clearly mark the beginning and end points of the designated area and post notices about the shoulder speed limit.

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