A view of Highway 36 in Northglenn, Colorado. Motorcyclists in HOV lanes in Colorado

Back in 2017, I wrote an article in response to a reader who asked the following questions:

  • Can motorcycles ride in the carpool lane in Colorado?
  • What are the rules for motorcycles in Colorado’s HOV lanes?

Well, as things tend to do over time, the answers to those questions have changed! So, this is an update for motorcycle riders in Colorado. And there’s some good news!

But first, I think I should provide some definitions, because this can get confusing.

Difference Between HOV Lanes and Express Lanes in Colorado

  • What is an Express Lane? Express Lanes are new lanes built in addition to any existing general-purpose lanes to provide drivers the choice of a more reliable trip by paying a toll. Toll prices are set to manage traffic and to have just the right number of vehicles in the lane to provide reliable, shorter travel time.
  • What is an HOV Lane? HOV Lanes can only be used by people who meet the state’s HOV rules. (See the next bullet.) Sometimes these HOV Lanes are also Toll Lanes, opening them up to people who are willing to pay a fee.
  • What Makes a Car “HOV?” Colorado now has a law called “HOV 3,” which means that, in order to be considered a High Occupancy Vehicle, the auto must be carrying three or more people.

There are different toll rules on different roads and sometimes you need a transponder, sometimes you don’t. See how all these details can get confusing? This handy chart from the Colorado Department of Transportation makes it clear.

Specifically for Motorcycles and Express Lanes

CDOT Map of express lanes

CDOT Express Lanes Map

Motorcycles can ride in most Express/HOV lanes for free, and (drum roll) you DO NOT need to buy a pass (which was a former requirement)! Here is a road-by-road description of motorcycle rules:

Express Lanes in Colorado:

  • US 36: Free for motorcycles.
  • I-25 North between I-25 North and E-470: Free for motorcycles.
  • I-25 North between Johnstown and Fort Collins: Free to motorcycles.
  • I-25 Central: Free to motorcycles.
  • I-25 South Gap: Free to motorcycles.
  • Central 70: Free to motorcycles.
  • C-470: Free to motorcycles.
  • Eastbound I-70 Mountain: NOT FREE to motorcycles. Must pay to ride in the Express lane.
  • Westbound I-70 Mountain: NOT FREE to motorcycles. Must pay to ride in the Express lane.

Safety Tips and Additional Rules for Motorcycles in Colorado Express Lanes

Group motorcycle ride on Colorado freewayRiding in a wide-open Express Lane does not mean there is no speed limit or that other rules of the road should be abandoned. Be sure to follow these laws:

  • Speed limits apply to the Express Lanes as well as the general-purpose lanes. Motorists should not exceed the posted speed limits when using the Express Lanes.
  • Express Lanes should be entered and exited through the dashed line only. Weaving in and out of the Express Lanes and crossing the double white line could result in a violation and up to $1,000 fine.
  • Express Lanes should NEVER be used as a passing lane. Express Lanes are offered next to the free, general-purpose lanes to provide drivers with a choice and an option of reliable travel time, but it’s not safe to use Express Lanes as a passing lane.

I’m thrilled that Colorado made it easier than ever for motorcycles to use the majority of our Express and HOV lanes for free. But please remember to ride defensively. Auto drivers tend to drive faster in those lanes and they may not be looking twice for motorcycles. Stay safe!