Jul 21, 2018

Are You Lane Filtering Safely?

Lane filtering motorcycle
Lane filtering is legal in some states of Australia and can be safe if done correctly.
  • Lane filtering is legal in Australia in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and is under trial in the ACT

  • There is still plenty of debate about whether it is safe and effective

  • We give you our advice on how to lane filter safely

Lane filtering – riding a motorcycle at low speed between stationary or slow moving vehicles travelling in the same direction – is legal under certain conditions in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and is currently under trial in the ACT.

It is also legal in several other countries, including the UK where it has been a common and well observed practice for many years.

But as a motorcyclist, are you doing it safely? And legally?

The rules in Australia stipulate a maximum speed of 30 km/h for both the rider and the surrounding traffic. Other rules apply regarding kerbside lanes, school zones and the type of licence you hold.

Queensland is the only state in Australia that also allows riders to use the road shoulder in speed zones of 90 km/h or greater, but the maximum speed of 30 km/h still applies.

Lane filtering in VictoriaThe debate over lane filtering is always intense and divisive, with plenty of points both for and against.

Those who support lane filtering suggest it is safer for a motorcyclist to move between cars to get out of their way, preventing rear end crashes.

They also suggest it reduces traffic congestion.

Those against argue that with motorcycles representing less than 5% of the registered road fleet in Australia it’s hardly going to help move cars through traffic faster.

The “against” argument also points out that moving between cars places the motorcyclist in a confined space, and reduces the two things most important to a rider’s safety – time and SPACE.

From a car driver’s perspective there are at least three issues – many drivers are unaware that it is legal in some states, they are normally not looking for a motorcycle moving between cars, and impatient and frustrated car drivers are likely to become agitated at the sight of a motorcycle squeezing through, potentially triggering road rage.

One thing is for certain, and that is that the motorcyclist has the most to gain by lane filtering NOT the car drivers.

And if we’re really honest with ourselves, the greatest benefit to a motorcyclist is simply that we can get to where we’re going sooner.

Sometimes it just doesn’t go well.

Lane filtering leaves a motorcycle rider particularly vulnerable but there are things a rider can do to improve their safety.

The first, and probably most important thing to do, is to accept that your safety is your own responsibility and that you are not at the mercy of other road users.

All road users make mistakes, some even take deliberate actions to put themselves and others at risk, but there is no point in any of us blaming “the other guy” when something goes wrong.

There is always something we could do to eliminate the risk, or at least minimise the consequences.

Certainly further education campaigns are necessary as well – but that applies to both car drivers AND motorcycle riders.

The Queensland Government has produced this video on lane filtering, and the NSW equivalent is here.

Here’s our shortlist of advice for riders if you decide to lane filter:

  • take control of your own safety and don’t rely on others to do the right thing,
  • be observant and look as far ahead as possible,
  • travel at a speed that allows you to stop in less than the distance you can clearly see ahead,
  • be extra cautious if you are approaching an intersection, driveway or any gap in the surrounding traffic,
  • if you’re at the head of the queue, you’d better make sure your take off is spot on or you’ll get swamped by the surrounding traffic,
  • similarly, if you’re stuck between cars when the traffic starts moving again you’re in a high risk situation,
  • remember that lane filtering can be demanding and likely to be more tiring than normal riding,
  • be courteous to other road users – if they’ve made it hard for you to get through there’s no point in aggravating them because a rider will always come out second best, and
  • stick to the rules – they’ve been created for a reason.

If done properly, lane filtering can be one of the great benefits of riding a bike around town and for commuting. But we always have to weigh up the risks we take against the benefits we might gain.

Ultimately, it’s up to us to make our ride a safe one.

What are your thoughts on lane filtering? Do you have any other suggestions on how to do it safely?



3 Comments on Are You Lane Filtering Safely?

  1. Thanks guys, great advice. As a fairly new rider (a few years now) I’m still a bit nervous about going down between the cars but sometimes I do. It worries me when I see another bike coming down behind me. I know he wants to get past but there’s no room. Any advice?

    • Yes, ride your own ride. Pull in between cars and let them pass if it is convenient. Don’t sweat it and risk doing something you’re not comfortable with. I’ve been both riders in that situation at different times – it isn’t a race and there are no prizes for winners.
      I’ve come up behind other riders that are going more cautiously than myself, only to see them feel pressured into going quicker through smaller gaps just because I’m behind them.
      Let others pass when convenient – don’t worry if it isn’t and stay safe whatever you do.

  2. Filtering bikes work their way to the front of stopped traffic at red lights, and accelerate away much quicker than the cars around them. When they reach the next stoppage, they disappear again between the lanes and no car is held up.

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