Lane filtering is when a motorcycle rider travels at low speed between stationary or slow moving vehicles travelling in the same direction.
It’s actually legal under certain conditions in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and is currently under trial in the ACT.
But if you’re a motorcyclist who lane filters, are you doing it safely? And legally?
The laws in Australia set a maximum speed of 30 km/h for both the rider and the surrounding traffic, and other rules also 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.
This is only allowed in speed zones of 90 km/h or greater, and the maximum speed of 30 km/h still applies.
The debate over lane filtering is always divisive, with plenty of points both for and against the practice.
Those who support lane filtering suggest it is safer for a motorcyclist to move between cars to get out of their way, which can prevent rear end crashes, and also that it reduces traffic congestion.
Those against argue that since motorcycles are less than 5% of the registered road fleet in Australia it won’t have a great effect on traffic flow, and that moving between cars reduces the amount of time and SPACE the rider has to avoid any incident.
There are at least three issues for car drivers with lane filtering.
Many drivers are still unaware it is legal in some states, they’re not expecting or looking for a motorcycle moving between cars, and some car drivers can become irritated at the sight of a motorcycle squeezing through the traffic.
The Queensland Government has produced this video on lane filtering, and the NSW equivalent is here.
As a motorcyclist, and if we’re really honest with ourselves, the greatest benefit is simply that we can get to where we’re going sooner.
Lane filtering leaves a motorcycle rider particularly vulnerable but there are things a rider can do to improve their safety.
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.
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.