Let us clear up any confusion over Lane Filtering and Lane Splitting…
In Australia, this is where a motorcycle rider moves past slow-moving or stagnant vehicles, no faster than 30km/h.
Each State may differ, but it is generally permissible when a rider is travelling between adjacent lanes of traffic, heading in the same direction.
It is only legal if it is safe to do so. If conditions aren’t safe, don’t risk it.
Advocates of legal lane filtering implore its importance for increasing road safety for motorcyclists to give them more control on the roads as they can move through heavy traffic and into safer areas of the lanes.
Be careful though.
Some States have skinnier lanes than others. Coming from WA to SA for example, I found filtering in Adelaide’s city traffic near impossible, yet Perth is a cinch.
Never try squeezing between heavy vehicles and buses as they have diminished visibility and lots of wheels to be caught under. Just wait until you can move by with a smaller vehicle alongside, or preferably in the adjacent lane by yourself.
Be very wary of parked cars, where doors may open suddenly.
Keep an eye in your rear-view mirrors for impatient motorcyclists who believe it is their right to speed through the traffic and will be up your clacker, trying to push you along faster than the legal speed. Take a breath, move into the next available space and let the idiot pass, then be back on your way.
Ideally, it would be wonderful to have the legislation all standardised throughout Australia, however, the laws and penalties remain inconsistent, which can become a bit confusing when travelling interstate. Ignorance of each State’s laws however is no excuse to break the law.
Lane filtering in the following situations are illegal in all States and Territories as not only you are at risk of injury, but also others:
- between the kerb and traffic
- through oncoming traffic
- using bicycle lanes
- if deemed not safe.
Penalties, if caught, will vary with each State.
This is where motorcycle riders travel at a higher speed, i.e., above 30km/h between moving traffic. It is considered an unsafe practice and no matter what State you’re in, lane splitting is illegal.
Stick to 30km/h and you’ll be sweet. If traffic is flowing normally or just a bit slower than the posted limit, suck it up and go with the flow; learn some patience.
In New Zealand, throw out the rule book it seems… a motorcyclist may overtake a vehicle on their right, within their traffic lane, if it is safe to do so. The traffic must be slow-moving or stationary and the way ahead must be clear, but there is no set maximum speed allowed.
The Land Transport Rule 2004, motorcyclists must just adhere to normal overtaking rules, such as having a clear view, not cutting vehicles off and not impeding oncoming traffic.
Ride Forever explains: “There’s no speed limit for filtering set in legislation, nor any limit on the differential between your speed and vehicles you might be passing. But weaving through lines of vehicles at a much faster speed is unwise, dangerous and liable to anger other road users.”
The concept of lane filtering is to try keep you in the safest position, from other larger vehicles, behind you.
If you think about it, a motorcycle tail-light in your foreground of traffic lights, signage, guardrails, trees, other vehicle’s tail-lights, pedestrians, sunlight reflections, rain… is barely visible. Add to that a lack of concentration by the driver behind you or they’ve not seen your modern, cool looking tail-lights and indicators that are mere tiny dots, that actually, can’t be seen very well at all.
I’ve sat behind friends with these types of tiny LED lights on their flash new sports bikes or their modified cruisers and have mentioned to them when we’ve pulled up, that the tail-lights and braking is scarcely evident.
Then pop into the equation some other distractions of modern-day life, loud music being Bluetoothed through quality, outside-noise-destroying speakers… kids fighting over a pack of chips… the mobile ringing… the GPS showing the wrong exit lane… you get the drift, the motorcycle in front is often not even the focus of the driver behind you… and if they are tailgating you as well… then sheesh!
Sooooo, lane filtering can get you beside larger vehicles and closer to a traffic light change; it can get you through slow-moving or peak hour traffic in a safer way, which helps considerably if your bike tends to overheat… it can also help keep you out of the way of distracted and tailgating drivers.
However, if you think you are Super Woman and invincible, by flying through at insane speeds, then be prepared to be on the news at some stage. Play by the rules and keep the ruling there for everybody, a couple more minutes at the end of your journey means you got to your destination, without the detour in an ambulance, a wired jaw and traction.
Below are terrific links to have bookmarked, even if you’re an experienced rider:
New Zealand’s best motorcycle website:
…and each Aussie State not just for filtering, but for motorcycle rules in general:
By Katarina Dálaigh