21 March 2023
The joy of accident-free filtering
It’s a lovely feeling – and it’s perfectly legal.
Gliding past queues of stationary or slow-moving traffic – known as filtering or lane splitting – is one of the big advantages enjoyed by bikers.
It gets us where we want to go, saves time and fuel, and prevents bike and rider alike overheating through being stuck in a jam!
But, like most things, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
First, it’s a good idea to think about filtering as a privilege rather than a right.
Although the Highway Code mentions the practice of filtering in Rule 88, it doesn’t state that bikers have an entitlement to do so – nor does it oblige other road users to let us filter.
Instead, it puts the onus on bikers to be responsible for their own safety, stating: “…when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.”
Getting it right starts with asking: “do I really need to filter here?”
If it’s a case of just getting past a couple of other vehicles, chances are that a bit of patience might be the better option.
If filtering looks like the better choice, start with good observation drills before beginning the manoeuvre:
- Check your mirrors
- Check there’s enough room to get past the line of traffic AND back in again
- Check if there’s debris or another hazard on your planned line of travel
- Do a lifesaver check (not least because another biker may already be filtering!)
Once you’ve committed and begun to filter, constant observation ─ ahead and behind ─ remains the key:
- Look ahead and plan the route at every stage
- Look behind and anticipate how you might need to react
- Never get pressured into speeding up just because another biker is behind you
- Give yourself time and space by never going more than 20mph faster than the surrounding traffic
- Plan your pull-in spot carefully: look for a natural gap and go through the OSM PSL protocol before moving back into the flow of traffic
FILTERING: THE HUMAN FACTOR
Whatever the legal position and regardless of best riding practice, it’s a fact that angsty motorists need to be taken into account as another potential hazard when filtering.
Slow-moving or stationary traffic doesn’t bring out the best in human nature.
Motorcyclists sailing blithely past while others are stuck in a queue can become a focus of frustration for motorists who imagine (unfairly) that we’re jumping the queue.
Bikers here at Fletchers report a wide range of behaviours from the simply uncivil (think non-standard hand signals) to the frankly dangerous (like pulling across lanes to block progress, spraying riders with screen wash as they pass, and even outright physical assault.)
Unacceptable as any of this may be, we’d do well to assume that motorists (and their insurers) are likely to place fault with the filtering biker in the event of a collision.
Defending yourself certainly includes keeping your filtering-specific skills on point ─ and you don’t always need to be on two wheels to get that done:
- Check out in-depth online advice
- Keep your hazard-perception skills finely tuned
- Refer to Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook
Finally, if the worst should happen and you do collide while filtering, remember that BIKER SOS service is here to give you expert legal advice on where you stand and possible next steps forward. We'll be happy to help with an initial conversation and we’ll only get paid if you decide to move forward and your claim is successful.
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