If done safely, undertaking can be an acceptable way for motorcyclists to progress past slow-moving or stationary traffic.
Are motorbikes allowed to undertake?
Although generally discouraged, according to The Highway Code, motorcyclists are allowed to undertake other road users (passing on the left), if the vehicle ahead is signalling to turn right and there is enough room. (Rule 163)
On motorways, The Highway Code advises:
Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right. Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake. (Rule 268)
Accidents can happen where the road user being undertaken pulls to the left or changes lanes abruptly and carelessly, without proper use of their mirrors.
Case Law on Undertaking
Below is an example of case law involving motorbike undertaking. It’s important to remember that every case is different and that the circumstances of a case are unique to that particular case.
Brooks v Burgess (1996)
A car driver was crossing a junction in front of a stationary coach, when a motorcyclist was undertaking the coach at 20mph. The driver travelled into the path of the motorcyclist and the two collided.
Initially, liability was given as 80/20, with the driver apportioned most of the blame. However, liability was decided at 50/50 on appeal.
It was concluded that the driver pulled from a minor road to a major road without considering that a pedestrian or another vehicle could be travelling along the nearside of the coach. There was contributory negligence on the part of the motorcyclist as they were performing a particularly risky manoeuvre in undertaking on approach to a junction.
It is worth noting that a biker is always at risk when undertaking. Our experience of representing vulnerable road users has allowed us to gain significant understanding of all the risks imposed by obstructions and other road users.
If you, as the biker, are undertaking a vehicle, it is important to always make sure you have the ability to back off if the vehicle decides to turn left.
It is likely that the coach driver won’t see you, which means it is even more crucial to ensure there are no oncoming junctions, and that the coach is travelling at a slow speed. Also note whether there are any indications that the coach in in the process of speeding up – as this presents an additional risk of you being left in a further vulnerable position on the road.
Consider your options. Is it better to wait for a few seconds for traffic to clear? Can you see traffic ahead through the windows of the vehicle you are undertaking, if not, is it wise to continue?
It is always better to overtake vehicles and to keep your speed to a controlled pace, just in case a vehicle pulls out/ turns across you, or even opens a door unexpectedly. This is something we see in cases all the time, and the risk of these incidents occurring can be greatly reduced with the care and consideration of both parties.
How do solicitors fight a motorbike undertaking case?
Undertaking can be risky due to visibility being obscured and, as with many motorcycle accidents, there are often attempts to blame the biker in undertaking cases.
As with Brooks v Burgess, liability is often split between the biker and the other parties involved in claims like this. However, each claim will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Why Biker SOS?
By choosing Biker SOS you’re choosing the motorbike accident specialists. We’ve handled 1 in 6 motorbike claims in the last 5 years alone – making us the largest specialist provider in the country.
We’ve handled hundreds of motorbike undertaking claims, so we know the law in this area inside out. Our expert team will fight your corner and get you the compensation you deserve, supporting you throughout your claim, as well as your rehabilitation and recovery.
No Win No Fee
We understand the devastating impact a motorcycle accident can have on your life and the financial pressures it can bring, so we handle your claim on a No Win No Fee basis, meaning you won’t pay anything upfront to start your claim.