Lane filtering rules still vary substantially from state to state and have not yet been passed in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, almost four years after they were introduced in NSW.
The practice is allowed and even encouraged in many countries. In the USA, California allows lane splitting at no more than 10mph faster than surrounding traffic.
In Australia, the NT government doesn’t believe lane filtering rules are necessary because of their light traffic and the ACT has been on an extended trial since February 2015 with no resolution in sight.
A WA Road Safety Commission spokesperson says they may be imminent as the government is “considering the current matter of lane filtering”.
“A consultation paper on this issue will be released on 23 June at the Motorcycle Safety Forum,” the spokesperson says.
The forum has been organised by West Australian motorcycle advocate Dave Wright who is hopeful lane filtering rules will be introduced soon.
However, he says lane filtering is not really an issue there anyway as road rule 122 says you can’t overtake on the left if the traffic is moving.
“So if the traffic is stationary, you can lane filter so long as you are safe,” he says.
The Motorcycle Safety Forum at the Stirling Community Centre, North Beach, is free, but you should contact Dave via email first for catering purposes.
Fines and penalties
If Western Australia goes ahead with lane filtering, it will be interesting to see how the fines, demerit points and rules vary from other states and territories.
Victoria has the lowest penalties for lane filtering offences at $159 and no demerit points, followed by Tasmania with the same fine but two demerit points.
In Queensland, the fine is $341 and three demerit points and in South Australia it’s $363 and three demerit points.
NSW is the most expensive for lane-filtering riders who get it wrong. They can be fined $659 and three demerit points (but no double demerits) for breaches.
Common lane filtering rules
The common rules to all states and territories that have introduce lane filtering rules so far are:
- Lane filtering is limited to 30km/h and under;
- It is illegal between traffic and the kerb; and
- Riders cannot filter between lanes of traffic travelling in the opposite direction.
Lane filtering rule variations
Apart from those basic common parameters, they vary markedly across the states.
Licensed riders: Only fully licensed riders can filter, except in Victoria where P platers can also filter;
School zones: Filtering is not permitted in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. It is legal in “school speed zones” in Victoria “when safe to do so”.
Pedestrian and children’s crossings: Only mentioned as illegal in SA.
Bicycles lanes: Not allowed in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, SA and ACT. No mention of bicycle lanes in Tasmanian rules.
Bus lanes: Not allowed in SA. No mention in Queensland, NSW, ACT, Tasmania or Victoria.
Next to buses and trucks: Not allowed in ACT. No mention in Queensland, NSW, SA or Victoria. Tasmania says riders should “avoid” filtering next to buses and heavy vehicles.
Tram lanes: Only mentioned as illegal in Victoria and SA.
Next to parked cars: Not allowed in NSW, SA and Tasmania. Allowed in Victoria. Not mentioned in Queensland and ACT.
Next to a dedicated turning lane: Only mentioned as illegal in Queensland.
Roundabouts: Only mentioned as illegal in SA.
Edge or shoulder filtering: Only mentioned as legal in Queensland in 90km/h zones. If the electronic speed sign drops below 90km/h, it becomes illegal.
Bicycle storage areas: Queensland is the only state that allows riders to filter to the front at traffic lights and wait in green bicycle storage areas in front of the traffic lane, not to the side. They cannot use a bicycle lane to get there and they must give way to any vehicle already in the area or entering on a green or yellow traffic light or arrow.
Only when safe to do so (or similar words): This is an overriding rule mentioned in Victoria, SA, ACT, Queensland and Tasmania, but not NSW. It provides police with some latitude to fine riders based on their judgement.
If something is not mentioned as illegal in your state, such as filtering at pedestrian crossings or roundabouts, you may presume it is legal. However “when safe to do so” could take precedence.
(Note: There appear to be some contradictions between gazetted rules and online information which we are trying to sort out.)