How do motorcycle lane filtering rules vary?

Leave a gap lane filtering rules signs tasmania lowest rules vary

Lane filtering rules still vary substantially from state to state and have not yet been passed in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, after they were introduced in NSW in July 2014.

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. The ACT  made filtering rules permanent on 10 October 2018 after an extended trial from February 2015.

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 was released in June at the Motorcycle Safety Forum organised by West Australian motorcycle advocate Dave Wright. He remains 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.

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.

The ACT fine is $292 and two demerit points for some filtering offences and no demerits for others.

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 rulesLane filtering rules vary

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 and ACT.

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”.

40km/h zones: The ACT is the only place that bans filtering in ANY 40km/h including school zones, roadworks and city centres, even though the CBD is surely the most vital place to lane filter to the front of queues of traffic.

Pedestrian and children’s crossings: Only mentioned as illegal in SA.

Bicycles lanes: Not allowed in NSW, Victoria, SA and ACT. No mention of bicycle lanes in Tasmanian rules. Queensland riders can use 50m of a bicycle lane to enter a bicycle storage area.

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 can use 50m of 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.

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. (This is contentious as it is not in the rules, but mentioned by the department and, according to our readers, police are fining riders for this.)

Roundabouts: Only mentioned as illegal in SA.

Edge or shoulder filtering: Only mentioned as legal in Queensland in 90km/h zones. It used to be illegal if the variable electronic speed signal dropped below 90km/h but that has now been amended, thanks to representations by the Motorcycle Riders Association of Queensland. 

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.

Since there are contradictions between binding gazetted rules and suggested online filtering information, police may issue a fine based on the latter if they deem it “unsafe”.

You can access the lane filtering rules here: New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and ACT.

 

27 Comments

  1. Mark Hinchliffe, Or anybody? Is there any clarification to the post I did previous on the 27th June? Is it illegal to cross or straddle the solid white line leading up to a roundabout if we want/need to filter? Someone must know……

        1. Hi Mark and David… I would like to see the police use the ‘not safe’ catch all in relation to lane filtering at a roundabout. Anyone who gets a ticket for this would be well advised to challenge it. Unless the motorcyclist was doing something specifically ‘unsafe’ then this alone would not stand up to legal scrutiny.

  2. Edge filtering in QLD has just recently been updated, it is now legal to edge filter when the speed has been electronically reduced below 90kmh.
    Here is the text from the Web site :
    If a variable speed control sign has been used to reduce the speed limit of a road normally 90km/h, you are permitted to edge filter.

  3. I’ve been filtering in S/E Queensland & Brisbane cautiously, watching for ‘plod’ since 1973 (45 years) without any incidents, I repeat none!
    After it became being legal to filter, I discovered a very small percentage of cage drivers suddenly became militant trying to block progress, though less so over the past year.
    My tip here, keep your eyes open, proceed with extreme caution like they’re all trying to kill or fine you 😛

  4. So filtering at a roundabout is legal in NSW? But not if you go over or split the solid white line that appears about 20 to 30 meters between the lanes and before the actual roundabout! I have noticed some roundabouts have the broken white line leading upto it and that is fine apparently. Mr PC Plod pulled me over a couple of weeks ago as i changed changed lanes over this solid white line leading upto a roundabout. I was not filtering. He was adamant and said i cannot go over the solid white line or it was a $330 fine and 3 demerit points! Is there any clarification on this anyone?

  5. Queensland’s edge filtering rules are unique but have some serious flaws. The main one being about electronic variable speed signs. The whole intent of the edge filtering rule was to allow motorcycles to travel slowly down the shoulder/emergency stopping lane on motorways when there is congestion. The rule only allows motorcyclists to edge filter on roads with a posted speed limit of 90km/h or above But on motorways with variable speed signs, the moment congestion occurs, the speed is reduced to 80 or 60 or 40. And the police cynically wait there for motorcyclists edge filtering when the speed limit drops. If ever there was a need for a rule change… this is it!
    The reasoning given by Transport and Main Roads for this is comical. They say, “what if the congestion is caused by a crash. It might be dangerous to edge filter”. And if the crash happens on a road with no variable speed signs… of course it’s perfectly ok to edge filter then. It’s a joke. And it would be very easy to fix too.

  6. Further to my brief comment about stopping in a bicycle lane, section 153(2) of the Queensland Road Rules makes it quite clear that drivers can stop in a bicycle lane so long as they are not in the lane for more than the permitted distance, which for bicycle lanes is 50m. I need to note that drivers may stop in all bicycle lanes so long as there is no sign or yellow edge line prohibiting the action. Section 187 is the rule that prohibits stopping in various lanes. Bicycle lanes are not included in this rule… whereas they are included in the Australian Road Rules version of this rule. Queensland chose to vary this back in the lane 1990’s when we first introduced the ARR into the state legislature.

  7. Driver acceptance of lane filtering is improving in SA as evidenced by the growing number of drivers who now move to clear a path. Unfortunately there are still a number of drivers who get upset by either not knowing the changed laws or are ‘offended’ by virtue of the fact we can move through traffic when they are stationary or crawling. More education through TV, newspapers and the state motoring organisations would be helpful.

  8. Common rules: Victoria allows P platers to filter
    School Zones are not defined in Victoria so there is no mention of them in the filtering Road Rules
    Queensland Road Rules do not mention dedicated turning lanes: that is a fallacy encouraged by QP

      1. Mark, this reference is to a simplification of the road rule as written by a bureaucrat, not the Road Rules which are the legislation. School Zones are the reference that you made and was responded to: not School Speed Zones.

          1. John, Qld rules specify filtering between two lanes traveling in the same direction, filtering between a straight through and turning only lane as a result would be illegal.

    1. Hi John,
      Yes, that’s not included in the rules, but only a recommendation in their Road Safety section.
      There are similar recommendations in other states, but also not included in the official rules.
      However, police could still view this practice as “not safe” and fine you!
      Surely the rules need to be spelt out better and be uniform across the nation.
      Cheers,
      Mark

      1. I agree 100% on the rules needing to be spelled out. Too much chance of getting someone in a bad mood and getting a ticket, then having to fight it in court.

        Also, some public education would be good – you still get people that don’t understand it is legal and give you grief. Or when you filter in front, then they try to rear end you to prove their point.

  9. Hi Mark. Some incorrect items in that list. Filtering next to a dedicated turn lane is not illegal in Queensland (even though TMR says it is). Also, a rider can use a bicycle lane for up to 50m when coming to a stop.

    Another that deserves a mention is travelling between a row of stationary vehicles and the kerb. Perfectly legal for any rider or driver so long as it’s done safely. It’s not classed as lane filtering but it’s quite legal.

    There are other flaws too but these are the main ones.

    1. Hi John,
      Those are the rules as set out by each of the states.
      They are open to some interpretation by police.
      If, as you say, it is not illegal to filter Next to a turn lane please explain why as I know several people who gave been fined for this.
      As for use of a bicycle lane, I believe you can only use that for turning, not going straight ahead. In which case, you would be in a turn lane, so they could conceivably fine you for their use.
      I’ve been through this with Main Roads and even they are vague on their interpretation.
      The rules are badly written if they are open to so much interpretation.
      Please tell us what other flaws there are in your interpretation of the rules.
      Cheers,
      Mark

      1. Hi John,
        I contacted Main Roads for an explanation about the apparent contradiction between their online advice and the rules and this is their reply:
        “If one of the lines or lanes of traffic is dedicated to making a turn (either left or right) then the vehicles using that particular line or lane must turn in that direction.
        “As the vehicles are not travelling in the same direction as the motorcycle rider, the rider is not permitted to lane filter between those two lines or lanes of traffic.
        “Further, there is a greater safety risk for riders with vehicles merging more regularly into turning lanes.
        We provide guidance on the website to ensure that riders can practically understand how to apply the Queensland road rules.”
        Cheers,
        Mark

        1. Hi Mark I think that response from main roads is the stretch to far. As I have said before I think you can filter at a turning lane and still meet their requirements.
          If the vehicle is in a turning lane it must turn, ok what if I am filtering but not in that turning lane.
          As the vehicle is not travelling in the same direction as the motorcycle rider, but wait it is traveling in exactly the same direction as the motorcycle rider until it departs the intersection. Many intersections I ride through the left turn lane can have 30-40 cars in it traveling in exactly the same direction as I am until they pass through the set of lights that they turn left at, at that time I may in fact be back between cars in the straight ahead lane.

          1. To add to my previous comment… TMR’s comment about the increased likelihood of drivers merging into a dedicated turning lane is spurious to say the least. Any driver can at any time try to change into any lane, so long as the rules are obeyed. It happens all the time. They would have absolutely no evidence to show that changing lanes into a dedicated turning lane is ‘more dangerous’ to lane filtering motorcyclists than any other type of lane change.

        2. Hi Mark
          The explanation by Transport and Main Roads (TMR) is absolutely NOT correct. And my bet is that they know they are not correct. But they can’t change it now because it would be politically damaging for them. They are locked into their own bad advice. Let me explain. It’s quite complex and you’ll need the Queensland Road Rules (QRR) with you to get it all.

          Section 151A of the QRR is the main rule for lane filtering. Subsection 151A(1)(b)(i) says a motorcycle can only lane filter between rows of vehicles that are travelling in the same direction. TMR and the Queensland Police Service (QPS) have come to an erroneous conclusion that vehicles in a turning lane are not travelling in the same direction as adjacent traffic. I understand they are using section 45 of the QRR to justify this. As you can see, there is nothing at all in section 45 that says a person in a turning lane is ‘changing direction’. A driver has to change direction to get into the turning lane but once there, they then resume travelling in the same direction until they turn at the intersection.

          Also, section 44(b) makes it very clear indeed that the signalling rules do not apply to the lane filtering rule.

          The key point to make is that vehicles in a turning lane are travelling in the same direction as vehicles in the straight ahead lane until they reach the intersection. When the two rows of vehicles reach the intersection, the vehicles in the left lane or right lane turn and they are then no longer travelling in the same direction.

          The intention of the phrase ‘travelling in the same direction’ is meant to exclude the idea of a rider riding between vehicles travelling in opposite directions. No more, no less.

          Also, section 341(2) of the QRR makes it very clear that a road marking in a different lane to the one you’re travelling in does not apply to you.

          The term ‘travelling in the same direction’ is used in a number of rules throughout the QRR. For example, section 148(1) uses this phrase. If we follow the TMR interpretation of this phrase, this means that vehicles changing lanes into a dedicated turning lane do not have to give way to vehicles already in the lane!

          Another example is section 144A of the QRR. This is the rule about a minimum passing distance for overtaking cyclists. The rule uses the phrase ‘travelling in the same direction’ as well. And again, following the TMR interpretation, when a vehicle is overtaking a cyclists who is in a dedicated turning lane, the vehicle does not have to leave the required minimum distance!

          There are plenty of other examples across the QRR. The fact is you cannot selectively alter the meaning of a regularly used phrase in one rule without that interpretation seriously affecting other rules.

          In a situation with a right hand dedicated turn lane, a motorcycle is allowed lane filter up to the intersection. If the rider wants to turn right then he or she must end up with their wheels on the right side of the lane line. If the rider wants to go straight ahead the rider must make sure their wheels are on the left side of the lane line. If the rider positions the vehicle with the wheels in the right lane and then drives straight ahead then he or she has committed an offence against section 92 of the QRR. If the rider positions the wheels to the left of the lane line and then turns right the rider has committed an offence against section 28 of the QRR.

          Let’s consider a situation where there is a turning lane with a straight ahead arrow in it as well. According to TMR/QPS logic, a rider cannot lane filter if there is a row of vehicles all intending to turn left! If there is only one vehicle that wants to go straight ahead, does this make lane filtering ok?

          And let’s take it one step further and consider a two lane one way street that ends at a T intersection. If there are no arrows or road markings at all marked on the road, legally all vehicles in the left lane must turn left and all vehicles in the right lane must turn right. According to TMR and QPS this means that lane filtering is prohibited completely on this road! It’s a nonsense!!

          There is also the very practical problem of whether or not a lane filtering motorcyclist can actually see any road traffic arrows. If there is a row of vehicles over the top of them the arrows may not be visible to the rider.

          Also, I am quite sure that if you were to pursue the rules in other states and territories that allow lane filtering, you will find none of them make the mistake Queensland has.

          1. Another point to make about this ‘no lane filtering next to a dedicated turn lane’. What if there is a dedicated turn lane but with a sign providing for exceptions. For example, if there is a sign saying ‘buses excepted’. It’s a dedicated turn lane for everyone except a bus. Does that make it ok to lane filter in the strange mind of TMR? There is no doubt in my mind it doesn’t change anything at all… you’re allowed to filter there.

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