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 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 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”.