Is lane filtering a success or failure?

Austroads Better roads report lane filtering challenging

Has motorcycle lane filtering been a success or a failure since it began operating about 18 months ago in the three eastern mainland states and the ACT?

We are conducting a poll to find out how it has affected you, what changes can be made to the laws and how motorists can better use this new law.

Many riders lane-filtered before it become legal in Queensland, NSW and Victoria and on trial in the ACT, but many more now welcome lane filtering for the safety and ease of movement it offers in heavy traffic.

However, it hasn’t been an easy introduction.

Since it began, we have heard a lot of negative anecdotes about lane filtering that include:

  • Drivers racing filtering riders off the line;
  • Motorists trying to block riders from filtering;
  • Drivers abusing riders for lane filtering; and
  • Tacks and nails scattered on road edges to trap filtering riders.

We asked the police and transport departments in each state/territory where lane filtering is allowed for figures on lane filtering crashes and fines for illegal filtering.

Few bothered to reply, but those that did said crashes caused by motorcycles lane filtering were not available because it was too soon since being introduced or lane filtering was not recorded as an attribute. 

Only Queensland’s Main Roads replied with infringement figures, saying that for the first year up to the start of February 2016, there were 681 infringements issued for motorcycles unlawfully lane filtering.

And the fines aren’t cheap, either.

Before lane filtering, the fine was about $150 for passing on the left or $75 for failure to stay in your lane. Now the fines vary between states but are more than $300 and three demerit points.Lane filtering: success or failure

There are some confusing parts to the new laws and anomalies between states that trap riders.

One example is that in Queensland you can use the side of the road if it is posted at 90km/h.

However, in heavy traffic, some of these roads have electronic speed signs that change to less than 90km/h in peak hour making filtering illegal at a time when it is most needed!

Please take part in our lane filtering poll and we will release results next week. We will also send the results to every transport and roads safety minister in the country to gauge their response to your comments.

(You can tick more than one statement and you can add your own.)

13 Comments

  1. Hi, I am Kimball Bryan from Gardner, Kansas, USA and I wanted to share this story.
    I am a flatlander from Kansas. When we went to Ontario, Ca to join the Run For The Wall, Jim wanted to go see the ocean and get some sand for his girlfriend.
    I am the gullible kind and I agreed to go with him after counseling him on California traffic.
    The run to Huntington Beach was not too bad, just a few slow places, but the run back was something else. I had never split lanes, but had read about it and knew some of the (unwritten) rules. After sitting in one place several times and watching other bikes pass through, I explained to Jim what little I knew about it. As the bikes got warmer and warmer, I looked over at Jim and said “I’m willing if you are”. We eased over to the HOV lane and watched several bikes (including several baggers) go by and then eased into the gap. I was amazed that most of the cages would move over in their lane to give us a little more room, but when the traffic began to move around 20-25 mph they were not as willing to let us through.
    We made it back fine and Jim (retired police captain) commented that he had arrested people in Kansas for the same thing!
    He also said “A true friend will do something stupid just to keep you company”.
    We survived, and added another experience to our repertoire.

  2. YEH FILTERING OR WE USED TO CALL IT THE HONDA HIGHWAY IN THE OLD DAYS IS GREAT , I WAS ACTUALLY PULLED OVER YEARS AGO IN MARRICKVILLE BY A COP ON A BIKE AND HE ASKED ME WHY WAS I GOING UP THE MIDDLE OF TRAFFIC AND I SAID TO HIM JUST TRYING TO STAY AHEAD OF KILLER CARS AND TRAFFIC HE LOOKED AT ME AND SAID YOU ARE TOTALLY CORRECT GOT ON HIS BIKE AND RODE OFF

  3. I have filtered legally/ illegally for the last 50 years. I wont do it in moving traffic unless there is a generous space between vehicles. You get the odd driver that tries to block your path but most drivers are good people. (just like bikers). I always accelerate briskly away from the traffic so as not to hold up the flow. I have recently seen low powered bikes filter up and then hold up the flow when the lights have turned green. This would piss me off if I was in my car, so if you are going to queue jump, don’t make a nuisance of yourself.

  4. Most days, I commute 24ks each way into Brisbane city on severely congested arterial roads. Legalised lane splitting has been a Godsend. The journey is quicker, safer and more enjoyable. I’ve only had one peanut block me and that was just after the rules were changed. I find most drivers will actually move over if they see you trying to get through. I’ve even had council busses try and move over (probably riders themselves) …….. The one thing I have noticed in the past 12 months especially, is the number of hesitant riders. I.e. will I or wont I, or filtering at walking pace with their feet dragging etc. I can only assume a lack of spatial awareness, experience, confidence or skill, maybe all 4?

  5. I commute in Sydney traffic and lane filtering is fantastic. Drivers are getting used to bikes filtering past slowly and I haven’t had any unpleasantness (fingers crossed). It’s made a big difference in smoothing out my travel times and making them much more consistent. I also feel safer as soon as I can move away from the back of the queue.

    In NSW we can’t filter on the side of the road or beside parked cars and I think the parked car rule is sensible (because of kids running on to the road or doors suddenly opening) although I would like to be able to use the side (the breakdown or wombat lane) of motorways.

  6. As Rowland has pointed out, “The restrictions on filtering are complex and unreasonable.” It is a good example of what happens when people who don’t understand the situation make the rules. It should be up to the rider to judge what is safe. The restrictions mean that riders are not permitted to filter in many situations where it is safe, which has reduced the benefit of legalising filtering. It also means that some riders simply follow the rules and will filter in dangerous situations because the rules say it is permitted.

    Some people think for themselves. Others like to have rules for everything. The rules should be changed to being guidelines instead of enforceable laws. Then those who don’t feel confident in making their own judgements can follow the guidelines, and others can take full advantage of the benefits of filtering.

  7. The restrictions on filtering are complex and unreasonable. It is my view they should be simplified and relaxed. In the UK we can filter because there is now law that says we can’t, but there is advice in the highway code to do so carefully.

    For the most part traffic parts like the red sea when bikes are coming through here, but the occasional vehicle obstructs deliberately or swerves at a a rider. Had a driving instructor open a door on me and start shouting that it was illegal. “M’am, you have a copy of the Highway Code on the dashboard, I suggest you read it lest you further mislead you student, who I would recommend finds a more knowledgeable and less aggressive instructor.”

    1. The police In Australia have a preference to have privileges codified which then makes them enforceable. There was less than a snowball’s chance in the 7th level of hell that Australia would move towards a UK style of filtering – but ANY legal filtering is better than no filtering. At least now, learner drivers have to be made aware of filtering riders and so it may very well lead to greater awareness and safer roads.

  8. I love lane filtering, and here in Townsville I’ve never really had any issues with drivers or anything. Some of the young ones try to race you off the lights, but that’s about it.

    It’s safer. Why would you not want to do it?

  9. There were two fatalities right outside the Melbourne coroners court over a 10 year period. Both those riders were hit from behind and killed because they weren’t lane splitting.

    Now for the first time Vic Roads and rider trainers can explain to riders how to improve their safety by lane splitting.

    A lot of riders wouldn’t lane split because it wasn’t legal. Those were the ones who got hit from behind and suffered property damage, injury or occasionally they were killed.

    The biggest improvements won’t be in the fatalities… they’ll be in in the injuries and insurance claims. Swann insurance once claimed a huge number of their claims were from riders hit from the rear. Has anyone asked them if they’ve noticed a decrease in those claims?

    🙂

    1. Just a point (pedantic yes) about the terms splitting & filtering – in NSW filtering is done below 30km/h and is legal, but as soon as you exceed 30km/h you are “splitting” and breaking the law.

  10. Where and when you filter and at what speed should be up to the rider not a bureaucrat!
    Many of the current restrictions actually make filtering unsafe and encourage revenue gouging. I can imagine a camera setup to catch motorcyclists filtering in the last few metres of a school zone or similarly restricted location to fine riders for doing something that is only a technical breach and completely safe.

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