Should riders be allowed on road shoulders?

How to ride safely in heavy traffic lane filtering tax shoulders

Highway road shoulders look inviting for motorcyclists when the traffic is heavy, but is it legal and are they a safety trap for riders?

Some say it is actually safer than filtering between lanes of traffic as there are fewer instances of drivers suddenly pulling on to the road shudders compared with drivers swapping lanes.

However, we have heard several reports of riders (including us) copping flat tyres from the detritus on the road shoulder such as nails from illegally unsecured tradies’ utes. Queensland Motorcycle Breakdown Service tyre punctures puncture-proof tyres flirting shoulders

Queensland is the only state in Australia that allows riders to use the road shoulder, but only in certain conditions:

  • the speed limit is 90km/h or more;
  • your speed is 30km/h or less;
  • you give way to bicycle riders or other motorcycle riders already using the shoulder;
  • you are not riding on any unsealed parts of the road;
  • there are no roadworks;
  • you are not in a tunnel; and
  • it is safe to do so.

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.

Safe to do soEdge filtering is allowed under Queendsland lane filtering rules shoulders

The final conditions “when safe to do so” seems to put the onus on the rider to judge the prevailing conditions.

However, it also allows police leeway to pass judgement on your riding and issue a fine of $341 and three demerit points.

Some riders in other states have called for lane filtering rules to include road shoulders.

However, we have not found a politician or road department interested in amending the rules. 

American shoulders

In the USA, California is the only state that allows lane filtering or lane splitting, but it is not clear if riders can use the road shoulder.

Lane filtering lane splitting America shoulders
Lane filtering or lane splitting in California

Around San Francisco, they are considering allowing buses and car poolers to use the shoulder when traffic is heavy, so it may not be a safe place for riders.

Hawaii this year allows riders to use the road shoulder so long as they did not travel faster than 10mph and traffic was stopped. They must leave the shoulder when traffic begins moving again.

Although the law went into effect from January 1 2019, no road shoulder has yet been officially designated for use by motorcyclists.

Do you believe riders are safer on road shoulders than between lanes? Leave your comments below.

13 Comments

  1. The Queensland speed limit is too slow
    30km/h is way to slow, it’s only 2nd gear….especially down the shoulder
    It should be lifted to at least 60km/h
    I’ve copped a ticket for 52km/h whilst on the shoulder 3 demerit points and $380 fine
    There less chance of car changing lanes on you on the shoulder, you can see well ahead, so what’s the issue?

  2. In Queensland we are still constrained to a limit of 30 km/h when using the shoulder, and I had found that at that speed, you have plenty of time to avoid little obstacles as they come along.
    What worries me is some riders, when using the shoulder go well over the allowed 30 Km/h, and I wonder if they would have any chance of avoiding these things safely at those speeds.

  3. I think the use of road shoulders should have been legalised when lane splitting was introduced.
    However our Sydney centric government, did not look at the issues on country and rural roads. When there are extensive road works and traffic lights or controllers in place, it is far safer to ride to the front along the shoulder, then sit in a line of 30 or so cars waiting for a semi to collect the lot of us. In fact most traffic controllers expect us to ‘ride to the front’.

  4. If I have to commute to Brisbane from the Gold Coast for any reason or to travel towards Southport or Surfers Paradise. I will use the road shoulders on the M1 or the bike lanes on the highway ( providing there are no pushbikes) as I feel it is lot safer then lane filtering. The distance is the width of a car compared to the width of your handlebars. Makes for common sense to me but then I am not a politician

  5. Over the years I’ve had too many punctures from the shoulders of the M2 in Sydney for it to be worth it. As well as constantly scanning for people who would like to issue a costly souvenir of the experience!

  6. Another condition of road shoulder use is that both lanes of traffic on a dual carridge way must be doing 30km or less. Not just one lane of traffic as I found out.

    Mangaed to engage in a conversation with the officer and he let me off with a $100 fine and no demerits. Which I thought was fair.

  7. I think all available road surfaces should be legally used ‘with caution’ by motorbikes & Scooters ‘When it’s safe to do so”
    It would be also excellent if councils & Main Roads swept roadsides to remove debris with efficient regularity!

  8. Yes, I have been in huge traffic jams, there is a great hard shoulder but because only one line of traffic the law says i must sit in the heat.

  9. Except for the chance of a flat the shoulder is a safer place to ride mostly.
    Also bike lanes and any area that has sufficient room and is not likely to end abruptly should be allowed.
    I’m certain that filtering wasn’t made legal it was just regulated to the point that it’s almost impossible to do without generating revenue.

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