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 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 so
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.
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.
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.