Queuing Traffic & Filtering (Lane Splitting)

Stationary traffic is a common occurrence near urban areas, especially during the morning or evening rush hour, which may be frustrating to many drivers. However, to the motorcyclist it is an opportunity to keep rolling through and continue on the journey.

In the UK it is still legal to filter but in other countries it is not, so be sure of the national and local laws before you embark on this.

Filtering may be problematic for riders and drivers as there are many hazards that may develop where vehicles are spaced close to each other.

Many accidents that the emergency services deal with are associated with riders filtering through or past high density traffic. Usually because of the lower speeds involved, the injuries are not so severe, however they are injuries that require hospitalisation. 

Many accidents during filtering have the rider suffering minor or no injuries, however there is frequently varying degrees of vehicle damage which may have an expensive result. There is either damage to the body, bike or bank account…all of which can ‘hurt’!

Accidents are usually caused by riders failing to note or react to the other vehicle movements or drivers changing lanes without seeing riders. 

Many accidents occur when riders ride past stationary or parked traffic and the driver or passenger may open a door directly in the path of a rider. Unfortunately this has been a growing phenomenon especially on busy multi lane roads which may have been blocked due to an accident further ahead or there are road works which restrict flow to such an extent that it causes long tailbacks. Drivers, curious to see what may be causing the delay decide to step out of the vehicle and the result is that they open a door in the path of a motorcyclist that they didn’t look for or did not even consider.

Without fail, every time I have landed an air ambulance helicopter on a motorway(freeway) to respond to an accident, I witness this taking place. Drivers getting out of their vehicles to see what is going on, being curious, stretching their legs, etc which causes many problems and hazards.

For the rider, so much or filtering is about motorcycle control, reading other vehicle movements and anticipating what may ‘unexpectedly’ happen next. 

Successful filtering will enable a rider to navigate in between and past stationary or slow moving traffic in a safe and efficient manner that not only further acknowledges the advantages that motorcycles have over other vehicles, but if done correctly will give a sense of fulfilment to the rider and be respectful to the other road user.

Many would ask why riders should be so mindful of other drivers reactions to filtering. Well, there are a few reasons:

  1. Many drivers may get frustrated that riders are able to squeeze through and proceed, whereas they are stuck at a stand still.
  2. Many drivers may believe it is illegal to filter, even where it is legal to do so.
  3. Many drivers are very aware of riders and filtering, and will often make extra room for riders to filter through. By being respectful and acknowledging their actions, a driver is more likely to continue being helpful to riders.
  4. Probably most importantly, being respectful has an educational affect. If riders filter efficiently, without causing drivers to deviate unnecessarily then more drivers will reciprocate and in future will tend to be more mindful of motorcyclists.

Another common accident scenario in filtering is when a rider overtakes or filters past stationary traffic and then collides with or is collided into by another vehicle either turning into or egressing from a side junction.

On so many occasions drivers will change lanes or turn without looking in their mirrors for motorcyclists or do not even consider motorcycles. So many time riders will filter past at excessive speed that the driver has little time to notice them or that the rider has limited time to react and stop before impact. So many drivers egress from a side junction either to cross the queuing traffic or to join the queuing traffic and do not notice a rider approaching or vice versa.

The key to successful filtering is found in the following riding techniques and rider attitudes:

  1. Avoid High Speed Filtering! – It limits a driver’s ability to see the rider and avoid or yield to make room.
  2. Never Rush Through! – Be patient! Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Wait for space!
  3. Use A Low Gear! – Using a low gear and riding slowly will make the ride and speed more controllable.
  4. Avoid the Tight Squeeze! – If you feel there is not enough space then hold off. See No2.
  5. Approach With Caution! – Ride up to a vehicle and delay committing to ride past until you are sure there is enough room and time to get by.
  6. Read The Traffic Ahead! – Look at the traffic flow ahead and the types of vehicles. Anticipate how much space they will require and if they will be able to see you in their mirrors.
  7. Give A Wave! – Gesturing a thank you, to a driver as you pass by will develop mutual respect and awareness that will be paid back with dividends.
  8. Profile the Driver! – Look through the rear window as you approach and quickly look at what the driver is doing. Are they paying attention? Are they on their phone? Are they grooming, eating, drinking, etc? Are they a foreign or out of state driver which might alert you that they may not be familiar with the road layout or may not have the same awareness of the local area.
  9. Steer Through! – Avoid erratic manoeuvres and sweeping in and out of vehicles. Move into and out of space smoothly at controlled speeds without harsh braking.
  10. 10. Cover The Brakes! – Always be prepared to stop. Expect a car to suddenly change lanes or turn into or 

    exit from a junction. Expect a vehicle door to suddenly open in your path. Being mentally and physically  

    prepared will help to avoid the developing hazards that present themselves.

  1. When filtering to the head of the queuing traffic, e.g. at traffic lights, try to judge when the lights may  

    change. If they have just turned to STOP – RED, then you may wish to filter through to the front. If they 

    are already on STOP – RED, then they may quickly change to GO – GREEN. It might be worth holding 

    back a car length and then filter past after the traffic has moved off. If these traffic lights are at an 

    intersection, always check the other lane directions to make sure that the other traffic has stopped.

  1. Look! Look! Look! – Keep a good lookout of what is in front, what is to the side and what is behind. Use mirrors and lifesaver checks (over the shoulder look) to get the best view whilst riding and prior to changing lanes or direction.

Filtering has many benefits and many hazards and most of these hazards are readily avoided by riders who plan, look, read and ease through the traffic. It is never a race! Remember, no matter how slow the rider is going…it is always faster than a stationary vehicle! So enjoy it!

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