First off, it is legal – but comes with lots of risks. It’s something only bikers can do and we must do it in conjunction with their fellow road users. Filtering is all about slowly overtaking stationary/slow moving traffic on your two wheels, us bikers love to skip the queue of traffic on the M25 or whatever motorway. Some of us bought our bikes so we wouldn’t have to deal with traffic and you just know everyone in their cars has bike envy.
It is legal to filter on Britain’s roads. However, there are times when it is not, such as passing queuing traffic in a no overtaking zone, and while you can pass vehicles queuing at a pedestrian crossing point, you cannot overtake the lead vehicle. I mean, these are just laws, right? I know I’m guilty or breaking some of these technical laws, whatever method of overtaking, it should be carried out with complete caution.
Keep it smart and safe
When you’re filtering through traffic, keep a steady speed. If you filter through traffic at high speeds then you leave yourself with little time to think if a car pulls out on you. I’ve ridden through traffic before and actually passed a biker who had been knock off his bike because a car pulled out in front of them. It’s not uncommon for it to happen. Cars love changing lanes without looking in the mirrors. If you’re passing at high speed and the police catch you, they will book you. Filtering through traffic should be tackled at a speed that allows you to think, break and move in an instant. Remember, never cross a solid white line in the middle of the road.
Look ahead and in front
Keep your observations sharp. Anticipate when cars may be switching lanes, particularly on approaches to filtered junctions. If they’ve been stuck in a traffic jam for some time and another line is moving quicker than theirs, cars will often pull out from one lane into another in the hope of gaining a small advantage. It’s unlikely they’ll bother to check their mirrors first and if they do, they could fail to spot the silhouette of a motorbike coming up behind them.
Passing traffic in urban areas
If you bike around a city like London then you’ll know very well about the dangerous that need to be avoided. Filtering is a key area of urban riding and one that always generates debate. In these areas, you need to watch out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and for passengers exiting vehicles without looking, especially near schools, stations and places of interest. Getting it right is so important that the police motorcyclists who run the popular Bikesafe-London courses deliver a structured 20-minute lecture just on this subject.
Some safe words
Take care with your bike handling. At slow speeds your balance can be compromised so be careful: don’t make sudden moves or try to switch from one side of the lane to the other. Be aware that drivers in queues may leave their car angled in their lane, which can cut the space for you to pass.
The Highway Code warns car and van drivers to be aware of cyclists and motorcyclists who may be passing on either side of them but do not abuse this privilege. Never filter where the space between traffic lanes is restricted – and certainly don’t aim for a narrow gap and hope to force other road users to clear a path for you. That’s one of the ways filtering becomes illegal.
Take care with your bike handling. At slow speeds your balance can be compromised so be careful: don’t make sudden moves or try to switch from one side of the lane to the other. Be aware that drivers in queues may leave their car angled in their lane, which may cut down the space for you to pass them.
Successful filtering is really a question of balancing risk with progress. Ask yourself if filtering really will help you continue your journey – and if doing so involves any risk.