Given the debate that regularly pops up, I thout you may appreciate this article I wrote about filtering on Motorways, and later I will post up about filtering on other roads.

When on the bike, I try and avoid using Motorways wherever possible but there are occasions when this is unavoidable. Statistically they are among some of the safest roads in the UK, but unfortunately they are also the only roads where learners cannot receive formal training unless you happen to be driving an HGV. As a result, many incidents that do occur on our Motorways are not only due to a lack of education and knowledge, but also the overall higher speeds, which often result in incidents, occurring with more serious consequences.

A Motorway is in most cases a three lane carriageway, which usually has a maximum permitted speed limit of 70 miles per hour (it can be lower of course). The left hand lane normally referred to as lane 1 is the driving lane and the middle and outside lanes referred to as lanes 2 and 3 are nothing more than overtaking lanes. Any vehicle that uses the Motorway must be capable of attaining a minimum speed of 25 miles per hour, otherwise certain restrictions apply.

The biggest advantage a motorcycle has over a car when on a Motorway is the fact that when faced with congestion or stationary traffic, we don’t have to join the end of the queue and just sit there like our four wheeled counterparts. We can due to our lack of width filter, whether it is between vehicles or using a different lane. However, over the years there have been many debates as to what is and is not legal.

Filtering is simply another word for overtaking, but many riders are confused over the legality of this manoeuvre, either because they have been told by friends that it is illegal, or because it perhaps entails carrying out a nearside overtake, (passing on the left) which is considered by many to be also illegal.

There is nothing in law, which prevents us from overtaking provided,

• Solid central white lines are not straddled or crossed over.
• It is not after a ‘no overtaking’ sign.
• Within the confines of the zigzags of a pedestrian/pelican crossing the lead vehicle which may have stopped to allow pedestrians to cross is not overtaken.
• No danger is caused, and no vehicles are made to alter course or speed.

In respect of a Motorway, the only issue that becomes relative in practice is the danger issue.

In practical terms the Police have no problem with riders filtering either. However many Policemen consider a maximum speed of no more than 10 - 15 mph above the speed of the slowest moving vehicle as acceptable. Beyond this speed they would seriously consider reporting you for driving without due care and attention.

In respect of filtering down the nearside or undertaking, how many times have you been faced with stationary traffic in lanes 2 and 3, and yet lane 1 is empty? How many times have you been confronted by a car sitting in lane 2 doing 50mph with no other traffic in lane 1, but lane 3 is heaving? Have you considered going past on the nearside?

Although it goes against what is said in the Highway Code, it is in fact not illegal in itself to undertake again providing no danger is caused to other road users, and drivers are not caused to alter course or speed.

However, although the absolute offence of nearside overtake was removed from the statute books many years ago, the possibility of being reported for careless driving, or in the worst cases dangerous driving still apply.
If you filter or undertake, it is for the Police to prove that your standard of riding fell below what would be considered acceptable. And in this modern day and age, many Police cars and bikes carry video cameras. So, if you weave from lane to lane, suddenly cut across the front of overtaken vehicles, ride too aggressively between vehicles, then there is a fair chance that not only will you be able to see yourself on film, but you could end up looking at a Court appearance as well.

If as a result of you undertaking or filtering a collision occurs, then the chances are that you will be held liable. However, if you ride smoothly and safely, don’t take risks, and the safety of others is not compromised then you should not have any problems.

Before carrying out any manoeuvre, always ask yourself whether it can be done safely, will other traffic be inconvenienced, and are your actions likely to really give you any benefit? If the answer to the first two is yes, then hold back until such time as an opportunity presents itself, but always be aware of the possibility of other vehicles changing lanes suddenly without warning.

I hope that this clarifies things for you.


Glad to read the interesting few posts you have made here.



Thanks for this T.C,

As a rider who is relatively new to riding but experienced enough to be filtering regularly, this is a really useful read.

Very interesting and informative post. Seems like common sense is the way ahead.

That’s you stuffed then :smiley:

An excellent summary - thanks very much!

I was thinking about the nearside-overtake-in-lane-one scenario just this week, so it’s great to have it clarified. :slight_smile:

nice read

Filtering just wasn’t addressed in the training i had for the DAS.

i take it this writeup includes filtering at speed - e.g. reasonably heavy traffic on a406, and filtering between lane 2 and 3 around 40 /60mph? I’ve never worked out if this is technically legal.

I’d be interested on a read on single carriageway filtering - i dont think i’ll be attempting any nearside filtering anymore with stationary traffic after nearly being squished by a bus

ive always thought that if the traffic in lanes 2 or 3 on any road is moving slower than the speed limit and you are within the speed limit then you can legally undertake

Au Contraire mon sex slave gimp. Comme tu a dit “Je accepte tout que tu profraise mais Je fais les grand gemissements pas ce que ton bit et si grand comme un elephant” not that I understood a word, just kept pressing against your diminishing resistance.Turned out nice again.:smiley:

hehehehe… I rest my case :smiley:

Ton Mere!!!:D:D:P

On the subject of solid white lines. What is your definition of straddling is it your wheels or any part of you and your machine. :slight_smile:

That’s because your DAS training was aimed at getting you through the test and filtering on the test is bad news, not because it is illegal, but because it is a lost opportunity to waste time, and there is so much that can go wrong.

Cheers that was very interesting and an informative read. I’m now wondering what the exact rules are in Australia on this.

My bf got some filtering training whilst on his intensive course but only because they thought he was good enough for the test by the end of day 3! He was under strict instructions NOT to filter in the test though (obviously)

Informative read, thanks.

I’d be interested to know the views on this - the route down to one of my offices is 90% motorway and tends to be very heavy traffic, especially the M25, and is moving at around 50-60mph. I’ve driven it twice and will be riding on Friday - I’ve seen bikes move between lanes at, I guess, +10mph on the traffic, but have no idea where this stands legally or defensibly.

Providing you don’t use the hard shoulder and providing it is safe, then not a problem.

Up to about 15 MPH faster than the slow moving traffic is generally deemed acceptable, any faster than that then it has to be judged on its merits.

Ta muchly. Given I’m a new rider I’ll be erring on the side of caution.

Say what??:w00t:

Could you elaborate?

When did this happen?

What section of the ‘Road Traffic Act’ would you recommend that I refer to for further info on this?