It is not about what section of the Road Traffic Act to refer to, more about what is not there if that makes sense.

The specific offence of nearside overtake (undertaking) was removed from the statute with the introduction of the 1972 Road Traffic Act.

To this end, everything came under and was covered either by section 2, which at that time was reckless driving but has now been changed to dangerous, or the section 3 offence which is driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration to other road users.

To prove either of these 2 offences, it has to be shown that the standard of driving/riding fell well below that expected of a reasonably competent driver, and the simple act of nearside overtake does not in itself prove the offence.

The reason why is because of the number of times vehicles were stationary in say lane 3 of a motorway due to queuing traffic whilst lanes 1 and 2 remained empty because people belived that they could not pass along the nearside.

Lane discipline also had a bearing. So many people hog the centre lane when lane 1 was clear, it was considered inappropriate to report the person driving down the nearside, when it was the driver in the centre lane in affect reducing the carriageway to a two instead of a three lane road, and the list goes on.

Where people do come unstuck is when they start weaving from lane to lane. For example I was on the M4 on Monday when I saw a bike undertake in lane 1, shoot across to lane 3 and then back into lane 2 before reverting to lane 1 and then back into lane 2 passing vehicles all the time but all in the space of about a quarter to half a mile.

There have been a few cases won recently by injured riders where the defence has used the undertaking action as their principle defence only to lose out because they did not understand or more to the point, were not aware of the legalities.

But back to your original point, there is no specific offence of nearside overtake, the prosecution would have to prove a dangerous or careless driving, and the act of undertaking is not on its own sufficient to secure a conviction.

So, let me see if I understand you, right in a nuthshell, it’s all hunk-dory and not illegal to undertake/pass on the nearside, until someone loses a bollock. Then legally you’re f***ed. :ermm:

Experienced riders will filter through dense 90 mph motorway traffic at a ton as a regular part of their commute and will choose whatever route through looks the safest at that given moment regardless of the ‘rules’.The truth of the matter is that if anything goes badly wrong at these speeds and in this type of scenario the motorway you are travelling on will rapidly turn into a crude mince making machine, so you won’t be around to worry about the finer points of the law anyway.

I don’t mean to be cynical - but unless you ride a deauville or something part of the attraction of biking is ‘getting away with it’. :wink:

No, like every case it has to be judged on its merits.

If you are undertaking on a Motorway for example, the driver in the middle lane has a statutory duty of care to ensure it is safe to change lane before actually doing it.

I have not long concluded a case in Lincolnshire where the rider was undertaking down lane 1 of a two lane dual carriageway when the defendant moved into that lane suddenly from lane 2. Car driver was found fully liable, no contributory negligence against the rider.

It all depends on the facts and evidence available. Most people assume that a rider that is filtering, or undertaking will be held liable because they believe that is the law, (which it isn’t) but that is not always the case and it has to be judged on its merits.

It is not a case of undertaking simply for the sake of it, it is about making a decision based on what you can see, and sometimes the undertake may be the safest and most reasonable option.

Think of it when you are on the Motorway. Traffic is moving at a moderate speed in lanes 2 and 3, lane 1 is empty. What is to stop you passing along in lane 1 if you have made a judgement call and reasoned that it would be safe? So long as you don’t go beserk, nothing at all.

If filtering were made illegal, I’m not sure how much I’d want to use a motorbike in the city anymore.

haha yeh…good shout mate…i think everyone on here agrees with you…i mean it takes the advantage out of biking…you might as well drive a metal 4 wheeled box about and get stuck in traffic every five farts!!!


Good post :slight_smile: Filtering in London is something I very much enjoy :smiley: On a motorway its even more fun passing all the cars who are not going anywhere :hehe:

I’m not convinced that someone who does that on a regular basis would last long enough to become an “experienced rider”.

Possibly true - but just an observation based on watching the faster group of riders on my regular commute - on a personal note - I used to ride like this but have toned things down in recent years which I put down to increasing age and a more developed sense of my own mortality. These days I’m more likely to move over and let a rider of this type through than attempt to keep ahead of him/or keep up with him.It does however represent an attitude to speed and risk taking which is part of motorcycling ‘culture’ whether we like it or not.

I think a key factor here is that many motorists believe undertaking is illegal and so do not look out for it or make any allowances for it. So self preservation suggest it should be done only with great care. Being in the right but dead, is not a great place to be.

I like to think of it as keeping up with the flow of traffic in my current lane… invariably lane 1 as 2 and 3 are occupied by muppets.

Why obviously??? I was expected to filter in my test… and did so. One of the points of owning a motorcycle, surely?

Nice thread, something I’ve always argued about. If it’s not causing any danger, and lanes 2/3 are full of slow moving vehicles - go right ahead and take an empty lane 1 as long as you dont speed.

But then, as mentioned, people arent expecting it, so I do tend to zip past in order to save my own arse and get out of the danger zone.

Wide berth too - give yourself the best chance…

Also as Mark has stated - more clarity on straddling? If there’s no oncoming, I have to admit, I’m happier 6’ away from the car I’m passing, rather than staying 30cm ‘in’ from the solid line and on his wingmirror. But I guess either way it’s risky manouvre (if filmed too), which would give the pursuing officer due course to prosecute? without due care/dangerous driving?


There is nothing to stop you straddling, providing it does not involve crossing or straddling a solid centre white line (except under certain circumstances which I explained in the original post), in fact there is nothing in law to stop you riding on the opposite side of the road for you whole journey other than the risk of severe injury, as there is no actual law which says we must drive on the left otherwise we would not be able to overtake.

To secure a conviction for careless driving, the prosecution would have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the standard of riding fell below the standard that would be expected of a reasonably competent driver. Simply straddling a lane would not secure the conviction unless there were other factors, such as getting too close, cutting someone up and so on.

You are entitled (in most cases) to use the whole of the road to make yourself as safe as possible and more visible to other road users.

At the end of the day it is about the application of common sense and self preservation, something unfortunately lacking in some riders and many car drivers.

• Solid central white lines are not straddled or crossed over.

You sure about this one?

From the DSA Website:


Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.

Now you can’t filter past moving traffic, which is a pain if it is very slow moving, but if the traffic has stopped, entirely, then you can filter until it starts moving again.

There is a road out in Surry that is about 5 mile long or something with 2 solid central white lines where there were road works and the traffic queue was about 4 miles long and entirely stationary, I overtook by crossing the solid white lines on the basis that they were stationary vehicles.

Queuing traffic is not regarded as being stationary. Despite the fact that it is not moving it is still in law moving traffic.

Stationary traffic is a vehicle that has stopped at the kerb or has broken down and is causing an obstruction for example.

I don’t think you can make that claim T.C there is no legal definition that I am aware of that states a stationary vehicle is only one that is stopped at the kerb or one that is broken down.There is a hefty bunch of precedence in many road traffic accident cases involving negligence where a stationary vehicle is described as a vehicle that has come to a stop. Sometimes at traffic lights, sometimes because of a zebra crossing, sometimes because of congestion.

I would also suggest that the literal rule would have to come into play and any Judge would have to interpret the statute as taking on its plain and ordinary meaning…a stationary vehicle is one that is not moving.

Now you could argue, but that would mean a car could do it too!! But no, because it says, if it is safe to do so, and it would not be safe for a car to do so given the same circumstances.

I thought about something else while I was in the shower as well T.C
Any claim in court that a stationary vehicle in fact referred to a vehicle that was parked, stopped at the side of the road or broken down only, may result in a breach of art. 7 of the European convention on human rights, and therefore a breach of the Human Rights Act, since the court can’t act in a way which is incompatible with the convention rights.

Art 7 for anyone else is the article that protects you from retrospective criminality, it is a breach to make something illegal after you have done it and prosecute you for your behaviour before the illegality was created, and an interpretation of “stationary vehicle” that so went against its normal meaning and the prevailing precedence in case law would surely result in making something illegal after the fact and attempting to prosecute on that basis.

I am not suggesting you change your article as what the article says is “safe” but I honestly don’t see how a court could sustain a prosecution for a motorcycle filtering, in those circumstances.

very helpful info… thanks :smiley:

OK! I bow to your superior knowledge :crying: what do I know? I simply work and lecture in road traffic law. I will have to ensure that I bear this in mind every time I am required to deal with any sort of filtering accident, and remember that the Human rights act over rides the Road Traffic Act, and make sure that my former colleagues are also made aware.

By the way, there are a number of pieces of case law on this very subject, which does include queuing vehicles regarded as still being held to be moving, hence the reason it took so long for us to get Davis v Schroggins, although I am not going to argue or debate the point.

Oh, and if you would like to take issue on this, then take it up with the High Court Judge who I know and checked and approved the original article :smiley:

I take it you are a legal expert in the field?