You’re stuck in traffic on a motorbike. It’s stationary, and unlikely to start moving anytime, soon. Since you’re in a vehicle that can easily slip between lanes of motionless vehicles, it’s only sensible that you go around them. This is a practice called ‘filtering’. It’s widely misunderstood with many thinking it is illegal, but it’s one that motorcyclists should make a point of getting to grips with. This will allow them to filter safely, and to address the complaints of other motorists who might object to it.

Richard Chambers, Product Analyst at Carole Nash said:

““Motorcyclists often get judged for filtering through traffic but it is in fact legal in the UK! At Carole Nash we do advise that motorcyclists be extra cautious when filtering, as it can be a prone spot for accidents. Make sure you don’t go too fast, make a sufficient gap between the cars and watch for blind spots.”

He further added, “Plan ahead and always know where your next spot to rejoin the traffic is and keep an eye on the silhouettes of car drivers, looking out for their head moving to check a mirror or similar as this normally indicates a change in lane.”

Why Filter?

Filtering is worthwhile for two reasons.

First, it reduces the number of vehicles on the road, and thereby alleviates congestion. When your bike is occupying a space that might otherwise have been filled by a car, other road users suffer.

Second, it’s more convenient for the motorcyclist, too, allowing them to skip the queue.

It’s this queue-skipping idea that’s at the root of many objections to the practice. But really, the better analogy is that you’re joining a different queue, and thereby shortening the first one. You might think of your bike as a bit like the express checkout at your local supermarket.

Where does Filtering go wrong?

With all of that said, there are ways in which filtering can go disastrously wrong – and as such it’s a practice in which motorcycle insurers have taken an interest. Many of them are fundamentally rooted in the same common mistake:

You’re going too fast

When you’re driving through traffic, your visibility is hugely reduced. At any moment a car door could open, or a pedestrian could stroll out from behind a van. The solution is to keep the difference in speed between you and the traffic as low as reasonably possible. You still need to overtake, naturally, but don’t go more than ten miles per hour faster than the surrounding vehicles.

Filtering accidents tend to be less common on motorways and dual-carriageways – but the speeds involved here make filtering more dangerous. Cars which are moving can quickly change lanes, especially those moving between lanes two and three.

You don’t notice a gap

When you’re moving at speed, you might miss that a driver has left another gap for someone to cross the road. This is the cause of a majority of filtering accidents, and it’s especially likely at a junction. If you can see a side-street incoming, then lower your speed.

You’re in a lorry’s blind spot

Long vehicles are notorious for missing motorcyclists, thanks to their considerable blind spots. If you’re approaching a lorry or a bus, then make sure that you try to make eye contact with the driver. Assume that they don’t know that you’re there until they demonstrate otherwise.

It’s dark

At night-time, drivers have less information to work from. To them, you’re just a single point of light among many. Consequently, you’ll need to exercise that little bit of extra caution.