Continuing on from my previous post on filtering on motorways and dual carriageways, today I’m going to talk more specifically about filtering in the city and more suburban roads (that’s lane splitting for the US readers). In the city, one needs to far more alert and aware of upcoming hazards. There is much more to watch out for compared to the motorway, lanes tend to be tighter, traffic is turning and pulling out everywhere, you have to contend with delivery scooters, cyclists, pedestrians and all their related street furniture and road markings. After riding through the city a number of years, filtering has became almost second nature, below are some tips and advice I have accumulated.
What’s Legal and What’s Not?
As mentioned in my previous post, it is legal to filter in most instances. Below are some instances where the highway code says you must not filter, and are thus illegal:
- Cross any unbroken white lines, whether they are separating lanes, surrounding a crossed hatched area, or separating off a cycle lane. An exception is if needing to negotiate a stationary hazard, cyclists, horse or slow maintenance vehicle and it is safe to do so. (See Highway Code section 129 and 165)
- Filter past the vehicle nearest a pedestrian crossing where there are zig-zag markings on the road. (See Highway Code section 191)
- Filter in a bus lane, unless it has been specifically designated for motorcycle use or outside its hours of operation. (See Highway Code section 165)
- Enter an area designated for cyclists with an Advanced Stop Line (ASL). London boroughs have recently started enforcing this!
- Filter past the nearest vehicle to a pedestrian crossing. (See Highway Code section 165)
- Filter on the wrong side of a keep left sign/ballad.
- Filter such as to cause another vehicle to brake, swerve or take evasive action to avoid you.
Below are instances that the Highway code says you do not or should not do, thus not illegal, but will potentially be held against you when assigning liability following an incident:
- Filter on the nearside in a cycle lane (with broken boundary).
- Filtering on cross hatched area surrounded by a broken white line See Highway Code section 130).
- Change to the lane on the left to overtake a vehicle (See Highway Code section 150).
In general the best advice is to keep speed low, cover your brakes and look far ahead. No, even further ahead! Hazards can appear quickly and split second reactions are crucial. It’s imperative to look ahead, read the road and second guess what the traffic is going to do. ‘Why’s that taxi slowing and pulling into left – because he’s going to pull a U-Turn – ahh!’
Speed wise, a good rule of thumb is not to filter more than 10-15mph faster than the neighbouring traffic and not to filter at speeds above 40mph.
You should also be aware that if you are involved in an accident whilst filtering, previous legal cases don’t set a very good precedent. You will be lucky to do better than a 50/50 liability. 🙁
- Be mindful of junctions and side roads. Stationary traffic may let cars pull in or out. Cars may suddenly turn to the right not expecting you to be filtering beside them. Cars pulling out on the other side of the road to turn left, will be looking right and not for bikes filtering to their left.
- Be wary of pedestrian crossings and bus stops. If traffic is stationary, pedestrians will often walk out from between vehicles, regardless of whether traffic lights are on red or green. Undoubtedly they’ll be plugged into an iPod or smartphone and will just glare at you when you pull a stoppie inches from them!
- Be wary of traffic islands down the centre of the road, not only may pedestrians be crossing, but lanes narrow and traffic will naturally move over slightly. Ease back, don’t find yourself getting squashed between lanes.
- Be wary of taxis, black cabs, private hire cars or the dreaded Addison Lee vehicles. They drive erratically, randomly pull over (to either side of road), perform U-turns without notice, will be in a hurry frantically swapping lanes and generally rather unpredictable. If you’re stuck behind one going slowly, hold back, give them a wide berth and resist the urge to zip past, they’re almost certainly going to do something daft.
- As you approach a set of red lights, gauge if you can get to the front before they turn green, if there is indeed room at the front (where you can still see the lights!), it can still be better to pull up one or two cars back from the front where there is more room, than get caught in the rush to go. Especially if filtering between large trucks, coaches etc whose drivers are unlikely to have seen you.
- You can legally filter on the cross hatched central reservation if it’s enclosed by a dash white line, however the Highway Code says you ‘should not unless it is necessary’. Assigning liability following an incident when filtering in this area will unlikely go in the motorcyclists favour. Also be wary of debris on the road in this area, it can compromise grip or worse give you a puncture and be wary of oncoming bikers also trying to filter in this area.
- If there is no oncoming traffic, filter far to the right, give yourself some space from the queuing traffic to your left. You will be more visible, see ahead better and have more space to swerve in case a car or pedestrian decides to pull/step out.
- When following other bikers filtering, don’t follow blindly. Judge every gap for yourself, gaps change. Other bikers may take a risk too far. Don’t get fixated on their number plate either, try to look beyond them, anticipate hazards they’ll be braking for. Don’t mimic the scooter boys, most of them have just scraped through a CBT and ride like they’re on suicide missions.
- Emergency vehicles on blue light runs can send cars scattering and leave a trail of chaos as everyone tries to pull away again. Quit filtering and hold back until traffic is running normally again. Don’t be tempted to cut through in the wake of an ambulance!
- Don’t take on the boy racers and nonces who insist on taking off first as the lights go green. Sure you can ‘av ‘um no problem. But the busy city is not the place. Take a deep breath, let them go, then just filter past calmly at the next set of lights.
- Where you can filter in bus lanes, keep your wits about you, other traffic often assumes they’re empty and will turn across them without seeing you, pedestrians will cross and you share them with cyclists. Too many Lyrca clad warriors won’t do a shoulder check before pulling out to overtake more sedate cyclists. At junctions bus lanes often revert to a left hand turn lane, so watch out for cars moving over without looking.
Ride safe. As one good friend says: “Take an advantage, but don’t take the piss.”