Motorcycle Filtering Tips for the City

Continuing on from my previous post on motorcycle filtering tips 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 of 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 become almost second nature, below are some filtering tips and advice I have accumulated.

Filtering Law – 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 do something and are thus making filtering illegal in these cases. You must not:

  1. 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)
  2. Filter past the vehicle nearest a pedestrian crossing where there are zig-zag markings on the road. (See Highway Code section 191)
  3. 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)
  4. Enter an area designated for cyclists with an Advanced Stop Line (ASL). London boroughs have recently started enforcing this!
  5. Filter past the nearest vehicle to a pedestrian crossing. (See Highway Code section 165)
  6. Filter on the wrong side of a keep left sign/ballad.
  7. Filter so 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, thus not illegal, but will potentially be held against you when assigning liability following an incident:

  1. Filter on the nearside in a cycle lane (with broken boundary).
  2. Filtering on a cross-hatched area surrounded by a broken white line See Highway Code section 130).
  3. 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. 🙁

Check out my video on the legalities of motorcycle filtering:

Filtering Tips

Motorcycle Filtering Tips in the CitySo without further ado, here are 10 kay lane splitting tips you should find beneficial when city riding:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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 the 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.
  5. 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 getting caught in the rush to go. Especially if filtering between large trucks, coaches etc whose drivers are unlikely to have seen you.
  6. 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 motorcyclist’s 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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 advantage but don’t take the piss.” 

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4 replies on “Motorcycle Filtering Tips for the City”

I think, on legality point 2. about filtering on zigzags, that you are allowed to filter so long as you don’t pass the lead vehicle (as you then go on to cover in point 6).

Also, I would apply tip 2 to all locations, not just bus stops and other likely crossing spots. I certainly found in London that pedestrians would cross between stationery traffic in any and all sorts of places, across multiple lanes, and it was very rare someone would positively look between lanes of cars for thinner modes of transport still making progress. The worst case I encountered was a girl texting, with headphones on, as she crossed through two lanes of static cars. She remains completely unaware to this day that I nearly ran her down (at low speed, because I was fortunately watching for people doing exactly what she was doing).

Totally agree, you have to assume pedestrians will just step out onto the road without looking. Some chap did exactly this on my way to work this morning. Staring at the floor and just walked out into the road and almost into the side of me. Thankfully I was just creeping along at about 5mph.

Filtering is essential when you are traveling in London. However when filtering towards the red traffic lights these are my experiences:

I have had pedestrians just coming out of the stationary traffic looking in opposite direction.

Cars abruptly pull out to get in the lane to the right before the traffic lights.

People crossing in front of the bus and looking in the opposite direction!

Cars turning right at the traffic lights.

So! if you are filtering: Keeping slow speed and expecting something something to happen is probably the best advice.

Point 7 on What’s Legal and What’s Not. Have you got the words to the ‘keep left sign/ballad? The tune is buzzing in my head but I can’t remember the lyrics. Good site by the way.

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