Filtering through traffic on a motorbike: What’s the deal?

The subject of motorcycle filtering can be a heated one, there are some people who still believe that this is a bad and reckless thing to do. The fact is, filtering is indeed legal. However it must be done with due care and attention, but what does that mean exactly? What can be done and what should be done are sometimes two different things.

Filtering is Dangerous!

There are no two ways about it. Riding on the road is always going to be dangerous as it’s unpredictable and people who don’t bike riders themselves, might not understand how a bike can use the road. Bikes move differently than other vehicles, they are agile, nimble and small which can affect the way they are positioned on the road. Filtering is one of the main reasons people use bikes to get to and from work, commuting in rush hour traffic is enough to make anyone insane. Riding a motorbike in general, and specifically filtering is all about risk management.

Motorcyclists are an extremely vulnerable group of road users, they aren’t protected by an outer shell the way other vehicles are. When filtering, bikers are exposed and rely on other road users to do the right thing, but for some drivers filtering is queue jumping. They believe bikes flowing in-between stationary cars is unsafe and can cause damage..maybe they have a point, or maybe they just wish they were getting home as fast!

Filtering through traffic on a motorbike:

What exactly does the law say?

Well, the law asks for a bit of common sense. Typically, if the traffic is moving fast enough to not be queuing and you try a filtering manoeuvre, the police may see this as dangerous and unnecessary.

Two examples of filtering that isn’t advisable would be, filtering past queuing traffic where overtaking is directly prohibited, like a road with solid white lines. Also, when approaching a crossing that is marked with zig-zags on the road.

How does this really affect me?

If you are unfortunate enough to be in an accident when filtering in the instances mentioned above, you’re likely to be considered liable by your insurance. So as well as putting yourself and others in danger, it could get pretty expensive!

Filtering on a motorbike:

Things to consider when filtering


When filtering it’s important to be aware of the speed differential. The difference in the speed you are travelling at compared to the vehicles you’re passing. It advised the rider should only be marginally faster than the other road users. Slower speeds give you more time to react. Stats show if you slow down by 5-10% you massively increase your reaction time and the amount of control you have in an unexpected situation.

When filtering, it’s a good idea to think of the ‘imagine if’s…’, imagine if someone changes lanes with no indication now, imagine if someone has had enough of waiting and suddenly pulls out with a ready to stop. Even if that driver is in the wrong, it’s the rider who will suffer the consequences.


Get back! Give yourself as much space as possible by positioning your line away from vehicles; you’ll have the advantages of better vision and space to react to unforeseen events. Having more space means you have a better vision of the drivers. Being further out means you can see the people further ahead in the traffic. You can spot someone; maybe they’re showing the signs of a U-turn manoeuvre. This is when you should get yourself out of the way of danger.


It sounds like an obvious one but anyone’s mind can wonders at some point while riding. But filtering requires full concentration. As stated, filtering is a risky thing to do. You might be the best rider in the world! The fact is when you’re on the open road you are exposed to elements completely out of your control. The average person takes approximately 1 second from recognising a hazard to actually reacting to it. So if you’re travelling at around 30mph you will have gone about 14 metres in that one second. After that, you then have to actually stop. So to give yourself the best possible chances, don’t be distracted at any point while filtering!

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2 thoughts on “Filtering through traffic on a motorbike: What’s the deal?”

  1. I generally don’t bother to filter, too many times I have had cars pull out as I pass them, also I find the car drivers that see you coming ‘close up’ the space you were heading for, makes it nigh upon impossible to be safe!

    1. I hardly ever filter in England either to be honest, but when I was riding through France and Spain the drivers had a completely different attitude towards bikers. Cars were going out of their way to let us past, it was amazing! Don’t see that quite as much here though..
      Thanks for reading

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