Filtering, otherwise known as lane splitting, is completely legal for motorcyclists in the UK.

What is lane filtering?

Filtering is usually seen at stop lights or slow moving traffic, where bikers manoeuvre between rows of vehicles to navigate towards the front of the queue.

Bikers move directly forward between two lanes of traffic, but if there is not enough room to do this, they may menouvre horizontally in a zig-zag motion in order to move forward.

It’s a fantastic way to avoid congestion and make your journey faster - we know seeing bikers jump the queue was a big motivator for us to jump on two wheels!

What is the different between filtering and lane splitting?

Filtering and lane splitting are often used interchangably but it's important to note their meanings may differ, depending on who you speak to.

Some same they equate to the same thing, while others say there are slight differences e.g. filtering occurs and slow moving or stopped traffic while lane splitting occurrs at higher speeds.

The Highway Code only references filtering when addressing these matters, excluding any mention of lane splitting, so for legal purposes it can be assumed that 'filtering' is a blanket term for any vehicle moving between rows of vehicles.

Is filtering dangerous?

As long as bikers remain vigilant and careful, filtering can be considered reasonably safe.

All bikers are legally free to filter, however, this should be done with caution and consideration to the (somewhat confusing) road rules that detail when filtering is not permitted (see below info on how to filter safely).

For example, we know motorcyclists are more difficult to see for other traffic users and they can often find themselves in driver’s ‘blind spots’... a place no biker wants to be.

Although filtering has way more pros than cons (hello faster commutes!), there are a few down-sides to watch out for.

The (very few) down-sides of motorbike filtering:

1. Driver frustration:

Any biker knows this well, usually from both ends of the stick. When you’re stuck in traffic (again!) and you see a motorcyclist cruise past you to take pole position, you feel a bit cheated. But it’s important these drivers remember there is a simple solution to this… get a bike too!

2. Blind spots:

Moving past multiple vehicles on a bike (motorised or not) will mean you’re constantly moving in and out of drivers’ blind spots. Maintaining a comfortable distance between vehicles is important here and consider drivers who may not be paying attention.

3. Risk of damage:

When bikes are squeezing through small gaps between vehicles, it poses a risk that the bike will scrape the side of a car which can damage both vehicles. If your bike is the one moving past, it’s likely you will be found liable so always take care.

How can motorcyclists filter safely?

There are a number of things bikers can do to exercise caution when filtering…and ensure they’re abiding by the road rules.

Here are our top 10 tips to keep in mind.

  1. Make sure there is a comfortable distance between vehicles when filtering.
  2. Be conscious of drivers who may not be paying attention or may not be able to see you.
  3. Avoid filtering when the vehicle queue is moving - this is when cars often dart between lanes.
  4. Filter slowly and relative to those around you - never move faster than 30mph.
  5. Expect the unexpected and hover over your clutch and brake lever in case you need it quickly.
  6. Keep an eye on gaps between traffic, which cars may enter into from opposite sides without notice.
  7. Always assess the situation before making any moves - is there enough space? Is traffic too fast or speeding up?
  8. Keep a close eye on road markings such as pedestrian walkways, hazard warning lines and double white lines. There are specific road rules which may limit how/if you can filter.
  9. Don't filter when it is illegal to do so - know the road rules and abide by them. If you’re not clear on what is and is not allowed, we hear ya! Have a read through our guide to motorbike filtering: what is and is not legal, anyway?
  10. Ride defensively, not aggressively - maintain caution and always avoid risky situations.