Lane filtering in South Australia, a year on

21 Jul
Motorcyclists lane filtering in Bangkok (those on the crossing are probably breaking the law).

Lane filtering is when a motor bike rider travels at low speed in between two lines of stationary or slow moving traffic travelling in the same direction. This has been legalised in South Australia since 15th April 2017. Strict conditions apply to lane filtering:

  • only permitted at speeds of 30km/h or slower
  • only permitted when safe to do so
  • not permitted in a school zone or across pedestrian and children’s crossings
  • not permitted next to parked cars or between vehicles and the kerb, or on roundabouts
  • not permitted in bicycle, bus or tram lanes
  • only permitted by R and R-Date licensed motor bike riders. Persons with a P1 Provisional or Learner’s permit and moped riders with a car licence only must not lane filter.

Lane filtering has been with us for a while now and I have been observing the behaviour of motorists in Adelaide and how they interact with motorcyclists who filter between the traffic. I filter ALL of the time in traffic, wherever I can. This habit comes from years of experience piloting an 1100 Honda Gold Wing through the streets of London in the 1980s. I did have to remove the panniers though, to give me a bit more clearance. Today I own a Triumph Street Triple which is a lane filterer’s dream.

I have noticed 4 distinct types of car drivers in Adelaide :-

The compliant motorist – They allow plenty of room for bikes to filter to the front of the queue and seem unperturbed that a bike has sneaked up and pushed in front of his/her car. The vast majority of motorists fall into this category, they are well aware of the changes in the rules and treat motorcyclists and push bike riders with the courtesy and respect which we come to expect.

The over-compliant motorist – These drivers spot a bike in their mirror and make an extra effort to give the rider more space, even though there is adequate room to filter and the rider wouldn’t have attempted the manoeuvre in the first place if there wasn’t. These motorists are aware of what’s going on, but their actions could be read as being over protective to the rider. These motorists could well be fellow motorcyclists who have the misfortune to be driving a car at that moment.

The grid position racer – These motorists are secretly seething that a motorcycle has dared to join them at the front of a traffic queue. They are perfectly aware of your presence, but choose not to look at you and when the lights turn green, they race their engines through the gearbox in a vain attempt to burn off the motorcycle from the lights. This doesn’t present any problems if you’re riding a modern bike, but older British bikes tend to struggle from a standing start against modern cars. I generally let them get on with it when I realise what category the driver belongs to.

The angry blocker – Thankfully, these drivers are the minority, as they are the sworn enemy of bike riders. They spot a motorcycle lane filtering and purposely block the rider from advancing further by narrowing the gap between the cars. Riders can generally spot these drivers, because they are usually mouthing obscenities which are clearly seen in their driver’s mirrors. If, as a result, you change course and filter on the opposite side of their car, they get REALLY upset and have been known to shout obscenities through their open window whilst they are temporarily stranded in traffic. These drivers generally have it in for bike riders and will try and make your progress difficult as well as dangerous.

Riders should BEWARE of that last category of motorist. These people hate bike riders and see it as an affront to their values of fair play that a bike has got in front of them. The best course of action is to steer well clear of these lunatics, as they delight in their bullying tactics which can include intimidatory driving such as feigning to drive into your bike by using their car as a battering ram.

The best tactic for the rider when lane filtering is to watch the car’s front wheels. This should be enough to tell you what the driver’s intentions are. Remember that should a confrontation occur, the bike rider always comes off second best. Readers may have their own methods of dealing with filtering which I would very much like to hear.

Meanwhile, it may be worth watching the official video, put out by the SA government, to remind ourselves of what the restrictions are for lane filtering.

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