Should Motorbikes Be Allowed To Weave Through City Traffic?

It undeniably happens a lot; you're stuck in the car not moving, and a bike weaves its way around you. A trial kicking off in Sydney's CBD tomorrow will allow those on motorbikes to do so legally for three months.

Photo: mikecogh

The NRMA Motoring Blog reports on the initiative, which will allow "lane filtering" by motorbikes within the Sydney CBD; more specifically, an area confined to the areas bordered by Sussex and Market Streets, St James Road, Macquarie and Alfred Streets and Hickson Road.

The idea is to test whether it improves traffic flow by allowing bikes to operate legally this way for a three month trial period. The NRMA quotes NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay:

This trial is not about favouring one road user group over another, it is a system which could benefit all motorists in the CBD. It needs to be tested to ensure it improves traffic flow while not jeopardising road safety.

Motorbike riders are just like any other segment of the driving community; there are good examples of safe riding, and horror stories as well, but this is an interesting idea. Do you think it will make much difference to either the behaviour of motorbike riders, or the traffic flow around them?

Should motorbikes be allowed ride through stationary traffic? [NRMA Motoring Blog]


    As a former Bike Rider I think they should.....BUT

    Must be completed at lowest speed possible. It would help to increase flow of traffic

    Idoits are everwhere on the road, bikes, motor bikes , cars, taxi's and trucks. More care and respect for all.

      Well said.

      I'm ok with it, but when a rider slips around me out of nowhere when I'm changing lanes, it's their fault if anything goes astray.

        "out of nowhere" just sounds like lack of situational awareness to me. If mirrors and shoulder checks are performed thoroughly, this does not happen. Besides, if there is sufficient space for you to change lanes then the bike rider would have no need to be splitting between cars and would be in a lane... Having said that, as a motorcyclist, being right does not outweigh being injured/dead so cyclists have to have much greater awareness of others.

        I ride a bike and drive a car and agree with skinhead that it should only be done at the lowest speed possible, with the cars crawling at most, if not completely stopped.

        I believe motorcycles are great way to reduce congestion so moves like this to make the world more friendly towards them is a step in the right direction.

          Agreed! My best mate took out a bike on the westgate, and knowing his morning situational awareness I have no doubt that while the bike was lane splitting I know who's fault it was.... Tho as a rider I realise its 'our' responsibility to be aware of EVERYONE. Anyone who's been out there he countless stories of cars that have seen them, even been nodded to by the car driver, then within minutes the same car is in your lane

          Traffic HAS to be stopped to 'filter'. Every dipstik that takes one of out in this manner will blame the rider

          "out of nowhere" just sounds like lack of situational awareness to me. If mirrors and shoulder checks are performed thoroughly, this does not happen."
          Calling big BS on this. Many times I have done all of those checks only to STILL have a bike zoom up on me (often zipping in and out of lanes and not just coming up in a straight line behind).
          As to the rule - I didn't know it was illegal as I see lane filtering and splitting every single day.

          i've been riding for 15 years, and i love it but i see so many morons on the road doing this unsafely that making it legal will only make it worse.
          I've had riders take a mirror off my car, side-swipe me causing a massive scratch up the side of my car, then just ride off, i've seen a rider reach into a guys car and punch him because he wouldn't make room for the rider to get past at a set of lights.

          IMO if i'm Lane splitting or filtering and a driver in a car feels the need to open his door and clean me up, he is well within his rights, follow the road rules or gtfo the roads.
          the no splitting/filtering needs to be more severely inforced, not made legal

          Last edited 31/01/13 4:49 pm

            Lane splitting can be done safely or unsafely. I think what most car drivers resent (as I did before I had a bike) is when bike riders 'hoon' between lanes at really fast speeds; this often used to surprise me and can catch me off-guard still, especially with the Japanese sports bikes that don't make a lot of noise. Also, weaving in and out of cars as the traffic takes off is a bit too dangerous.

            IMO it should be allowed, but only when the light is red and traffic is at a full stop, only at 15km/h or under, and only for 250cc or greater capacity fully powered bikes (ie no scooters, mopeds or cyclists).

            Why? Because if done properly it's safe, and makes life easier for everyone. Certainly won't slow down the leading cars in the pack, as (for the uninitiated) the power/weight ratio allows even 250cc bikes to take off much more quickly than cars.

            Regarding your comment, nobody is ever "within their rights" to intentionally hurt another person, despite their perceived level of jerkiness.

            I'd bet anything you aren't a rider as you say you are... Not only do you not seem to know the difference between filtering and splitting, and refer to them both as the same thing, but you claim someone opening their door on you would be 'well within their rights', when it is well known amongst riders to be illegal to open your door in a way that causes a hazard to other drivers or pedestrians.

            You also don't seem to realise the severity of what an open door can do to a rider even at low speeds, you think someone is well within their rights to potentially amputate your leg, just because they have an inferiority complex and a vindictive spiteful streak that enrages them whenever someone moves ahead of them in traffic? Get real.

            You are clearly just one of the aforementioned drivers, who for no reason other than spite can't stand when a rider moves ahead, not realising that it actually speeds your journey up as they relieve the congestion by filtering at lights. I wonder how many of the claimed incidents you've had with riders were because you intentionally tried to block their path, as people with your mindset constantly do, and then complain about the result of such a pathetic, dangerous and pointless maneuver

              Sure mate because you know more about my life than i do, just because i ride within the bounds of the law without filtering/splitting (which are the same bloody thing regardless of moving traffic or stopped, argue semantics all you want) that makes me a better rider than most, and judging by you're comment, obviously a better rider than you.

              Don't be an entitled asshole who thinks because you have the ability to bypass the law that you should.
              both the accidents caused by riders while in my car, i was stationary at a set of lights just fyi

        It's important to realise that there is two different definitions when performing this act.
        Filtering - Moving through stationary traffic.
        Splitting - Moving through moving traffic.
        In theory, you shouldn't be able to take out a rider when changing lanes as they should only be passing when traffic is stationary.

        It's positive to see it being legally allowed, even for a trial. Not only can it help reduce congestion, but it can also reduce the amount of rear-enders involving bikes. There's too many cases around where an inattentive driver didn't notice the smaller vehicle and didn't include them in their stopping distance.

          There will always be that time when ur between a lane and left lane sees a park, space in the next lane then boom! Someone wants the newly left space.... JUST FUKING LOOK MORONS

      Gotta agree with you, as a motor bike rider myself, one of the things that makes riding a pleasure is being able to make short work of traffic. Having said that there are situations where it is just plain dangerous to do so. I think as long as common sense is used it should be no problem.

      As a non bike rider I'm happy for this at say stop lights and while traffic is under a certain speed and bikes are limited to a certain speed also.

      I'm just immensely selfish and don't want to deal with hitting you.

      As long as we define motorbike as "NOT moped"

      Mopeds 'typically' can't take off from the lights quicker than most cars, so ADD to the congestion, not improve it.

      And now we have a grey area!!! Laws are good at creating those.

        In my experience of riding mopeds they can take off quicker than most cars. The only cars I won't pull in front of at a red light are sports cars. Obviously a moped isn't as quick as a motorcycle, and cars will catch up once they're in 2nd gear, but the take off is generally faster for a moped.

        Even if a moped's take off speed is slower, that doesn't add to congestion. Rearranging the order of the vehicles queued up at a red light doesn't add anything, it just rearranges it.

    i thought it was already legal to do this when traffic was under a certain speed......?

      No it's not.
      Not even with stationary traffic.
      But that hasn't stopped it happening and because there are so very few incidents resulting from this behaviour, "they" are finaly looking at maybe de-criminalise it.
      About time too IMHO

        Technically it's not illegal, however there are a number of other infringements that you can be booked for in the vein of 'passing on the left', 'passing in the same lane', 'sharing a lane', that sort of thing.

          Passing on the left (in any vehicle) is quite dangerous. Drivers are not expecting it.
          Almost all of the car drivers I've seen doing it are P-platers. I assume that after ending in a close call or worse, most experienced drivers have elected not to do it any more.

            Passing on the left isn't illegal, if you're on a multi lane road and not exceeding the speed limit. Thank the middle lane hogs on the F3 for encouraging me to look it up so I can cruise along in the same lane without crossing to the far right, overtaking, and going back into the left lane.

              Passing on the left in the same lane is illegal.

                How do you pass a car on any side whilst in the same lane?

                  Technically, that's what lane splitting/filtering is. Passing another vehicle in the same lane. That's what you get booked for if you are unlucky enough to get caught. If you're on the left of the white line, it's passing on the right in the same lane, if you're on the right of the white line, it's passing on the left in the same lane.

                  I'm a rider and this manoeuvre happens all the time, quite safely.

                  Thoughtful riders are observant riders, who look out for the dangers while performing it. Oblivious riders are the ones who clip mirrors or are surprised when a door opens.

            I see it all the time, usually so people can pass the elderly driver doing 10kmph under the limit sitting in the right lane.

            Here in SA there's no passing left or right, a couple cars will block all lanes while going slower then the speedlimit but too fast to split safely...

        lol, decriminalise is not the same as make legal. traffic offences are generally not criminal in nature.

    Having ridden a lot in Taiwan, lane splitting is not only the norm, it’s expected. With number upon number of bikes normally filtered out in front of cars at lights.
    Whilst I agree with lane splitting. It will take a long time before the Australian driving culture accepts this, heck it’s hard enough as it is just for cyclists . Let alone the lack of current infrastructure to help encourage this through both driver & rider education.

    Crystal ball tells me we will see a number of shaking fists (and worse) from cagers when a bike filters through to the front at the lights.

    Given that it is a practically universal behaviour now, making it legal shouldn't make no difference whatsoever. Honestly, in the CBD, motorbike riders are a lot more sensible than their self-propelled compatriots, so I don't have a huge problem with it.

    The major concern I have is riding to the front of a queue of vehicles at a set of traffic lights and swerving in front of the lead car. That, I hate. Even worse when it's multiple bikes. Given the new rules seem to recognise this and say that "riders must stop at the intersection stop-line", I don't know how this is going to work.

    What's interesting is that you can't use the left-hand side of a kerbside lane, but can use the right-hand-side of a far-right lane - apparently swerving into oncoming traffic is OK, as long as the traffic on your side is stationary.

      This should only be a problem if the rider who's got him/her self to the front of the line, then proceeds to move slower than the vehicles they've jumped in front of.
      As a regular peak hour commuter (on a bike) I don't think this happens that often.
      If I move off and in front of a vehicle from the line, I can guarantee I am not holding that vehicle up in any way.
      The whole point of moving ahead like that is to get clear of the cloggage that is the general flow of cars etc. and thus remain a lot more visible.

        Don't disagree with you for the most part, but there's potentially a lot more problems - especially for the rider. Car stalls out and bunny-hops, knocking the rider over and into traffic. Or a collision from the rear does the same thing. Also, multiple riders moving up to the front (I've had plenty of instances in Sydney CBD of 2-3 bikes moving in front of me, and they don't all take off simultaneously).

        Cars and bikes in line usually leave a solid metre at least between vehicles for good safety reasons, but riders moving up to the front leave far less room. Most times, the swing-in angle also means that when they take off, the rider crosses both lanes to swing back into the right direction.

    It should be encouraged and accepted.

    I regularly commute through the Sydney CBD in both a car and on a bike - the trip on the bike takes me approximately 10 minutes, where I can be stuck in the car for well over 40 minutes doing the same route.

    However, with this - you get both kinds of drivers, ones that will move to the far side of their lane to let you pass - and others whom will actively try to crush you between the car beside them.

    Ultimately, it's the responsibility of the motorcycle rider to know their limits when filtering, and accept the fact that sometimes (as Gandalf would say) 'You shall not pass!' when there simply is no room to pass. On the other hand however, it's also a car drivers responsibility to not actively go out of their way to block/crush/mame or kill a rider who is filtering past them.

    That bike going past your stationary vehicle is not slowing you down, quite the contrary - it's one less car in your way, so don't be a knob and keep an eye out for bikes in your mirrors.

    GG Duncan Gay - let's hope the trial is a success!

    I used to do this all the time when I had a motorbike, knowing full well that it wasn't legal. I remember one occasion when I rode straight past a cop car stuck in a traffic jam. I don't think it's particularly safe -- it gives riders permission to weave in between lanes when they might not think it's safe to do so otherwise.

    As a motorbike rider I'd like to see it happen for obvious reasons. After speaking to a number of people (including unbiased people who don't know I ride) and the vast majority suggested that by the time a motorbike takes off from the lights they are already way ahead of the pack to even care about, having no impact on their journey. The people who get upset are the ones who feel 'ripped off' because they see it as the motorbike is cutting ahead of the line.

      Yep, those people who, as you say "feel ripped off" seem to be worried that perhaps I'm going to take the last donut at the shop or something by "jumping the que" or something.

    I watched a motorcyclist die speeding (relative to the traffic but probably under the speed limit) through traffic about a month ago. Stupid idea. It's not just about the motorcyclist. There's pedestrians and other drivers to consider.

      I've seen pedestrians hit by crossing the road and not looking too, but we don't blanket ban people from crossing roads, and the jaywalking rules obviously didn't help.
      I've known someone who died riding a motorbike when he was hit by a truck that didn't bother to look before changing lanes, but we still have trucks on the roads, changing lanes.
      (sadly enough, had he actually moved ahead in the traffic que earlier, he would have been well clear of that truck)
      Ultimately, it's down to the rider to determine weather or not it's safe to something or not. Rules won't do it.
      Rules will also not stop me from riding in a manner that I deem to be in MY best interests (safety, first and foremost). Some rules actually make it more dangerous to be on a bike.
      See my earlier comment re getting out in front of the pack.

        Cyclists, Motorcyclists, motorist, ... helll, people all cut corners. There's a spectrum of really how bad these individual incidents are.

        The difference is that the guy I saw was doing something illegal AND as it turn out, mortally stupid. Having the law means that the other party, when there is one, obeying the rules and common sense shouldn't have to suffer court cases, grief, depression, etc.

        It's always up to the driver to determine if something's safe, but there are boundaries. The guy I watched end up in a pulp probably thought it was 'safe'. The occupants of the car he hit, who were obeying the law, have to now live with his decision.

        Your argument could extend to all road laws. Do you think it's okay to do 230 in a 60 zone if YOU think it's safe? discuss.

        People will still do dumb things. If they kill themselves then that's natural selection working hard for us all. The point of the law is to dissuade idiots from doing so when it affects others.

    yea i can already see this trial ending in a fist fight, like everything there are good and bad players out there the problem is this is cars vs motorbikes doesnt matter which ones the bad player the bike will always lose and lose bad, under perfect conditions im sure bikes can lane split and pull away from traffic no issues its the other 75% of the time when its doesnt go smoothly that will end this trial/thought

    Having ridden a motorbike until I had too many of my legs smashed by cars not looking, I used to do this, knowing full well if anything where to happen lane splitting it was my fault. Consequently I did it when cars where stationary (can't trust the bastards while there moving) and the only real concern I saw from drivers was the fact they felt cheated.
    Until box drivers realise this is only one of a few benefits they have, and they are under the constant threat of a dozy driver obliterating them, I don't think the majority will ever care enough to allow it

    I'm suddenly reminded of this video:

      You realise that is a snatch and grab crime, not an accident, right?

    Not excited about the idea.
    Even if legal, there's going to be road rage, and I'm not sure you can tell a group of people that swerving between traffic is fine, but only under XXXX conditions and not have that lead to increases in people doing it under ALL conditions.

    In my area? HELL NO! The motorists who drive cars don't give two shits about those who ride motorcycles. A local paper has even gone to the point where a few years back they liked to attack motorbike riders saying they cause all the accidents they end up in. When in fact it was the car drivers not paying attention at all to what was around them and cleaning up bike riders.

      Too fukin true...I love it tho when they do tho

      Ten years in the military and 20 yrs lifting weights... As a calm person I love to see the reactions of 'tough guys' when I fire up, never had to gt physical tho have stood at a drivers door going full tap with helmet in hand... Make my day!

    Due to the fact that a vast majority of riders already do this, (lane splitting or filtering) I can't see how a "trial" is going to show up any significant changes in traffic flow.
    Just because it's legal all of a sudden, won't make an appreciable difference to traffic.
    But it might give law enforcement something better to do than worry about it. (which also apprently isn't much of an issue either. I've passed any number of police vehicles without issue. Well, except for one who was on a bike. He couldn't follow me between the cars because of his panniers, so he went up the wrong side of the road to pull up in front of me at the lights, and tell me to stick to my lane. Nothing more. Who's actions were the more dangerous here I ask)

    Another motorcyclist here. Yes, I think it should definitely be allowed. Many riders - myself included - do it often anyway.

    * It's such a huge time-saver, especially when it's hot and you're in leathers.
    * You filter up through the traffic then naturally take off faster than vehicles around you, so there's no "time penalty" to the vehicles you're getting ahead of.
    * It's reduces overall trip time with no speeding, traffic off the road sooner
    * It significantly reduces clutch-hand fatigue in long traffic jams.
    * But it must absolutely be done a low, predictable speed, and I'd say after you're on your opens so you know how to balance the bike at low speed & not side-swipe other vehicles.

    Riding a bike is great fun, but balancing your bike whilst stationary, exposed to the elements (blazing hot sun, pouring rain), no aircon/heater, no radio (unless bluetooth headset), unable to just recline and chill out, inhaling unfiltered exhaust fumes from the traffic around you. The stop-start-stop-start of a long traffic jam can also really cause pain in your left hand too if you've got a stiff clutch.

    Bikes are like sharks. They need to keep moving to survive :)

      Damned straight. ( I like the sharks bit BTW)
      I especially agree with the "low, predictable speed" bit.
      Me, I only ever filter between stationary vehicles. As Grumpy Old Gamer mentioned, you just can't trust moving slow moving vehicles in traffic to behave in a predictable manner.
      Well, you should predict that they will do something daft like suddenly decide that the other lane is better than the one they're in.
      By far the worst offenders are the drivers who seem to think that you flick the indicator on with the same movement used to turn the steering wheel. In other words, they use the indicator, but with zero time between indicating and actually turning. The first thing you see is the car turning and then finally a blink or two from the indicators.
      Bikers take heed. Treat ALL other road users as though they are deaf, blind and plain stupid as, unfortunately, a lot of them are.
      Then they'll get cranky at you.

    However it's done, any attempts will be nothing compared to how they lane split in Rome. Crossing a three lane, one way road was rather interesting as it had 4 lanes of cars and 5 of mopeds. Road markings? Pah! They're for tourists.

    Lane splitting saves me heaps of time getting to work, I don't think it saves cars much at all... There is not enough bikes on the road to have them to add to traffic. If any thing it might encourage those who choose not to use public transport, to start riding. If most rode to work I assure you Traffic would cease to be a thing.
    It's a pitty the trial is only in the CBD where lane "filtering" is difficult due to the lanes being very narrow in areas. I find bus lanes are the best option...

    It wouldn't make much of a difference because all motorbikes I see in the city lane split anyway.

      if they didn't lane split - you wouldn't see em - they'd be stuck a long way behind you.

    If this were Brisbane, they'd be starting a new trial to find new ways of ticketing motorcyclists who dare to find ways to speed up their progression through the traffic light quagmire that's the CBD.

      Or the one particular bike cop pulling you over to treat you to his ideas of why a mudguard is so important and how they work no less. In the middle of road works. On the ICB. In the center lane. In peak hour traffic
      This after he forgot all about why he pulled me over in the first place. Idiot.

        The only reason for a mudgard in the city is because of the road 'repairs' where they dig up and leave loose gravel filling the hole for several weeks or more with no warnings for 2 wheelers.

    A good portion of Asian countries have a large number of riders and they look crazy when we see footage of them. Though looking from a riders perspective you can see the order in the chaos.
    +1 for the trial and hopefully other states can learn from the trail too.

    I have to say no, not because I have a problem with them doing it but because I think we really do need the traffic laws to be universal irrespective of what mode of transport you use. Saying yes to motorbikes doing this paves a path to allowing the same for scooters (which can be very slow to accelerate) and pushbikes (which are just slow in general).

    This depends so much on what the circumstances are. As a biker, I completely agree that filtering doesn't really harm anyone - the cars are stationary, and by getting to the front, other cars can move up to fill the gaps.

    I've never been a fan of splitting though, since... well, but a lot of drivers don't do head checks before changing lanes. Just last week, I was nearly squashed against the side of another car twice, because drivers didn't see me. I've also, in the past, been forced to move into lanes on the wrong side of the road to avoid getting crushed.

    I don't mean to generalise or stereotype and say that all drivers are careless or incompetent - I've probably just had bad luck with the few that are. But I think this trial will fail because of the idiotic minority (both riders and drivers).

    Also, anyone comparing this to cyclists - sorry, but bicycles just aren't the same as they often can't reach or maintain decent speeds. I always groan inwardly when I see a cyclist ahead of me, especially if I'm in a bus and they're in a bus lane.

    Yes! This would be great in Melbourne as well. Nice to see attitudes to motorcyclists improving, slowly but surely,

    I refuse to lane split (in moving traffic), but filter (in stationary traffic) every chance I get. It's not actually about saving time as it often doesn't in non-peak hour traffic, rather it's about safety for me. Being at the front means I can take off and leave cars behind that would otherwise be on all sides of me, posing risks if they change lanes, have a lapse in attention, drift lanes, etc, etc. Keeping a good distance between them and me increases my buffer space, makes it safer and makes for a much nicer ride :) Fewer stinky exhaust fumes up the front too.

    Given that this is already commonplace, how will the study be able to determine whether there is a benefit to traffic congestion???

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