Back on July 1st, 2014 the New South Wales (NSW) State Guv’mint amended their traffic act to specifically define motorcycle lane filtering and lane splitting.
Previously there was no specific rules outlawing the practice of lane filtering, but popo frowned upon the manoeuvre and usually booked you for failing to keep within a defined lane or some other such thing.
On February 1st, 2015 the The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) commenced a 2 year trial for lane filtering, while Queensland (QLD) followed NSW and amended their road traffic act to formally define lane filtering and lane splitting.
The QLD rules differ slightly from the NSW and ACT equivalents:
|RULE||NEW.SOUTH .WALES||AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY||QUEENSLAND|
|Filter between lanes at under 30km/h (18mp/h) when traffic is stationary or moving at or less than 30km/h.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Filter along the hard shoulder at under 30km/h (18mp/h) when traffic is stationary or moving at or less than 30km/h when the posted speed limit is 90km/h (55mp/h) or more.||No||No||Yes|
|Filter in school zones during school zone hours.||No||No||No|
|Filter past trucks and buses.||No||No||Not Recommended|
|Enter bicycle storage areas and bicycle lanes at traffic lights.||No||No||Yes ¹|
|Effective Date||(1 July, 2014)||(2 year trial from 1 Feb, 2015)||(1 Feb, 2015)|
- All vehicles including motorcycles can travel in a bicycle lane for up to 50m (164 feet) in special circumstances, such as to enter or leave a road, or to avoid an obstruction. Motorcycle riders are allowed to enter bicycle storage areas at traffic lights to allow them to move quickly and safely away from traffic.
- Only open class licence holders can lane filter, learner and provisional riders are not permitted to lane filter.
- Lane filtering at over 30km/h (18mp/h) is not permitted and is defined as lane splitting.
Most bikers filtered before the rule change anyway, so in reality, the authorities have done the right thing by clearing up the vagueness.
Previously in QLD, depending on where you filtered and how popo felt at the time, you would either get a $40 fine with no demerit points or $341 and 3 demerit points. There are still fines for filtering outside the new rules, but at least everyone knows what the rules are now.
For those of you not in Australia, all states have a point system for traffic infringements. So you not only get a fine, but you also get allocated demerit points against your licence if you get caught doing something wrong.
More than 12 points in 36 months, and you get a nice letter asking you to choose between:
- Having your open licence suspended for a requisite period, or
- Agreeing to continue driving under a period of good behaviour for 1 year
If you are allocated 2 or more demerit points during your good behaviour period, your licence will be suspended for double the requisite suspension period that would have applied had you taken the licence suspension in the first place.
When the filtering laws were introduced in NSW, that Guv’mint launched an education campaign in print and on television media, this helped acquaint the public with the new laws, no-one had any excuse for not knowing about them.
The ACT has done a similar thing.
I would have thought the same would have happened in QLD, but for some reason the QLD Guv’mint decided the driving public didn’t need to know about this important rule change. Instead, representative bodies like Automobile and Motorcycling lobby groups have picked up the ball and have posted education campaigns on social media and the like.
For the most part, QLD drivers have been OK with seeing more bikes filtering through traffic. Some move over a bit and make more room, while others will see you coming and will leave a gap ahead of them for you to slip into: I always try to acknowledge those courtesies if I can.
Occasionally you’ll get a driver that see’s it as their duty to close the gap; at 30km/h or less it’s not a big deal if this happens because it’s easy to change course and go around them, or pull up short. Interestingly, these same drivers usually call out friendly greetings in French as you filter past them.
I wish I could understand French… I have no clue what they’re saying; I’m sure it’s very nice though.
There are those riders of course that rip though traffic at over 30km/h and scare the pants off unsuspecting or inattentive drivers.
This was anticipated by popo and they’ve begun policing the 30km/h speed limit pretty heavily. Especially in the 90km/h zones where you can filter on the hard shoulder. I’ve spotted them parked just off to the side with their speed guns pointed towards the oncoming traffic and down the hard shoulder: I’m not sure how many have been done this way but I’ll bet there are a few.
So, do I filter?
Yes I do, but not all the time.
If traffic is heavy I’ll filter, but if I’m two or three cars back from the stop line, I don’t bother. I’m old enough to know that I’ll get to where I’m going eventually and that few seconds isn’t going to make that much difference in the scheme of things.
I must admit though; it’s nice to be able to move through gridlock and not have to worry about getting booked.
Lane Filtering Laws Links:
- Queensland: http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Safety/Queensland-road-rules/Motorcycle-road-rules.aspx (also includes revised laws for motorcycle control and helmets)
- New South Wales: http://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/stayingsafe/motorcyclists/lanefiltering/
- Australian Capital Territory: http://www.justice.act.gov.au/page/view/3733/title/act-lane-filtering-trial