Many states in Australia have adopted lane filtering laws.
Each state has their own rules, and while much is similar, there are some differences in what you can and can’t do legally. Which in turn can cause some confusion for interstate riders.
What’s legal in Queensland may not be in New South Wales or Victoria.
The common thread with all state and territory laws is that:
- Your speed when filtering must be 30km/h (18mph) or less
- You are not allowed to lane filter at a speed of more than 30km/h.
Exceeding this speed while manoeuvring between vehicles, that is either moving or stationary, is defined as lane splitting, and is punishable by having your armpits infested with the fleas of a thousand camels.
Well not really, in Queensland its three points and $365, but it varies state to state.
That said, most riders filter, or have done at one time or another.
Some refuse to filter, believing it to be a dangerous practice. To each their own.
I’ll admit I lane filter, either when the traffic is stopped or moving below 30km/h. It saves me time during my daily commute and allows me to move to a safer place in the line of traffic to avoid being rear ended if I end up being tail end Charlie.
I pick my moments and won’t filter past moving semi’s or buses, and won’t pull my mirrors in to squeeze past a couple of close vehicles. I’m just not in that much of a hurry.
There are some riders that like to filter, or more correctly lane split, through traffic at speed. For the most part nothing comes of it, but sometimes it goes pear-shaped. I don’t condone this, but again, to each their own.
Why am I blithering on about this?
Because the other day on the way home from work, I was passed by two riders who were negotiating (filtering through) slow-moving traffic.
I’d chosen not to filter because the traffic was rubber banding.
I call it rubber banding as I don’t know what else to call it. I guess to describe it, I’d have to say the traffic would speed up then slow down in quick succession, causing a bunching and separating effect between the vehicles.
Instead, I positioned myself to the outside lane, ready for a quick exit in case old mate behind me didn’t pull up in time, and turned me into a sandwich.
Anyway, both riders passed me and went on their merry way, while I continued for another 500m (1600 ft) or so in the queue until the traffic came to a stand still.
At this point I took the opportunity to filter through, eventually coming to a point where I could see where the problem was. Everything was stopped at a point in the distance and the road was empty beyond that point.
You don’t need to be Einstein to work out what had happened.
I made my way over to the breakdown lane and continued to the head of the queue where I parked Bluey.
I wasn’t prepared for what was there. A rider was in the middle of the road, his bike was a metre or so away from him. At a quick glance I could see the rider was alive, but in a lot of pain.
Most of the onlookers were just standing around, except for two people. One lady was on the phone to triple zero (911 for you ‘Mericans) and another bloke was trying to ascertain the condition of the rider.
At this point I came in to do what I could to help, which wasn’t much really, other than to try to calm the rider and ask some questions… his name, where it hurt, could I call someone for him, that sort of thing.
Once he was conformable, I left the first responder to it and enlisted a couple of blokes to help me get the bike upright and off the road. It was leaking fluids and there were people smoking in the vicinity. The last thing we needed was a fire.
I asked another bloke to head up the road a bit and try to encourage the traffic to merge and go around. This allowed us to keep and area clear for the ambo’s* when they arrived.
Most onlookers left once we’d cleared a lane for the traffic to start moving again, a few remained until the ambulance arrived. I couldn’t offer much more than a friendly face at this point, but I knew his partner was on her way so I stayed. I wasn’t sure how she would react seeing the mess but to her credit she was composed and in control.
When the ambos arrived they worked on the rider for about 20 minutes where he lay, eventually moving him to the ambulance, where they worked on him some more.
The riders partner arrived and I filled her in on what I knew, and helped her load his gear into her car, except his helmet.
That went in the ambulance with the rider. They examine it for points of impact at the hospital in the event of head injuries.
In total, I remained at the scene for about an hour.
So what happened you might ask…
Well, it turns out, the second rider that had passed me a few minutes earlier had clipped a car which had braked hard and moved slightly into his path (The rubber band effect). That initial clip speared him off towards a semi which he also clipped… and down he went.
The rider was very lucky, the alternative could have been far worse.
As for the semi driver, he didn’t see, hear or feel a thing and kept going. Maybe someone will tell him about it at the next truck stop, or over the CB.
Maybe he’ll never know.
Thinking back, this is the first time I’ve come across an incident like this, and its surprising what you remember from courses you do.
The Pillion and I did a co8rse with First Aid For Motorcyclists < link > prior to leaving for our trip down south last year. The course not only covered basic first aid, but also accident scene management and how to deal specifically with motorcycle accidents and injuries. Even how… and when… to remove a helmet.
Also, I don’t know why I stayed at the scene. I certainly didn’t have to.
Perhaps it’s this part of the bikers (riders) code?
Never leave a brother or sister behind.
I don’t know. It just felt like the right thing to do.
Would I do it again?
You bet I would, because there may be a time when I need the favour returned, and, I’m a firm believer in karma.
One last thing.
It was made abundantly clear to me that day, of how vulnerable we are as riders, and how quickly things can change. It has made me appreciate that what we enjoy should not be taken for granted and that we all have someone waiting for us at home.
To the rider on the ZX10R, if you’re reading this, heal quick mate.
Thanks to Jaja for the use of his “writing box” 😉
- Ambo’s: Ambulance officers.
- Towie: Tow truck operator.
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