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What is Filtering And is it Legal in The UK?

Filtering through traffic on your motorbike is fundamentally a safe thing to do, as long as you do it right – and it is perfectly legal in the UK. However, it’s important to remember that any form of overtaking has its risks, and filtering still has laws around when you can and can’t do it.

We wanted to look into filtering on your motorbike a little bit more in order to keep you safe and sunny side up on the roads. Besides as a motorbike rider you often go through being exposed to the elements; sitting on your two-wheeler in the cold and rain, so you might as well take advantage of filtering. 

The most common filtering accidents

Thankfully, the majority of car drivers are fully aware that filtering on your motorcycle is completely legal. However, things can still, and often do, go wrong when you’re filtering through busy traffic.

Often when you decide to filter through a line of slow moving traffic, it’s easy to not notice that one of the cars has left a gap, so that someone can suddenly pull out from a side road and turn right. Before you know it, someone has waved this other driver out and they likely can’t see you coming when they pull out. This is exactly the scenario that leads to the most accidents.

Whenever you find yourself at a junction, you need to be even more alert for this exact reason. You need to carefully consider whether you should overtake a car past a junction, or whether you should stick with the car until you’ve both gone past the junction. In the majority of cases it’s the latter choice you should opt for, as junctions will always be dangerous pinch points for filtering motorcyclists. 

Focus on your filtering speed 

Many filtering accidents, either on town roads or motorways, are the result of an inappropriate speed differential between the bike rider and the surrounding cars. When you’re filtering you need to keep the difference in speed between you and the cars as low as you reasonably can.

It’s not necessarily the speed number itself that matters most, because whether you’re filtering at 20mph or 40mph, it’s more about the difference, and keeping things sensible. If you’re filtering on a motorway, then generally it’s safe to do around 10-15mph more than the traffic around you. Make sure you’re doing a lot less than this though when filtering on a busy road in town. 

It’s always up to you to judge the conditions, as different riders will have their speed limits for filtering. But whatever you do, don’t forget about the differential, and don’t attempt to filter through traffic at 70mph when everyone else is going 40mph. 

Other risks when filtering

There are also other risky situations that can occur when filtering that don’t involve speed. For example, you could end up filtering round the front of a lorry at a junction, which leaves you sitting right in front of it or by its nearside. This is an extremely dangerous blindspot, and unless you’ve already made eye contact with the driver, it’s highly likely that he has no idea that you’re even there. Don’t filter yourself into this situation. 

It’s true that filtering accidents are less common on motorways and dual carriageways than in towns. However, the speeds on the former will be much higher, which means the outcome of any accident will likely be much worse. When on a motorway, it’s usually best to filter between lanes 2 and 3, as there tends to be fewer lane changes, and fewer lorries. Remember though, when you’re dealing with higher speeds, it means cars can change lanes much faster.

Keep in mind that filtering through traffic at night is far riskier. As all a driver will see when they look in their mirror will be shining lights, before they put their indicator on, and head for a gap in the road. Often drivers don’t even bother to indicate at all.

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