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Lane filtering legalised in NSW

Lane Splitting

Lane filtering for motorcycles will be legal in NSW from July 1 and Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shan Lennard says they will be working to see it go national.

Under the scheme, fully-licensed riders will be able to ride through stationary or slow-moving traffic (below 30km/h) at intersections. Riders will be limited to 30km/h and will not be able to filter in school zones, beside kerbs, in break-down lanes, or next to trucks and buses. Learners and provisional licence holders will not be allowed to filter.

NSW is the first state to legalise the practice of lane filtering after it held a trial in the CBD in March and April last year. Roads Minister Duncan Gay calls the decision a “common sense solution” that will “ease congestion”.

While there is actually no law that specifically bans lane filtering in other states, it can be covered under failure to stay in your lane, passing on the left or dangerous operation of a vehicle. There is no law sanctioning it, either. NSW will create a new law specifically banning riders from filtering through traffic at more than 30km/h.

In Asia, Europe and Japan, lane filtering is not only legal, but encouraged to avoid gridlock. It is not legal in the USA, but is tolerated in some states such as California unless you are traveling recklessly.

There was double good news for NSW motorcyclists today with the Minister also announcing they would fix the anomaly regarding the minimum spacing for motorcycle rear indicators. The legal spacing under Australian Design Rules is a minimum of 180mm yet under NSW legislation road authorities were enforcing a minimum of 300mm.

“A lot of motorcyclists complied with Australian Design Rules yet riders driving around in popular bikes like the Suzuki GSXR-750 or the Honda XR250L were still getting hit with defect notice,” he says.  “This package of reforms is a result of close consultation with key stakeholders such as the NSW Motorcycle Alliance, Motorcycle Council of NSW and NSW Police.”

Motorcycle council of NSW spokesman Chris Burns welcomed the announcement on lane filtering saying it could actually prevent riders from being injured. “Some drivers don’t actually understand that by filtering, riders are getting out of the rear-end danger zone which is the most common crash in NSW,” he says. “If you are in a car and you get rear ended you might get whiplash. If you’re on a bike you get squashed.”

Law firm Maurice Blackburn, has welcomed the move after they backed a YouTube video showing the benefits of filtering. Firm principal John Voyage says NSW has led the way and “others should see the sense in it and do the same”. He says the 2009 European Motorcycle Accident Indepth Study shows it’s safer for riders and it is legal in many other places around the world. The “Take a Longer Look” video was funded via Australia’s riding community who bought Stop SMIDSY t-shirts to fund the project. Watch the video below.


  1. Finally, common sense have prevailed. I note that this new law (now legalised to take effect from July 2014) would only apply to intersections where vehicular traffic is queued. May I enquire “what about long queues of stationary vehicles elsewhere, e.g. motorways or roads due to vehicle collisions or lane closures”?
    I’m talking about lane-filtering NOT lane-splitting (where motorcycles filter between slow-moving vehicles doing up to 30km/h)

    1. We will have to wait and see the exact wording of the law and then hope the police apply a common sense approach to the intent of the law, rather than the letter of the law. Wishful thinking ?

  2. The Queensland government must be nervous. If this became legal in Qld, it would be a major loss of revenue for the Qld !

  3. The greatest threat will come from redneck car drivers who move over and block filtering. As an occasional bicycle rider I have been pushed into the gutter on a number of occasions by aggressive car drivers who see it as their right to block my progress in traffic.

  4. Actually Qld has allowed it for years. I spoke to the Traffic Superintendant of Police on one occasion who stated that as long as it was in first gear at a slow speed, he was fine with it and that there was no specific law for it unless it became “Manner Dangerous” He was of the belief that bikes were safest at the front of a traffic cue and that traffic seemed to flow faster as the bikes didn’t slow anyone down. I also heard him comment on the radio to that effect. This was 15 years ago as well. SO which state is behind the times!!! (Lane Filtering is not to be mistaken for lane splitting which is highly dangerous and stupid)

    1. Yet I’ve been fined $75 for lane-filtering in stationary traffic on the Western Freeway of Brisbane. They conduct sporadic blitzes where they set up coppers to fine riders for this offence. They told me it was $75 and no demerit points for riding up the centre, but $150 and 1 demerit point for riding up the left. On another occasion a copper in a patrol car just wagged his finger and shook his head at me as I ran up them middle to the front at lights. No fine, though. This consistency in interpretation of laws is an inherent problem with so many of our badly constructed road rules. There needs to be a national approach with plenty of consultation with stakeholders.

  5. Awesome – some common sense at last. It will need some support publicity so car drivers will also see the advantage to themselves, and look out for bikes and give them a little room – it benefits everybody!

  6. Good news for Queensland riders. If their car licence is Open they, with as little as 1.5hrs “traffic experience”, be permitted to “filter” in NSW.

  7. Despite what Mark says lane splitting is legal in California. In October 2012 the CHP clarified the legality of lane splitting in California, issuing official lane splitting guidelines for riders and messages for drivers.
    Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal (CVC 22400) and opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is also illegal (CVC 22517).

    1. I don’t know whether these rules are a step forward or backward. It was previously tolerated unless you were riding recklessly, but the new rules stress that motorcyclists can only split lanes as long as they don’t exceed 10mph faster than surrounding traffic which must be going less than 30mph.

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