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Author: Ollie Rooke

Back in 2015 ABR ran a social media campaign to spread awareness of a sore topic for many road users. Our campaign slogan was simple. Filtering in the UK is legal, and it’s time all road users learn that fact.

Sadly, almost five years on, little has changed. I’m still subjected to being cut off, beeped, sprayed with windscreen washer and sworn at as I slowly make progress between two lines of traffic that are going no where quickly.

It’s time, once again, to talk about filtering.

Filtering: what is it?

Filtering is the practice of making progress between lines of cars that are either stationary or travelling slowly. Naturally, it’s important to do so safely. And this can be up for debate, for some guidance a police video that we’ve linked below recommends filtering at no more than 15mph above the speed of the traffic around you.

Why would a motorcyclist want to do this?

Of course, getting to our destination in less time is one of, if not the main, reason that we’ll cut through traffic. But there are others.

Filtering, when done in a safe manner, can keep bikes out of danger. Much in the same way that boxes for cyclists sit in front of the traffic, filtering can enable riders to get ahead of queues and away from the danger of being rear-ended (it happens far too frequently) or missed when travelling along with the traffic.

Both of these are primarily reasons for motorcyclists to filter though. There is also a clear reason why motorists should allow motorcyclists to filter. It reduces congestion.

Think about it. Force a biker to sit in traffic and they essentially occupy the same space as a hatchback. This means you’re sat further back in the queue and likely to arrive later to your destination.

So, what can friendly motorists do to make life easier for those filtering? It’s simple, check your mirrors regularly and when you spot us heading towards you, if possible and safe to do so, make a slight movement left or right away from us to increase the space we have to filter through.

I can’t begin to tell you how comforting this is. It tells me you’re aware of me, and therefore I can look further ahead to anticipate other car’s actions. A little wave of the leg or hand, or even just a nod, will tell you that we appreciate your help.

The Highway Code

Filtering is also clearly covered in the highway code and there’s a legal precedent in the case of accidents.

Rule 88 of the Highway Code:

“You should be aware of what is behind and to the sides before manoeuvring. Look behind you; use mirrors if they are fitted. When in traffic queues look out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and vehicles emerging from junctions or changing lanes.”

And the key part…

“Position yourself so that drivers in front can see you in their mirrors. Additionally, when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.”

Rule 160 of the Highway Code:

“Once moving, you should be aware of other road users, especially cycles and motorcycles who may be filtering through the traffic. These are more difficult to see than larger vehicles and their riders are particularly vulnerable”

Clearly, filtering is legal, while legal precedents suggest a strong favour towards the motorcyclist if they were travelling in a controlled and safe manner, and there was nothing they could do to avoid an incident.

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Our responsibility

Clearly though, us riders also have a responsibility when filtering in the UK.

Our responsibility is two-fold: firstly, we should ensure we’re filtering and travelling in a safe and appropriate manner for the road and weather conditions. Ultimately, rule 88 and rule 160 won’t matter one bit as you’re carried into an ambulance. Check out the video below for police advice on safe urban filtering.

We also have a responsibility to educate, rather than irritate. Sure, it can be rage-inducing to feel yourself in danger as a result of the actions of a driver. But take a breath, stay calm and educate if you have the chance or let it go if you don’t.

Then, when you get home, give this story a share detailing your experience. Remind your friends and family that you’re a vulnerable road user. They may just look twice in their mirrors on their next car trip.

In an effort to help all motorcyclists, please share this post so that other road users can learn that filtering is legal.