10 tips for safe motorcycle filtering

filter traffic queue

Published on 23 July 2016 by Robert Drane


Filed under Category: Tips and advice

Motorcycle Law Scotland details the best practice for safe filtering

Filtering is a means to make safe progress in stationary or slow-moving traffic.

The manoeuvre is perfectly legal (see the Highway Code Rule 211) but there have been a raft of Civil Court decisions which criticise motorcyclists for filtering. This has resulted in the reducing any award of damages.

Here are 10 top tips to keep in mind next time you come across slow-moving traffic:

10 tips for filtering

  1. When filtering through traffic, don’t assume or take anything for granted. Drivers may give late, incorrect or misleading signals.

  2. Watch out for gaps opening up in the traffic ahead. Perhaps there is a junction or openings or perhaps a driver is holding back to create an opportunity for a pedestrian, cyclist or driver to emerge or turn into the gap.

  3. Be aware of the hazard lines, solider white lines and zig-zag markings signifying pedestrian crossings. These are potential high-risk areas and you may endanger yourself and other road users by filtering.

    top-view of hazard pedestrian crossing lines
  4. Never feel pressurised to filter just because traffic is stationary or other motorcyclists are filtering. You should asses the situation fully, taking into account the width of the road and available room.

  5. Always scan for openings on the left or right where other vehicles may emerge from or turn into when least expected.

  6. When filtering, you should always travel at a safe speed relative to rate of flow of traffic around you. A speed differential of 5-10mph usually provides sufficient progress whilst maintaining safety margins. Filtering will usually be conducted at 15-20mph.

  7. Filter expecting to have to brake, swerve or stop and expect the unexpected. Cover your clutch and brake lever while you filter to reduce your relative time should you need to stop quickly.

  8. Filtering on the nearside or filtering between queues of moving traffic is not recommended. A nearside filter can be seen as an undertake. Traffic can also move from one lane to the other when gaps open up in an adjacent lane without checking their mirrors.

  9. Before moving out to filter, always assess the situation fully to ensure you have a safe gap to return to. Ride defensively not aggressively.

  10. If in doubt, don’t filter.


For more great motorcycling tips and advice, read our tutorials and guides here.

motorcyclist smiling in mirror


The attitude of the Courts to filtering can be difficult to comprehend and there are very few guidelines that can be taken from the decisions over the years.

There is no doubt that each individual case is fact-sensitive and so attempting to decipher a common thread or pattern to the decisions is impossible. From a number of reported decisions, judges don’t often sympathise with motorcyclists, especially those who filter past junctions or who filter at speed.

Here are a number of examples:


motorcycle filtering illustrationHarding v Hinchcliffe (1964)

A motorcyclist travelling on a B class road came across a bus travelling in the same direction.

The bus driver signalled his intention to turn left. The motorcyclist overtook the bus as it turned left from the main road into the minor road.

A car driver waiting at the junction to turn right saw the left-hand indicator of the bus and pulled out into the path of the motorcyclist.

Held on appeal that the car driver should have waited to let the bus get completely into the minor road before pulling out because there was always a possibility of a vehicle, particularly a motorcycle, being masked by the bus.

Driver 100% to blame.



motorcycle filtering illustrationBut compare this with Powell v Moody (1966)


A motorcyclist approached the tail end of stationary traffic two abreast. He proceeded to overtake on the offside.

A car driver came out of a side road on the nearside to go through a gap and turn right on to the main road in the opposite direction. The driver was given a signal to emerge by a milk tanker driver.

As the car driver inched out, he collided with the motorcyclist.

Car driver 20% to blame, motorcyclist 80% to blame.



motorcycle filtering illustrationClarke v Windchurch (1969)

A bus driver saw a car that wished to come out. He stopped the bus to allow him to do so. The bus driver flashed his lights at the car driver who then came slowly across the front of the bus.

The front of the car was about a yard beyond the off side of the bus when the car was struck by a moped rider who had overtaken the bus on the off side.

The bus driver had looked in the mirror but had not seen the moped rider. It was accepted that the car driver was only just crawling out.

Moped rider 100% to blame.



motorcycle filtering illustrationWorsfold v Howie (1980)

A car driver wished to turn right from a minor road in order to proceed south on a major road. A petrol tanker travelling north stopped leaving a gap.

The car driver’s view of traffic on the northbound lane was obscured because of the position of the tanker. The car driver began to edge forward past the tanker.

He was struck by a motorcyclist filtering past the tanker within the northbound lane.

Car Driver 50% to blame, motorcyclist 50% to blame.



motorcycle filtering illustrationDavis v Scrogin

A motorcyclist was overtaking a queue of stationary traffic on a long stretch of road with one lane in each direction. A car driver in the stationary queue decided to execute a U-turn.

As a result, a collision occurred and the motorcyclist was seriously injured.

Driver 100% to blame.



motorcycle filtering illustrationWoodham v Turner (2012)

This case was summarised following the first decision in 2011 which was then appealed.

A coach driver had travelled along a minor road and stopped at a T-junction intending to turn right into a single carriageway A road. There were roadworks and temporary traffic lights to the left of the junction behind which there was a queue of stationary traffic.

A larger tractor stopped to the right of the junction and left a gap.

Two motorcyclists filtered up the offside past the queue of traffic behind the tractor and trailer. One motorcyclist remained behind the tractor and trailer but the lead motorcyclist pushed on.

The coach driver pulled out at an angle, slowly. The motorcyclist, travelling at 20mph filtering past the tractor, collided with the coach.

The coach driver was at fault for moving into a gap when she couldn’t properly look out for other road users overtaking on the offside, and she should have waited until there was a smaller vehicle on her right which didn’t obscure her view. The motorcyclist was familiar with the road and overtook at 20mph when the other motorcyclist remained stationary. A speed of 15 mph would have given the motorcyclist more chance of avoiding a collision.

Motorcyclist 50% to blame, coach driver 50% to blame.


Remember: Filtering is a means to make safe progress in stationary or slow-moving traffic. Moving past faster-flowing traffic is called overtaking!


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motorcycle law scotland


Image credits:
traffic queue, by Jim Champion [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons cropped and resized.
pedestrian crossing hazard lines, by Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 us, original here