- What is the law on motorcycle lane filtering?
- Why was motorcycle lane filtering reviewed?
- How was the trial developed?
- What was the purpose of the trial?
- Were there any crashes during the trial?
- What did the trial find?
- What else was done to evaluate lane filtering?
- What was done in response to the trial?
- What’s the difference between lane filtering and lane splitting?
- What are the specific dangers of lane splitting?
- What conditions apply to lane filtering?
- Do the lane filtering laws apply to bicycle riders?
- Why create another offence?
- What is the penalty for lane splitting?
- Did the trial find any risks with lane filtering?
- What is the purpose of the awareness campaign?
- What are the main messages of the awareness campaign?
- Are there risks with introducing lane filtering?
- Were the trial’s findings conclusive enough to justify a change in the law?
- Is it true that motorcyclists will be six times safer when they are allowed to legally lane filter?
- How many crashes have been caused by lane filtering?
- When did the laws commence?
- Can riders be charged if they do not lane filter safely?
Motorcycle lane filtering is when a motorcycle rider moves alongside vehicles that have either stopped or are moving slowly, less than 30km/h. Lane filtering laws apply in NSW. The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Lane Use by Motor Bikes) Regulation 2014 (PDF, 34kB) has details of the new laws.
The motorcycle community had for some time sought to have lane filtering made legal, arguing that it:
- Is safe
- Has the potential to help ease traffic congestion, especially with the number of motorcyclists on our roads increasing every year.
Despite having been illegal, lane filtering was still often practised on NSW roads, especially in congested traffic.
In response, Transport for NSW led a motorcycle lane filtering trial in 2013. The trial’s aim was to identify the potential benefits or risks of lane filtering to road safety and traffic flow for all road users if lane filtering was allowed.
On 18 October 2012, the Minister for Roads and Ports announced that there would be a trial of motorcycle lane filtering in the Sydney CBD. TfNSW led the trial, which was held between 1 March and 30 April 2013. It was developed in consultation with:
- NSW Police Force
- City of Sydney Council
- Motorcycle Council of NSW
- NSW Motorcycle Alliance
- Roads and Maritime Services.
An independent consultant, ARRB Group, was engaged to manage monitoring of traffic movement and road user behaviour during the trial, and to independently evaluate the impact of motorcycle lane filtering on traffic congestion, road safety risk and behaviour, for all road users.
The purpose of the trial was to investigate the impact on traffic congestion and road safety when allowing motorcyclists to legally lane filter. Some questions which needed to be looked at included:
- Does lane filtering affect travel time for motorcyclists and general traffic?
- Does lane filtering affect the overall level of congestion?
- Does lane filtering affect road safety for all road users?
The final report for the trial was received by TfNSW in November 2013. TfNSW analysed the findings and considered appropriate policy responses, in close consultation with the NSW Police Force.
There were no crashes in the trial zone during the two month trial.
Because of the complex nature of the trial and its subject matter, it was not always possible to draw precise conclusions about the benefits and risks of making motorcycle lane filtering legal. However, the trial did provide a range of useful information and observations about lane filtering and its possible effects.
As a result of the trial and TfNSW’s other work in this area, TfNSW has identified that:
- Despite being illegal, lane filtering was still often practised on NSW roads.
- Lane filtering is a relatively low risk riding activity for motorcyclists when done in lower risk/low speed traffic situations (30km/h or less).
- However, when lane filtering is done at higher speeds (faster than 30km/h –‘lane splitting), crash risks increase for motorcycle riders and other road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists.
- The trial showed that lane filtering improved travel times for motorcyclists over short sections of the Sydney CBD. However, while motorcycles are increasing in popularity, they still only make up a relatively small proportion of overall traffic. For this reason, the trial did not show a reduction in congestion for all traffic
- However, common sense says that removing some motorcycles from traffic queues may help to minimise queuing at busy intersections. As the number of motorcycles increases, it is more likely that overall congestion would be improved over time.
Summary of Trial Results (PDF 986kB) contains details of the 2013 lane filtering trial in the Sydney CBD.
In addition to the lane filtering trial, TfNSW:
- Analysed motorcycle crash data to identify any crash risks that may be associated with lane filtering
- Reviewed Australian and international research on lane filtering
- Reviewed international approaches to lane filtering and lane splitting
- Consulted with NSW Police and motorcycling groups including the Motorcycle Council of NSW and the NSW Motorcycle Alliance.
The NSW Government reviewed the findings of the report, NSW crash analysis and the approach taken in other jurisdictions, and proposed a new approach for lane filtering in NSW.
Based on TfNSW’s recommendation, the Government:
- Made lane filtering legal when done safely at a speed 30km/h or under (see conditions below)
- Created a new offence of ‘lane splitting’ to outlaw dangerous behaviour where a motorcycle rider moves past vehicles unsafely at a speed faster than 30km/h.
- Launched an awareness campaign to educate all road users about:
- the difference between lane filtering and lane splitting
- how lane filtering can be done safely for all road users
- the need for all road users to be aware of motorcyclists that may be lane filtering.
- Lane filtering is where a motorcycle rider moves past stationary or slow moving vehicles safely at a speed of 30km/h or less. Lane filtering is legal in NSW.
- Lane splitting is where a motorcycle rider moves past vehicles at an unsafe speed of more than 30km/h. Lane splitting is illegal.
Lane splitting involves higher speeds, which increases the unpredictability of motorcyclist movements for other road users. This increases the crash risk for motorcyclists and other road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists.
The higher speeds involved in lane splitting will result in higher impact speeds for motorcycle/vehicle crashes. In these crashes, there is a higher risk of casualties, especially for motorcyclists.
To minimise safety risks, lane filtering is:
- Only allowed when safe to do so
- Not allowed at a speed greater than 30km/h
- Only allowed by fully licensed riders (i.e. riders on their L or P plates will not be allowed to lane filter)
- Not allowed in a school zone during school zone hours
- Not allowed next to the kerb or parked vehicles.
Riders are warned not to lane filter near heavy vehicles or buses. Motorcyclists should always look out for pedestrians and cyclists.
The new motorcycle lane filtering laws do not apply to bicycle riders, who must continue to comply with all the road rules that apply to them.
This includes the rule that bicycle riders must ride completely in a marked lane. The exceptions to this rule include when the rider is entering or leaving a road, moving from one line of traffic to another, avoiding an obstruction, or if it is not practicable to do so.
The 'lane splitting' offence is designed to deter motorcyclists from moving between traffic at unsafe speeds of more than 30 km/h.
The 'lane splitting' offence is important because it provides a safety net for legalising lane filtering, helping to minimise any possible safety risks.
The 'lane splitting' offence also makes it easier for police, who no longer need to issue a number of road rule offences for the same manoeuvre.
Motorcyclists caught moving between traffic at over 30km/h face heavy fines and three demerit points.
The trial found that the following potential risks need to be addressed to help ensure safe lane filtering:
- Pedestrian safety risks, particularly for pedestrians who cross the road through stationary traffic. This is caused by the lack of predictability of riders who are lane filtering.
- Pedestrians should, however, usually be safe if they cross at signalised or marked crossings.
- To ensure this, motorcyclists must ensure that they do not cross the pedestrian stop line at traffic signals.
- Motorcyclists will not be allowed to lane filter on the left in the kerb-side lane next to a footpath.
- Inexperienced riders may be at an increased crash risk, so motorcyclists on their Ls or Ps will not be allowed to lane filter.
- Unpredictable filtering behaviour may increase safety risks for all road users, so filtering is only allowed when it is safe.
- Risks for motorcycle riders when filtering past buses and heavy vehicles where motorcycles may not be easily visible.
The conditions that apply to lane filtering have been developed to help minimise these potential risks (refer What conditions apply to lane filtering?)
An awareness campaign, including a lane filtering animation, was developed to help road users manage these risks
The awareness campaign aims to:
- Communicate with riders and other road users about how to lane filter safely
- Increase rider awareness and enforcement of the higher risk illegal manoeuvre of 'lane splitting'
- Communicate the need for all road users to be aware of motorcycles that may be lane filtering
- Ensure that the changes to the law, and their benefits and risks, are understood by all road users.
The main elements of the campaign include:
- Helping riders understand the risks involved in lane filtering and safe filtering practice
- Ensuring all riders are aware of the conditions where lane filtering is allowed, including no filtering in kerbside or breakdown lanes
- Advising riders that lane filtering in school zones is not allowed
- Advising riders to take care when filtering past buses or trucks
- Advising riders to take special care near pedestrians and cyclists
- Advising riders that they must not damage other vehicles when lane filtering
- Highlighting to riders that lane splitting is unsafe and illegal
- Advising all road users that lane filtering is now legal
- Advising all road users to be aware of filtering motorcyclists and generally increase motorcycle awareness (including ‘check twice for motorcycles’ messages)
- Clearly defining lane filtering and lane splitting to ensure all road users know the difference between the two under the law.
The results of the trial, and other research conducted by TfNSW, showed that if riders lane filter within the established conditions, including travelling at 30km/h or slower, it will be safe.
The law change was supported by a targeted awareness campaign to remind all riders to lane filter safely and obey all road rules. It also warned other road users to watch closely for motorcycles that may be lane filtering.
In addition, by legalising safe lane filtering we can clearly target the unsafe practice of lane splitting for enforcement by the NSW Police.
However, as this is a recent initiative in Australia, the impact of the law change will be closely monitored by TfNSW and NSW Police.
The results of the trial, and other research conducted by TfNSW, showed that the risk of allowing lane filtering was low, provided certain safety conditions were met, and if the change of law was introduced in conjunction with an awareness campaign.
This statistic is often quoted, but the trial found that much more evidence is required to support this claim. The statistic is based on findings from a European study of 921 motorcycle and moped crashes during the period 1999–2000.
A difficulty in accurately assessing the safety benefits of lane filtering is that they are not routinely recorded in police crash reports. In NSW, lane filtering or splitting is also not specifically coded in crash data. As a result, it’s not possible to determine how many motorcycle crashes involve lane filtering or splitting.
Lane filtering and lane splitting are not specifically coded in NSW crash data. However, same direction, lane change and side swipe manoeuvres may indicate lane filtering and splitting.
NSW crash data shows that there were 237 motorcycle crashes with another motor vehicle involving same direction, lane change or side swipe manoeuvres from 2006 – 2012.
The laws started on 1 July 2014. TfNSW prepared the required changes to the law in consultation with NSW Police.
Police can charge motorcycle riders with negligent, furious or reckless driving if lane filtering is done in a negligent or dangerous manner.
Riders who damage other vehicles when lane filtering may also breach a range of laws including:
- Failure to have proper control of a vehicle (Rule 297)
- Failure to stop at the scene after a crash (Rule 287)
- Property damage offences under the Crimes Act 1900, if the damage is done intentionally or recklessly.