Without the ability to filter, a motorcycle is a very slow way to get around a city—on par with a car. In all states save California, filtering—even slow, careful filtering past stopped cars—is illegal. That’s in stark contrast to the rest of the world, where filtering is rarely illegal. It’s a pity that filtering is illegal in America, in part because filtering motorbikes make much better use of street space than cars do. Cars have huge footprints relative to the number of passengers they carry and it’s difficult for a driver to tell where his car ends, which makes the effective footprint larger still. Since they’re nimble and small, motorcycles don’t cause traffic jams until there is a much higher density of them on the road
Yesterday MCN published an article about how to filter more safely. Imagine reading something like that in an American magazine! Their tips are full of ideas to reduce danger, and the idea of a magazine promoting safe filtering is incredibly refreshing. We’re big fans of the idea of responsible filtering to speed journey times and cut down on traffic. It’s a pity it’s illegal here in America.
Here are our favorite tips. Find the rest at MCN.
• Take care. Filtering presents its own hazards, not least because some drivers wrongly believe that it is illegal and may react in a hostile way when they see a bike or scooter wending its way through a line of traffic. However the Highway Code acknowledges that motorcyclists can and do filter in traffic and advises that this should be carried out safely and slowly.
• The speed differential shouldn’t be more than 10–15mph above that of the slower moving traffic in order to give you sufficient time to react to any hazards. The further away you keep from slower moving vehicles, the greater that speed differential can be.
• Make maximum use of peripheral vision – this is the most effective way of detecting small traffic movements that could affect you. Look well ahead to plan your intended route through the traffic and use your peripheral vision to monitor traffic either side of you.
• Avoid target fixation, this is when your vision fixates on one particular thing such as a vehicle in the foreground, as any escape route then becomes effectively invisible to you.
• Observe, scan, identify, predict, prioritise and act as necessary. With your distance vision, identify ‘landing points’ of safety in much the same way that you would if you were crossing a fast flowing stream by the use of stepping stones.
• If there are any gaps in a line of traffic you should anticipate that a driver may dive across without warning. If a driver sees a fleeting opportunity to move into a faster lane don’t assume they will be checking their mirror or indicating before they manoeuvre.
• One of the most dangerous areas is filtering between the kerb and/or stationary traffic when traffic stops for any period. It is not uncommon for passengers to open their doors to jump out or even to try and see what’s causing the holdup. Remember, passengers cannot make use of the door mirrors as they are angled for the driver and few if any will ask the driver if it’s clear to open the door.
• Look well ahead and plan your route. Do you have an escape route and have you left sufficient distance to give you time to react to any hazards?
• When passing high-sided vehicles, will you be able to react if a pedestrian steps out from that vehicle in front?
• Don’t ‘rev’ aggressively to badger car drivers to let you pass – it winds them up and makes them less likely to help the next rider through.
• There is a civil court case which describes filtering as “an activity fraught with danger”. That sets the atmosphere in which you are operating – accept that and ride appropriately.