Can motorbikes filter through traffic?

December 19, 2023

Motorbike filtering, overtaking for weaving,

These terms are often used by motorcyclist but whatever the label adopted there is a risk of serious injury and damage if not performed with caution and care.  The expression of ‘filtering,’ ‘weaving’ and ‘overtaking’ equally apply to pedal cyclist and scooters that are now regular users on UK roads.

Riding a motorcycle, scooter, pedal bike or moped offers a unique set of advantages, one of which is the ability to filter through traffic. Motorbike filtering allows two-wheelers to navigate congested roadways swiftly, but it comes with inherent risks that both riders and drivers need to be acutely aware of.  Here motorbike accident solicitors consider the law and dynamics of traffic filtering, offers insights from The Highway Code.

The starting point to decide on who is liable for an accident where a cyclist or scooter rider is invovled in an accident whilst filtering throgh traffic is the Highway Code.  Everyone should be familiar with the Code as it offers excellent guidance on the correct way to filter through traffic.

Picture Below Represents a motorbike filtering on a dual carriageway 

The Highway Code on filtering provides:

Manoeuvring. 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. 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.  This should also be read with Rule 160 of the Code where drivers in particular must be aware of other road users especially cyclists and motorcycles who may be ‘filtering; through traffic.

Watch out for cyclists filtering: The code says ‘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. Give them plenty of room, especially if you are driving a long vehicle or towing a trailer. You should give way to cyclists when you are changing direction or lane – do not cut across them.’

The Highway Code Rule 268  on overtaking provides specific guidance for both motorcyclists and drivers. Motorcyclists are advised, under Rule 268, to be aware of their surroundings before maneuvering, using mirrors if available, and exercising caution in slow-moving traffic, it provides: ‘Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right. Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake.’

Contact motorbike accident and injury solicitors

How to filter safely

This must be done with caution and care as to get it wrong can lead to disastrous results. Cyclists, scooter riders and motorbike rider are more difficult to see due to their size in addition to reduced lighting on the vehicles.  Whilst filtering through traffic may save time it should only done with extreme care. Effective and safe traffic filtering through traffic must be done by continuously scanning the surroundings and evaluate potential risks of all road users. Maintaining a composed demeanour is essential.  Opt for a reduced speed, providing ample time to respond to unforeseen circumstances. Stay alert to vehicles leaving gaps, as they might signal upcoming hazards like junctions or pedestrians. Exercise caution near offside junctions, anticipating abrupt turns. Maintain a reasonable speed difference with other traffic and be prepared to smoothly rejoin the flow when it resumes.

Case law on motorbike filtering,  weaving and overtaking in traffic

Below is a round up of some very useful cases on filtering, overtaking and weaving between slow moving or stationary traffic.  This

  • Motorbike overtakes stationary line of traffic and car pulls out of side road; the case of Powel v Moody a Court of Appeal decision in 1966 is always raised by a motorist’s insurance companies against the solicitors acting for the motorcyclist.  Here the motorcyclist was overtaking slow moving or stationary vehicles on a main road (see picture graphic above). However from a side road a motorist was edging out into the main road, both vehicles collide.  The motorcyclist was held to be 80% to blame for the accident (this is called ‘contributory negligence’ by solicitors). So if the compensation for the motorcyclist was £10,000 this will be reduced by 80% to £2,000.


  • Motorist Performing a ‘U Turn’ – Davis v Schrogin (2006) involved a motorcycle overtaking a stationary traffic queue, and a car within the queue executed a U-turn, resulting in a collision. The driver was held 100% responsible for the accident as the motorcyclist had no time to react.


  • Motorist Turns Right into Path of Motorcyclist – Pell v Moseley (2003) centered on a motorcycle overtaking a queue of traffic where a car decided last-minute to turn right into a field hosting a motorcycle event. The rider, aware of the event, was deemed contributory negligent, and liability was split 50/50.


  • Motorist Turns Right, Hits Motorcyclist Overtaking Slow-moving Traffic – Hillman v Tompkins (1995), a motorcycle overtaking slow-moving traffic faced a car at an offside junction. The car, failing to notice the approaching motorcyclist, indicated a right turn, leading to a collision. The judgment assigned split liability 50/50, emphasising that both the car driver and the motorcyclist should anticipate each other’s actions


  • Coach driver pulling out of side road – Turner v Woodham 2012 a motorcyclist was overtaking a stationary line of traffic whilst a coach driver was pulling out of a minor side road onto the main road.  However the coach driver had various traffic obstructing her view in particular a stationary tractor and trailer.  The judge was of the view due to the size of the coach the motorcyclist would have been able to see the coach edging out.  The court found that the motorcyclist failed to adhere to the Highway Code and not exercise reasonable care for his own safety and that of others.  The Judge ordered the coach driver to bear 70% liability and the motorcyclist 30% liability for his own injuries and losses as the coach driver would have waited longer for her veiw to clear.


  • Motorbike undertaking and motorist turns right into path – Fagan v Jeffers (2005) – Where  a motorcyclist was undertaking stationary traffic, an oncoming car made a right turn from the main road into a side road, resulting in a collision. Both parties were deemed equally responsible. The driver was assigned 50% of the blame, as they should have anticipated a motorcyclist approaching from the inside, and the motorcyclist also bore 50% of the responsibility.