Lane Splitting 101

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately around Lane Splitting or Filtering. Many new riders are very afraid of Lane Splitting and at first it will frighten you quite a bit so here is some information and safety tips.

What is Lane Splitting or Filtering?

Basically, it is riding your motorbike down the middle of the lane between traffic; which is usually moving more slowly than you; on one or both sides as you pass. You might be riding between two lanes of slow moving traffic moving in the same direction; so to keep moving, you go in the middle of the two lanes. Or you might be in slow moving single lane traffic, and overtake more than one vehicle at a time. Or you might ride down the lane to the front of the traffic to go first at a robot.

Is it legal?

Yes. It is. But if you had a legal case, you would be the one doing the dangerous manoeuvre.
Strictly speaking, legally, you are overtaking and the same rules apply:

1)It must be safe

2)You must not cross a solid white line or area you are not supposed to cross on the road

3)You must not exceed the speed limit

4)You must return to the flow of traffic after overtaking

5)You must do your safety checks and use your indicators to show your intention


It is not legal for another road user to cut you off when you are overtaking or Lane Splitting. They should remain at a constant speed and road position, allowing you to pass.


Should we be Lane Splitting?

My gosh, yes. We ride motorbikes to keep moving and not sit in traffic. Why make bikes as slow as cars? What would the point be? But it is dangerous so let’s learn about hazards you will face...

How can we Lane Split safely?


  • When riding down the middle of a road there are things to look out for:
  • A scar in the middle of the road where the two lanes of tar have been joined
  • White paint that can be slippery
  • Reflective cat eyes
  • A bump in the tar where the weight of vehicles causes the tar to bulge
  • Debris accumulating like glass, small stones, sand, oil, diesel and grass

Remember that your motorbike is most stable when riding in a straight line, at a steady speed. So when there are unavoidable bumps, lumps and gullies, you need to keep yourself steady. That might be easier said than done as your bike slides about giving you that horrible wobbly feeling. Don’t grab the brakes. Try to look far ahead even when the obstacle is getting closer and you feel your eyes fixating on the gravel patch so much so that you can’t see anything else. The more you stare the less you see. You need to be constantly reading the road ahead giving yourself adequate planning time. Good planning and a sensible speed that keeps you stable should help overcome these obstacles.  The decision to Lane Split is not an easy one for the beginner rider. “Is it safe? Yes! No! Yes! No!” It simply takes a while to build the confidence and skills.

When you decide to move to the middle you should consider:

  • Is the traffic too slow or am I going too fast?
  • Can I make progress and get back to a safe position in the traffic?
  • Is it clear for me to move into the middle and no bike is behind me or car to the side of me?
  • Have I done safety checks?
  • Do I have clear visibility?
  • Do I have a safe distance between myself and other road users?
  • Have I considered the condition of the middle of the road?
  • Have I considered weather conditions for example rain causing a wet road and poor visibility or wind causing my bike to slide about?
  • What lies ahead? Cars, busses, taxis or trucks?

That is a lot to consider, so don’t feel pressurised into taking to the “middle lane”. Do it when you know you are safe to do so.  Once you are making your way down the middle at a pace that suits you, don’t forget to keep checking behind you. Other bikers will sneak up and sit on your tail. Move aside when you get a chance so that you don’t get pressurised into riding recklessly or out of your depth.

While riding down the middle, try to not swerve about as you could get yourself into a swaying motion and out of control. Before you know it you could be clipping mirrors or getting too close to bumpers. Definitely avoid hitting cars and mirrors as it causes people to get agro and the next biker to come along could bear the brunt of your inconsiderate riding.

Large vehicles can be tricky to pass. Not only is the gap significantly smaller but you also will not be seen by the driver. Large vehicles have huge blind spots behind and to the sides, even directly in front if you are too close. In corners large vehicles can’t help to cross the middle of the lane and probably don’t realise you are there. Then there is also the problem with getting sucked into their wind-stream and blasted by their dirty exhaust.

No South African road safety training would be complete without mentioning taxis and drunk drivers. Avoid taxi routes. A lot of drinking happens at night and on weekends, and again, some areas tend to have more drink-driving than others...


Scanning and planning and assessing other road user’s abilities; taking action as required will save you.
Car drivers are mostly just great people making their way to work or home, but they are not in tune with your riding pace which is faster than the surrounding traffic. Notice if cars move to the middle as it could be that they are looking to change lanes. Notice if a gap opens up, as a car driver could decide to make a sudden move to get the gap. Distractions like cell phones, lipstick, heated conversations and kids can indicate that the car driver is a bit too busy to notice you properly.

Some car drivers do see you coming and move aside. Don’t feel under pressure to let go of your handlebars and wave as you pass, but do try to give a nod or a hand gesture – if you can do so safely. And, once again, just because there is a gap or someone moved; make sure it is safe before you make you open up your throttle and head into oncoming traffic.
Which means making yourself visible is absolutely essential. Headlights must be on and bright colours or a safety vest will also significantly improve your chance of being seen.

How do I know how fast I can ride when Lane Splitting?


  • As a general rule, you should not be riding more than 10-20km/h faster than the traffic. If cars are moving at 20, your max speed should be 40km/h.
  • Do an assessment of the hazards around you. Work out if you can avoid hazards or stop in adequate time and distance
  • If you are unable to watch the traffic around you, including behind you, then you are going way too fast.
  • Don’t go so fast you no longer can stop in a safe distance – remember that to stop at 50km per hour you need at least 20m. Less than that, you can’t avoid an accident

What should I just never do?


  • Never Undertake. Never go over the yellow line and pass on the left. You probably won’t be seen. This is neither legal nor safe. The yellow area is not an extra lane. This is where cyclist’s ride bicycles, people walk, cars pull over and those guys sell wood. Pass where you can be seen and anticipated.
  • Never take chances when you can’t see ahead. Do I have to say more? You might be lucky, but you may not?

Ride safely! Remember, ride at your own pace, within your own ability. Don’t get sucked into too much speed or doing things dangerously.