Police officer won't let biker filter into traffic but who's right?

Traffic queuing on a motorway
-Credit: (Image: John Myers)

A police officer not letting a biker filter into traffic has sparked a debate over who was in the right. The short clip shows the driver of a police car put his arm out to stop the motorcyclist overtake stationary traffic at some roadworks.

The police officer says: "Stop! Stop there! You are not filtering in one lane. Not happening. I will sneak you on if you do. Stay there."

It is not clear where the roadworks are, but the clip, which has been viewed 4.9m times, has sparked a national debate with the user who posted it on X saying: "It’s given me food for thought. First, I didn’t see the problem as lots of space and no white line or incoming traffic. But im no legal eagle." For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter

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One replied: "It’s not safe filtering in a single lane like that. The copper just wants the rider to not get killed. That’s his job." Another said: "This isn't filtering this is overtaking a queue of traffic which is legal."

Experts say it is legal to filter through traffic as long as it is done safely. 'Safely' means not causing another driver to alter their course or speed and not when other traffic is fundamentally not queuing.

Right Driver said: "Filtering is moving through traffic that is stopped, either between lanes or to the left or right, while lane splitting is moving through traffic between lanes that are moving slowly or have stopped. Drive in any of the big UK cities and you’ll see motorcyclists and cyclists (usually couriers and commuters) filtering through slow-moving and stationary traffic. On motorways and dual carriageways, you’ll frequently see motorbike riders filtering at higher speeds."

It adds: "The intent of filtering is to allow motorcyclists to make progress through slow-moving or stationary traffic. It is legal to filter through traffic as long as it is done safely. If traffic is moving consistently at 20-30mph or above on a motorway, filtering could bring some unwanted attention by your local constabulary as it could be considered dangerous overtaking."

The Highway Code says “when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.” It says that speed differentials between vehicles is important, adding: "Motorcyclists are safest when travelling within a speed they can stop at quickly if something goes wrong and not too much faster than the vehicles they are overtaking.

"Filtering at 20mph through traffic that is crawling at 5mph is acceptable but filtering at 65mph through traffic travelling at 50mph is not. The first example will see you get to your destination four times as quickly while the second example only sees you gain around 30% while massively increasing your crash risk. The slower the traffic you are filtering through, the greater the gain, but the faster the traffic, the greater the risk."

The Highway Code, Rules for Motorcyclists (83-88) states (at Rule 88) says: “Manoeuvring …. When in traffic queues look out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and vehicles emerging from junctions or changing lanes. Position yourself so that divers in front can see you in their mirrors. Additionally, when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.”

But the Highway Code on Overtaking (162-169) states (at Rule 167) also says: "DO NOT overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users. For example: approaching or at a road junction on either side of the road; where traffic is queuing at junctions or road works."