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Title: Knocked off while filtering

Date: 30 October 2013


What is the difference between filtering and overtaking? I was recently involved in an accident in a traffic jam on a dual carriageway. Traffic was backed up and where it was moving it was crawling along. I was filtering between the lanes pretty slowly when all of a sudden a gap opened up in the inside lane and a car from the outside lane swerved across knocking me off. Obviously this was the car driver’s fault but I have been told I could be prosecuted for overtaking dangerously.


As amazing as it may sound considering that filtering is mentioned in the Highway Code and that failing to filter when appropriate can be a test fail, there is no hard and fast rule as far as what is considered filtering and what is under- or overtaking. This causes riders no end of problems, often when they’ve been hurt after they’ve been knocked off by an inattentive driver, and they then find out that they are the one being charged with careless or dangerous riding.

Whether or not you are going to be charged is often down to the level of knowledge of the individual police officer and the courts tend to have an equally inconsistent approach. That said, there a number of things that you can do to try to reduce your chance of facing any such charge, or successfully defending one should it arise.

Speed tends to be the primary factor, both yours and that of the vehicles that you are passing. If the vehicles you are passing are stationary then you will generally be considered to be filtering and if you keep your speed below 15mph then it is likely that your speed won’t be considered excessive. Filtering past crawling traffic is very much a grey area and if traffic is traveling much beyond walking pace then there is a good chance that you will be considered to be overtaking.

You should only filter when it is safe to do so and be able to stop within your own line of sight. Filtering past junctions or even open entrances is considered an inherently dangerous manoeuvre by the courts and as such when approaching any gap in the traffic which a vehicle could conceivably pass through you should stop or slow down to the point that you can confirm that nothing is going to emerge before continuing past.

Ultimately, while there are no guarantees, the more careful you are when filtering the better though this is an area of law which requires clarification to give riders some much needed certainty.

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