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A number of changes to road rules affecting motorcycle riders in Queensland commenced on 1 February 2015.

The changes were proposed in the Motorcycle Discussion Paper: Road Rules for Motorcycle Riders, released in 2014, and are related to lane filtering, motorcycle control and motorcycle helmets.

Reasons for the road rule changes

Motorcycle riders, motorcycle associations and members of the general community have frequently asked for clarification of the rules for lane filtering and other motorcycle related issues encountered in everyday riding.

The discussion paper and accompanying online survey were released for community feedback for a 6-week period in mid-2014.

The 3 topics considered in the discussion paper were:

  • introducing lane filtering
  • simplifying motorcycle control rules 
  • broadening the approved motorcycle helmet standards.

Over 9,000 responses to the Discussion Paper were received, with the majority of respondents indicating support for the proposed changes.

The changes to rules for motorcycle riders were based on a review of this community feedback, road safety research and practices in other jurisdictions.

These rules only apply in Queensland. Motorcycle riders riding interstate should check the road rules with the relevant licensing authority.

Lane filtering

Lane filtering is riding a motorcycle at low speeds between stationary or slow moving vehicles travelling in the same direction as the rider. It was often already practised by motorcycle riders in Queensland, especially when traffic was congested, however they ran the risk of breaking various road rules when doing so, such as not staying within a marked lane or changing lanes without signalling.

Watch the lane filtering rules in action video.

New lane filtering rules for Queensland

Riders with an open licence for riding a motorcycle (including RE and R open licence holders) are now allowed to move between stationary or slow moving vehicles travelling in the same direction as the rider, provided they are not travelling at more than 30km/h and it is safe to do so.

Learner and provisional riders are not allowed to lane filter because of their relatively limited on-road driving and riding experience.

If done safely, lane filtering may ease traffic congestion for all road users, allowing motorcycle riders to move quickly and safely away from congested traffic.

Lane filtering safely

Motorcycle riders are prohibited from lane filtering in school zones during school zone hours.

Motorcycle riders are advised to always look out for pedestrians and cyclists when lane filtering. It is also recommended that a motorcycle rider should not lane filter near heavy vehicles or buses due to the safety risk, as drivers of heavy vehicles and buses may have trouble seeing motorcycles.

Riding on road shoulders and kerbside

On major roads, such as motorways, freeways and highways where the speed limit is 90km/hr or more, a rider who holds an open licence for riding a motorcycle (including RE and R open licence holders) may ride past stationary or slow moving traffic at speeds not greater than 30km/hr on the road shoulder (the sealed area of a road to the left or right of an edge line) or in an emergency stopping lane. A motorcycle rider is required to give way to cyclists or motorcycle riders already on the road shoulder. Riding on a road shoulder is not allowed on roads with lower speed limits where there may be more pedestrian activity and it may pose a greater road safety risk to pedestrians.

To ensure pedestrian safety, lane filtering is only allowed between stationary or slow moving vehicles and not between a vehicle and the kerb.

Watch the rules for riding on road shoulders in action video.

Motorcycle riders in bicycle storage areas and bicycle lanes

Motorcycle riders are now allowed to enter bicycle storage areas (the areas of road close to an intersection with traffic lights that allows cyclists to wait in front of vehicles stopped at the intersection, and usually painted green with white bicycle symbols). This will allow them to move quickly and safely away from traffic.

Motorcycle riders are not allowed to ride in bicycle lanes in normal circumstances. However, all vehicles, including motorcycles, can travel for up to 50m in a bicycle lane in various special circumstances, such as to stop or park in the lane, to enter or leave a road, or to avoid an obstruction.

Lane splitting

Lane splitting is a term sometimes used for riding a motorcycle at speed through moving traffic. The higher speed increases the unpredictability of motorcycle movements and so increases the crash risk for the rider and other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. In Queensland lane filtering at over 30km/hr is prohibited and penalties will apply.

Penalties for breaking lane filtering rules

New offences for lane filtering or riding on a shoulder incorrectly (for example, filtering at over 30km/hr or in a school zone during school zone hours) have been introduced, with an on-the-spot fine of $341 and 3 demerit points. There is a maximum penalty of $2,277 if the matter goes before a court.

Lane filtering elsewhere in Australia

New South Wales has already introduced lane filtering following a trial conducted in Sydney in 2013, and the Australian Capital Territory has announced a 2-year trial of lane filtering commencing in February 2015. Motorcycle riders should note that the rules in these and other jurisdictions differ from the Queensland rules. Before riding interstate, motorcycle riders should check the relevant rules with the licensing authority in any jurisdiction where they are riding.

Motorcycle control

New rules for controlling a motorcycle

Previously, the rider of a motorcycle that was moving or stationary but not parked had to sit astride their seat facing forwards and ride with at least 1 hand on the handlebars. When the motorcycle was moving they had to keep both feet on the footrests. These rules caused practical difficulties for motorcycle riders.

These strict rules about how a motorcycle rider must sit and where they have their hands and feet have been removed, allowing motorcycle riders to, for example, remove a foot from the footrests to stretch a leg or raise themselves from the seat when riding on uneven road surfaces.

Motorcycle riders are still required to be astride their seat, meaning that they must have 1 leg on either side of the seat when riding.

Penalties continue to apply to ensure that motorcycle riders have proper control of their motorcycle, ride with due care and attention and do not operate their motorcycle dangerously.

Reasons for the changes

The previous strict rules about how a motorcycle rider must sit and where they must have their hands and feet were intended to give riders clear guidelines on how to control their motorcycle and also to prevent unsafe riding, such as stunt riding.

However these strict rules sometimes interfered with the everyday practicalities of riding a motorcycle. For example, a rider removing their feet from the footrests to reverse into a parking space, stretching a leg to avoid fatigue, turning their head to do a shoulder check or raising themselves from the seat when riding on uneven road surfaces may unintentionally have been breaking the current rules.

There are broader laws in place about proper control of a motorcycle and not riding carelessly or dangerously that already prohibited unsafe riding, making these strict rules about where a motorcycle rider must have their hands and feet unnecessary.

What about pillion passengers

Some of the changes apply to pillion passengers. They are still required to be astride the seat and face forwards but are now able to raise themselves from the seat or stretch a leg without breaking the rules.

Penalties for breaking the motorcycle control rules

Penalties continue to apply when motorcycle riders do not comply with the rules. If a motorcycle rider or pillion passenger breaks the new rules they may receive a fine of $151. Broader laws will continue to be enforced to ensure motorcycle riders have proper control of their motorcycle, ride with due care and attention and do not operate their motorcycle dangerously.

Motorcycle control rules elsewhere in Australia

Different rules will apply in other jurisdictions about how a motorcycle rider must sit and where they must have their hands and feet. Before riding interstate, motorcycle riders and pillion passengers should check the rules with the licensing authority in any jurisdiction where they are riding.

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