French 'ban' on motorbike lane filtering under review

Road safety agency Securite Routiere will launch a new trial to reassess the safety of the practice following protests by bikers

26 February 2021
By Joanna York

This article was amended on March 1, 2021, for clarification. 'Lane filtering' is the practice of advancing past stationary vehicles in a traffic queue - not weaving between cars as was previously implied. 

At least 12 departments in France will run experiments from June this year to gauge the safety of allowing motorbikes to pass between queuing lanes of traffic in some conditions. 

The new experiment in motorbike lane filtering is to begin this summer, despite a previous five-year study advising against the practice on February 1, road safety agency la Sécurité Routière announced yesterday. 

Lane filtering - meaning motorbikes’ ability to ride between lanes of queueing vehicles - was never officially legal in France.

Its illegality was confirmed recently following five-year trials on roads in Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon, which found that accidents increased by 12% when the practice was allowed as part of a trial.

But the 'ban', which meant that motorbike riders would have to wait in traffic lines like any other vehicle - was greeted by protests gathering thousands of motorbike riders in major French cities on February 20. 

New, bigger trial to include road signs for bikers

Sécurité Routière announced yesterday that it is planning to run a second trial, which will reintroduce lane filtering in some areas.

In a statement, it said: “Signs letting drivers know that lane filtering is authorised on certain roads will be deployed in trial zones.”

It said the signs were part of an effort to “increase communication and training to help people better understand the new rules”.

The new trial, which is expected to begin in June 2021, will also run over an increased area in order to garner “a more indicative set of statistics”.

This will include the 11 departments in which the first trial ran, comprising the eight departments in the Ile-de-France, as well as Bouches-du-Rhône, Gironde and Rhône.

The trial will also run in some new departments, “taking into account the recommendations of representatives from motorbike federations”.

For now, the only confirmed new department to be included is Haute-Garonne in Occitanie.

Trials aim to increase safety 

The statement was released following a meeting between Sécurité Routière and representatives from motorbike federations yesterday.

Sécurité Routière said the meeting had been held in order to clarify the terms of the initial ban, and the new trial. 

It said: “Lane filtering, which was never part of the highway code, is a widespread practice, which drivers of two-wheel vehicles are attached to. 

“Work carried out by the Sécurité Routière since 2015 did not aim to ban the practice, as it was never authorised – a fact that some motorbike riders have lost sight of.

“On the contrary, it aimed to study conditions under which circulation between queuing traffic could be authorised, made safe, taught, and introduced into the highway code.”

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Bikers barred from riding between lanes as French trial ends

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