Bournemouth & Wessex Advanced Motorcyclists

Q & A: Lane Positioning


I have a question for the new Q & A feature in the newsletter. My question relates to dual carriageways, or more specifically, riding in the outside lane whilst passing traffic on the inside lane. Where in your opinion is the best lane position. The reason I ask this is because I have heard conflicting opinions. One opinion being to take up position on the outside of your lane and the other being to take up position in the middle of the lane. Personally my instinct would be to take up the outside position. What are your thoughts?


To clarify, I assume that the lane you describe is the outermost lane of a dual carriageway or motorway and that you have naturally adopted a safe 'Following Position'.

It's impossible to give a rigid directive on this. When choosing your position to pass nearside traffic in the circumstances you describe you should consider the 'Safety Position' and the positioning priorities in the order 'Safety', 'Stability/Grip' & 'View'. The 'Safety Position' is defined as "The safest position for a vehicle to occupy on the road in relation to the actual or potential dangers existing at that time."

The possible dangers, and considerations to your position, may be:

  1. The nearside vehicle moves into your lane as you overtake.

    If the nearside vehicle starts to move into your lane it would be beneficial if the position you have previously chosen gives you 'Time to React'.

    Note: Keeping an eye on the position of the wheels of the nearside vehicles will provide you with advance warning of this situation occurring since many drivers start moving towards the white line before they commit to the manoeuvre.

  2. The vehicle you are following brakes suddenly.

    Your position should provide you with a view of the vehicles ahead, allowing you to see brake lights in the distance and anticipate the actions of the vehicle in front. Your position should also allow the driver of the vehicle in front to see you in their mirrors.

    Note: If the traffic is heavy and slow moving in both lanes it may be appropriate to adopt a position where you can see what is happening ahead in both lanes and one that allows you to move smoothly into a filtering position when the opportunity arises.

  3. The following vehicle reacts late to traffic braking in your lane.

    Your position should allow the following driver to see the vehicle ahead of you so that he/she has more information of what is happening.

    Note: You must be careful not to provide an 'inviting' gap such that the following driver is encouraged to move alongside you in your lane (believe me, it happens).

Circumstances vary greatly and the position adopted also depends upon factors such as the width of the road, the type of vehicles being followed and overtaken and how aggressively the following traffic is behaving. You should aim to ride defensively and make sure you know what is happening ahead, aside and behind you at all times. Your position should also provide stability. Positional changes should be undertaken smoothly and gradually. There is no hard a fast rule but remember that as a ėthinking motorcyclist' the position you adopt should be chosen as part of your riding plan, based upon what you can see, what you can't see and what you may reasonably expect to happen.

It is preferrable that the rider evaluates the situation they find themselves in and then adopt the correct position based upon sound judgement. At the end of the day you (the rider) should be able to explain why the particular position was chosen. Hopefully it won't be because someone told you to be habitually 'here' or 'there'. Hope this helps.

Nigel Jones
Senior Observer

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