The Offsider Rule

'Off-siding' by motorcyclists - a risk to everyone

02 October 2008

Many roads now have rows of islands – pedestrian refuges to some – down the middle, often connected by diagonal hatched road markings.

As the central islands have keep left signs, passing them to the right is as illegal as driving down the wrong side of a dual carriageway.

Over the years drivers have become used to motorcyclists working through any gap in traffic – inside or outside a queue, or down the gap in the middle of a two-lane queue.

But a new and much more dangerous habit has started to appear in London – passing the wrong side of these central refuges to get past traffic queues – "off-siding".

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A nightmare for drivers

a diagram illustrating motorcycle off-siding In many ways this is a nightmare for drivers. One doesn't expect an oncoming motorcycle on the wrong side of the road, let alone the wrong side of a row of islands.

When turning left from a side road the same applies, but here the motorcycle is almost certainly "lost" against a background of stationary cars.

Perhaps the worst arrangement would be a driver travelling with the main flow of traffic but turning right, who would not be expecting a motorcycle coming from behind on the wrong side of the islands. Here it is not even a question of the driver looking, as the risk is that the island, its bollards, and any light standard or barriers will hide the motorcyclist completely.

It isn't just a problem for drivers and riders either. Many pedestrians crossing at the islands will not look the "wrong way". In fact the road may be marked to tell pedestrians to look the other way.

The size of the problem

During a two hour early morning session on the highway, the A1203 in London, more than 110 motorcyclists were spotted "off-siding". Based on this it is very hard to believe that this is not prevalent on other roads and in other cities.

There have been deaths due to this practice too.

What we can do

The answer is simplest for motorcyclists. Don't pass on the wrong side of keep left bollards! The short cut just isn't worth the risk it poses to you.

For car drivers it's just another thing to look for and a problem to be aware of, especially when travelling on congested urban roads with dividing islands.

The main danger is when travelling against the main traffic flow, and when turning left to head against it. But there is also a risk for drivers travelling with the flow, and turning right.

Pedestrians need to look all around – not just in the logical directions.

But motorcyclists hold the key – don't "off-side".

What's being done?

The police are carrying out major campaigns at places where "off-siding" happens. Riders are given a £30 fine as a minimum, but could be taken to court for riding without due care and attention.

AA Public Affairs


02 October 2008
Diagram reproduced with permission from Transport for London