Our reader is talking about a very specific set of circumstances. He’s on a motorbike, riding up to a level crossing at a railway. The gates are down, lights red and there’s a line of queuing cars. He wants to know if he can cross the solid white line that’s splitting the carriageways to pass the stationary cars. He will then pull in again at the front of the queue.
The law around solid white lines is clear
The Highway Code sets out what solid white lines mean. Generally speaking, white lines shouldn’t be crossed unless it’s safe to do so and you need to enter a side road or premises.
Talking about double white lines where the line nearer to you is solid, Rule 129 of the Highway Code says: “You MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.”
What about the stationary vehicles?
So the law says you can’t cross a solid white line unless it’s to pass stationary vehicles. And those waiting to cross a railway line when the gates are down are most definitely stationary. However, they aren’t moving because there is not anywhere to move to.
This is known as filtering
When motorbikes pass cars on the outside and on the other side of the road, it is perfectly legitimate, even if there’s a solid white line. The Highway Code does state that when passing stationary cars, the rider should keep their speed low and be careful of pedestrians and vehicles that might be manoeuvring.
Can you pass a queue at a level crossing?
Bearing the above in mind, you can pass a queue of cars that are stationary at a level crossing. However, you can’t pass the lead vehicle until it has cleared the crossing. So you will have to pass the entire queue, then come a halt between vehicles one and two.
This is because there’s every chance that passing the lead vehicle will see you crossing the solid white lines in front of the queuing traffic. And doing that could bring you dangerously close to the railway line.
What we think
We see no reason why a motorbike shouldn’t cross the single solid white line splitting carriageways and pass all the queueing cars apart from the first one.
How much point there is in doing this is another question altogether. If there isn’t a safe gap between the first and second cars in the queue, the biker could leave themselves exposed when the gates go up in the face of on-coming traffic.
On the other hand, passing stationary cars at a sensible speed with no traffic coming in the opposite direction is probably safer than having to pass them on the road with cars approaching from the opposite direction.
So bearing in mind, they’re not breaking any law, we think passing the stationary cars is probably the way to go.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.