I would like to, hopefully, introduce a new term to the English Language Lexicon, “Third-Laning”. This is a term we originally coined after travelling through the ‘Stans’ in 2014 and again in 2017. The term is our definition of the way in which people in this region and other parts of the world use the two lane road to full advantage to overtake slower moving vehicles in the face of continuous “on coming” traffic.

In Australia we are used to traditional overtaking on a normal two lane highway and are familiar with overtaking lanes being created to facilitate passing as traffic volumes increase or one encounters steeper inclines. In many of the regions we travelled through, especially the ‘Stans’  we have found little evidence of overtaking lanes being constructed outside of the major cities. This has led to an innovative approach to overtaking that involves maximising the full width of the road by creating a third temporary lane between the existing two lanes of traffic travelling in opposite directions.

Why we need motorcycle lanes. We are the only ones in this photo going in the right direction on this dual carriage way!! Heading to Siliguri, India In 2014.
Go for the gap in the middle, “Third-Laning” in action in Kazakhstan in 2017.

To work effectively, “Third-Laning” requires the active participation of both lanes of traffic to make a new vehicle-sized lane to allow passage of overtaking vehicles between them, which we found most people helpfully do. This does require a higher level of driver concentration on vehicle positions, road width and surface conditions to ensure this can be undertaken with a reasonable amount of safety. We have noted a couple of times on our travels where this has not worked successfully with devastating consequences, not to us I must add, so be aware this is not a panacea for all overtaking.

One also has to take into account those attempting “Third-Laning” in the opposite direction at the same time, ‘Forth-Laning’ is a lane too far in my view.

Upon returning to Australia at the end of 2017, I was surprised and pleased to see our state government was taking great strides in bringing “Third-Laning” to the motorcyclists of Queensland.  What forward thinkers they are.  I have assumed motorcyclists due to the lane width, although Streak and Storm’s panniers may need to diet to fit! Over the last three years it appears that this program has continued to be rolled out covering more and more roads and signage has been erected. We have bicycle lanes, why not motorcycle lanes.

Motorcycle Lane “Testing” in Central Queensland?
Possible motorcycle lane signage?
It will be much easier for motorcycles to overtake.

As you can see from the photographs motorcycle sized lanes are being implemented around Queensland.  I have not been in touch with the Queensland Department of Transport to confirm this fact, but could the photographs speak for themselves?  

I am sure that in the fullness of time, probably when every road in Queensland has one, we will be told by Queensland Transport we can use them, but please wait for the official announcement before you start using them as “Third Lanes”.

Fanciful you may say this is, but in the future when driverless cars prevail, I suspect such use of third lane roadspace may become commonplace, although I suspect the motorcycles in their current form will no longer be on the roads when we have transitioned fully to driverless vehicles but that is another story.

So please spread the phrase “Third-Laning” in all your motorcycle social media interactions, let us get a new phrase into the English Language.  

– Anthony

Postscript: Anne has asked that I inform our readers that do not understand my sense of humour or flights of fancy that section of this post relating to Queensland Government motorcycle lanes is fiction. Ride Safely and stay out of the middle.

9 comments on ““Third-Laning”

  1. Anthony, “third-laning” is a much needed new term to describe this widespread phenomenon! (Even though the spell check on my computer fiercely resisted it). Hopefully, it will help to enhance awareness of motorcycles and safety issues.


    • Bob, I like the idea of the hyphen so have updated the blog accordingly, thank you. If there was an extraneous “e” it has been removed to take the pressure off your spell checker. With regard to third-laning please do not try this at home.


  2. In France cars will move over to create a third lane allowing motorbikes to pass (usually followed by a courteous thank you from the rider).
    I’ve often wished that motorbikes were fitted with flashing blue lights and a siren in the UK. Cars seem to bunch together so you can’t get through.
    As you have both ridden the world several times, where have you found the best and worst car-lane management ?
    Keep safe.


    • Good to hear that French drivers are Third-Laning already. You are in the right place. In the UK try extra spot lights, panniers big screen and white helmet to help your riding pleasure. Each country has a different style of driving, you need to take your skills and adapt them to the local conditions.


  3. I thought the tile of the blog was “Third Lancing” but then re read the title. Given the riding I did in India I do advocate that Third Lancing is actually a much better description for what happens in most of the world when you try this stuff on a bike. I vividly remember coming far too close to bamboo pole hanging out of the back of a cart, still gives me the shivers.


    • Probably a member of the Bengal Lancers taking his work home would account to the pole out of the cart. Third Laning or Lancing either works well or is a disaster. There is no middle ground.


  4. The ancient pushbiker that I am wondered what the motorist in the photo with the caption “motorcycle lane testing ….” would do were s/he, about to overtake a cyclist, looked in the rear mirror and saw a speedy (🤭) motorbiker coming up behind and about to overtake him/her?


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