A common question in the cycling world is when is appropriate to filter to the front of a line of traffic.
As with so many things there are multiple approaches to the question, but let us provide a guide to work with here.
First things first, what is the legality of filtering on a bicycle in Georgia?
The relevant law in Georgia is 40-6-43
O.C.G.A. Sec. 40-6-43:
(a) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following circumstances:
1) When the vehicle being overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; or
2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.
(b) If otherwise authorized, the driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.
With that in mind, if there is enough road space to the right to pass, a bike may legally pass on the right, particularly in light the ta bike MAY use a shoulder, while a car cannot.
Establishing that bikes CAN pass on the right, and when that is appropriate is fairly easy. The secondary and perhaps more important question becomes SHOULD they pass on the right, and when is it appropriate.
The question of should boils down to road knowledge and awareness. If you do not know the road, then it is not a good choice to filter forward until you do know the road or can see the other side of the intersection. More important to the decision of if it is appropriate to filter forward is not a question of do you have space on the near side of the intersection, but does that space continue to the far side of the intersection? If the space exists on the far side of the intersection, and allows for a reasonable and safe space to merge into traffic if needed on the far side of the intersection, then for a single rider, or up to about 4 riders it is usually appropriate to filter. There are exceptions, like if the light signal is about to turn green, then holding your place in line is probably the better choice.
For groups though, once there are more than 4 riders together, it is rarely appropriate to filter forward. With a couple of exceptions, the one that seems to crop up the most often is the stop on a steep uphill. Lights are usually placed on plateaus in hills, and since bikes are at MUCH higher risk of falling during starts on steep uphills, if there is space, a group should slide to the flatter space to reduce the risk of a crash or fall on the hill.
When filtering though, it is never appropriate to ‘swarm’ cars. Filter along the right, but do not give in to the urge to also flood up the left.
Like most things, this will require situational awareness, and individual ride leaders may opt for slightly different approaches, so please allow them the leeway to dictate how their rides will be run.