London bus lane confusion

4th March 2016


Transport for London | TfL | BikeSafe Scheme


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London bus lanes for motorcycles


Thirty-six motorcyclists were killed on London's roads in 2015. That's an unacceptably high number and is wildly disproportionate (compared to general London road fatalities), and it's a number that Transport for London (in particular) would like to reduce. A recent survey of 1,200 motorcyclists in the capital revealed the chief concerns of riders, one of which is the inconsistency of regulations regarding access to London's bus lanes. Many of the lanes are controlled by individual London boroughs, of which there are 32. But many others are controlled by Transport for London (TfL). And it's between the two that the inconsistency lies.


Currently, only the TfL bus lanes are open to bikers. These lanes are marked as such, but in the heat of traffic battle, it's not always easy to spot the appropriate signage that allows access.


The other 32 London boroughs offer very limited motorcycle access to their bus lanes, if at all. And there are numerous "traps" and inconsistencies. And there are numerous policing cameras.


Bus lane sign for motorcyclists


As a general rule (and we haven't tested this widely), bus lanes on red routes (marked with red lines along the kerb) are TfL operated, and bikers are welcomed. If there are no red lines, a rider may or may not be permitted access. And note that that access, such as it is, may be permitted only at certain times, or on certain days of the week.


It's a mess, and a recipe for disaster (check the images on this page). But it's not a new complaint. Bikers, the police, TfL and road safety bodies have long recognised the anomaly, but not all agree that the solution is to simply open all bus lanes to motorcycles thereby helping segregate traffic.


The cycling lobby, for instance, is strong. Cyclists have round the clock access to all bus lanes, and they generally resent sharing bus lanes with motorcycles.


Motorcycles in bus lanes sign


Then there are black cabs which also have almost full bus lane access, and the cabbies resent pretty much everyone, including other cabbies.


Part of the solution to making motorcycling safer, according to TfL is (a) closer monitoring of the Cycle Superhighway Road Network (dedicated cycle lanes), (b) greater participation in the Metropolitan Police run BikeSafe Scheme, and (c) better understanding of why accidents occur.


But the bus lane access issue tops the list.


If you want to find out more, or get further involved, or give TfL a little more food for thought, try the links below.


Transport for London

BikeSafe Scheme

London Cycling Campaign

See also Sump December 2011




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