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Motorcycles in Bus Lanes – better safety for riders

It’s a mess! The current situation of allowing Local Authorities to determine whether motorcycles should be allowed in bus lanes seems to be a full scale policy failure. Following the first road safety trials in 1994, when implementing the policy, it was assumed that Local Authorities were in the best place to assess its impact. In 2011, amended traffic signs could include motorcycles without Department for Transport (DfT) approval. What happened? Less than 50% of the available bus lane space was approved to accommodate motorcyclists. Motorcyclists are excluded from the remaining bus lane space. It is readily acknowledged that this policy reduces the safety of motorcycle riders. Arguments that allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes would bring them into conflict with cyclists and impede bus transport schedules have been shown to be totally false. If slower-moving cycles don’t impede bus timetables, how can much quicker motorcycles disrupt the schedule? It doesn’t make any sense. Where motorcycles can use bus lanes there hasn’t been any increase in cycling accidents. Keeping motorcyclists in motoring lanes does increase the safety risk to riders AND increases congestion when motorcycles can’t filter in the narrow lanes caused by allocating part of the available road space to bus lanes!

There are many advantages to allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes: 

1. Less Traffic: When motorcyclists can use bus lanes, it means there’s less traffic in regular lanes for cars. This helps everyone move more smoothly.

2. Safer for Motorcyclists: Bus lanes are usually wider than regular lanes.  Because they have more room to manoeuvre, This extra space makes it safer for motorcyclists to ride.

3. Reduced Risk of Accidents: With fewer vehicles in regular lanes, there’s less chance of motorcyclists getting into accidents caused by crowded traffic conditions.

4. Better Visibility: Bus lanes often have clearer lines of sight because there are fewer vehicles blocking the view. This helps motorcyclists see what’s ahead and stay safe. Motorcyclists, unlike other, unlicensed road users, are trained to ride defensively. They are more likely to be aware of the hazards in their field of view.

5. Shorter Travel Times: Since bus lanes are designed to move traffic more quickly, motorcyclists can reach their destinations more quickly, reducing both overall travel times and pollution from sitting in queues of traffic.

6. Encourages Sustainable Transport: Allowing motorcyclists to use bus lanes promotes the use of more environmentally friendly modes of transport. Motorcycles are cheaper to manufacture, easier to maintain, generally produce fewer emissions than cars and up to 90% of their components can be reused or recycled.

7. Promotes Motorcycle Use: Making bus lanes accessible to motorcyclists encourages more people to choose motorcycles as a mode of transport. This can help reduce congestion on roads. It also puts affordable transport within the financial reach of people who cannot afford the rapidly increasing costs of owning a car. It also reduces social exclusion through more affordable travel costs. It improves social mobility, allowing people to take advantage of employment and social opportunities further away from their homes.

8. Easier Lane Filtering: Bus lanes often allow lane filtering, which means motorcyclists can move between lanes of slow or stopped traffic. This helps them avoid being stuck, with idling engines, in traffic jams.

9. Less Stressful Commutes: With the option to use bus lanes, motorcyclists can enjoy smoother and less stressful commutes, as they don’t have to constantly navigate through heavy traffic. There is less need to change speed and position on the journey making it easier for other road users to identify the approach of a motorcycle. A greater, less cluttered, field of view for the rider also means more time and a clearer view for other road users to identify and take account of the motorcyclists position and speed.

10. Improves Road Safety: By segregating motorcyclists into bus lanes, it reduces the chance of accidents caused by interactions between motorcycles and larger vehicles, making the roads safer for everyone. 

11. Encourages Legal Riding: As evidenced by the amount of revenue that bus lane violations generate from Number Plate Recognition systems that are already in place. Allowing motorcyclists to use bus lanes reduces the likelihood of them resorting to illegal manoeuvres. It makes law enforcement easier by quicker identification of unroadworthy or unlicensed motorcycles; or, riders without a helmet.

12. Supports Public Transport: By sharing bus lanes with buses, motorcyclists contribute to the efficiency of public transportation systems, which benefits the community as a whole.This is a list of ready-made points that you can use in the DfT’s consultation on motorcycles using bus lanes. The consultation closes on the 9th June 2024. It’s time to have your say about the future of motorcycling. Don’t waste it by leaving it to others.