Road Traffic Accident

Can motorcycles use bus lanes?

October 18, 2023
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Written by Jayne Orme – Associate & Personal Injury Solicitor 

I have been a solicitor in the personal injury team at Fletchers Solicitors for many years now, and over the years I have represented several clients who have been riding in a bus lane when a motorbike accident has taken place. As a result, this is a subject I am very passionate about

However, I have learnt there is no short answer to this question, as the law on using bus lanes varies depending on where you are. There are two ways to know if you can ride in a bus lane or not; one is to look at the council’s website for that particular area, and the other is to check the blue information signs at the side of the road. 

Bus Lane Signage 

Can motorcycles use bus lanes?

Image: Begin Motorcycling 

If a bus lane allows motorcycles, you should see one of these signs on the road by the roadside. 

Outside of the hours stated on the signs, bus lanes allow all traffic to use them. As a rough rule of thumb: 

  • If there is no motorcycle shown on the sign and it’s within the times stated, don’t cross into the bus lane. If no times are shown, then the lane is in operation 24 hours a day and therefore, the restrictions apply at all times.  
  • If a motorcycle is shown on the sign, or it’s outside of the stated times, then you’re OK to use the lane. 

What are the penalties for using a bus lane? 

If you end up in a bus lane that prohibits motorcycles, you could be hit with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). The fine amount varies across the UK; outside of London, you might expect to pay up to £70  but this could be reduced by 50% if paid within 14 days. In London, further charges apply if you fail to pay the PCN within 28 days.  Penalty charges are issued to the registered keeper who is liable to pay the fine, so if you lend your bike to a friend and they get caught in a bus lane, the fine will come directly to you. The registered keeper can appeal a notice if, for example, their bike was stolen at the time the penalty was incurred. 

Should bikers be allowed in all bus lanes? 

In their policy paper, ‘The plan for drivers’, published on 2nd October, the Department for Transport, stated one of their action points is to “strengthen guidance to local authorities on the operation of bus lanes.” They go on to write that they will “refresh the technical advice, making it clear local authorities should use their powers to ensure bus lanes are open to motorcycles, and will launch a consultation on motorcycles using bus lanes as a default.” 

This is welcome news for The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), who have petitioned for default access to bus lanes for motorcyclists for many years.   

For now, however, bus lane use is up to the local authorities in each area and each council has taken their own approach. Here are some examples of what cities across England stipulate:

Liverpool 

If you are caught entering, stopping or driving in bus lanes during prohibited hours, you will be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for £70 which must be paid within 28 days of issue. This is reduced to £35 if paid within 21 days. 

The council can issue fines using camera evidence.  The police can issue fines, but motorists will not be fined by the council and police for the same offence. 

Source: Liverpool City Council 

Manchester 

The timeframe when bus lane rules apply, vary from place to place. But there will be a sign ahead of the bus lane showing when the rules apply. If there are no times shown, the bus lane rules apply 24 hours a day. 

When the rules apply, only certain vehicles can use a bus lane: 

  • Buses (this means vehicles designed to carry a minimum of nine passengers, not including the driver) 
  • Black cabs (Hackney carriages) 
  • Bicycles.  

If other vehicles use the bus lane during these times, they can get a fine. 

Source: Manchester City Council

London 

According to Begin Motorcycling, most red routes in London allow motorcycles to use their bus lanes. These routes make up 5% of London’s roads but carry up to 30% of its traffic. (Transport for London)

However, restrictions still apply on some of these routes; signs and road markings will outline what motorcyclists can and can’t do.  

Leeds  

Motorcycles are not currently permitted in bus lanes in Leeds and historically this has been established practice throughout West Yorkshire. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) in 2017 published their ‘2040 Transport Strategy’ and pledged, where possible, to a phased roll out of motorcycle access to bus lanes, across the five districts. 

Source: Leeds City Council

What happens if you have an accident in a bus lane?

So, what happens if you’re riding your motorcycle in a bus lane and a car in another lane turns across your pathway, what should you do?  

There is a clear duty on any motorist to check whether a  lane is clear before crossing it, bus lane or not. Even if the motorcyclist was not meant to be in the lane at the time, it could have been a taxi or a cyclist in the bus lane, and the duty of care remains.

In these situations, you are best to seek legal advice from a specialist motorbike accident solicitor. While you may need to accept some responsibility for the accident to reflect that you should not have been using the bus lane at the time of the accident, this doesn’t mean you won’t have a case. Your legal team will examine the evidence available, and using their expertise, can help you achieve the best possible outcome.    

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorbike accident, seek specialist legal support – call us on 0330 013 0251 or contact us online.

Sources:
Are motorcycles allowed in bus lanes? | The law explained (bennetts.co.uk) 
https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/driving-advice/penalty-charge-notices-what-are-they-and-can-you-appeal/https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/driving-advice/penalty-charge-notices-what-are-they-and-can-you-appeal/ 
Can Motorcycles Use Bus Lanes In The UK? (begin-motorcycling.co.uk) 
Bus lane rules | Bus lane rules | Manchester City Council 
Bus lane enforcement – Liverpool City Council 
Can Motorcycles Use Bus Lanes In The UK? (begin-motorcycling.co.uk) 
democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s228995/Report%20to%20the%20Chief%20Of
https://mag-uk.org/mag-pushing-hard-for-bus-lane-access-and-more/ 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/plan-for-drivers/the-plan-for-drivers
https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/red-routes/rules-of-red-routes?intcmp=2192

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