Motorbikes in the bus lanes

Keep out of the bus lane symbol

On Wednesday 21st of December TfL delivered an early Christmas gift to motorbike riders announcing that they’ll now be allowed permanent access to all bus lanes on TfL’s network.

The reason was quoted as the infamous: “Smoothing traffic flow” which as we’ve discovered recently, trumps all other transportation policies such as sustainability and safety.

According to TfL:

As part of the second trial, TfL increased enforcement of bus lanes on the TLRN through daily patrols by the Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Tasking Team. In line with this increased enforcement, the average speed for motorcyclists in bus lanes reduced by 6.5 per cent during the trial, with the proportion of motorcyclists exceeding the speed limit decreasing by one fifth (51 per cent in September 2010 down to 41 per cent in September 2011).

The number of motorcyclists giving little to no regard to the speed limit remains absurdly high at 41%. That was during increased enforcement.

According to TfL:

The trial was also supported by other road users, including 51 per cent of cyclists, and car / van drivers.

The figure of 51% is hardly one to brag about.

I’ve got absolutely nothing against motorbike riders and I believe as a group, two wheelers are always going to be more vulnerable. However, I believe motorbikes in bus lanes discourages new cyclists. It’s simply another danger we have to contend with and it creates a less pleasant environment for cycling.

What do you think? Leave a comment below..

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25 Responses to Motorbikes in the bus lanes

  1. Richard Leeming 23/12/2011 at 8:38 am #

    I’m a cyclist and a motorcyclist. Mostly a cyclist, apart from the last couple of weeks … So I’m wearing two hats here. This is simply a bad policy, badly implemented (though i’d expect nothing less from TfL and Boris).

    As a cyclist, I’m not overjoyed by motorbikes in bus lanes, but it’s not a huge problem. I’ve had very few problems with them. As a motorcylist this is an enormous pain in the arse as you’re only allowed in TfL bus lanes, not local authority ones, and failing to spot the difference is expensive.

  2. Chris Harrison 23/12/2011 at 10:04 am #

    I’m not overly keen on this news, but it’s not a surprise.

    The biggest problem with motorbikes in cycle lanes isn’t their speed per se, it’s their acceleration. So often you’ll be there in the bus lane, probably on the left side of it and then, apparently out of nowhere this flash of blurry metal whistles past a few inches to your right. Even if you’re both just leaving some red lights, the eye-watering acceleration that many bikes can (and do) produce, is one of the major dangers.

    Even if we assume that they’re, cough, all obeying the speed limit, 0-30 in 2 seconds is something I’d rather not experience from quite such close quarters.

    Can we do something about ASLs though? The next biggest problem with motorbikes in bus lanes is that now many of them think that they’ve access to all cycle lanes and advanced stop zones.

  3. Ashleigh 23/12/2011 at 10:32 am #

    Not happy, but not surprised. The bus lane is the one place where cyclists can feel *relatively* safe, and I think that the speed and acceleration of motorbikes will make it much less so. One thing I’ve found is that if I’m passing another cyclist in the bus lane – so, riding two abreast – a motorcyclist will suddenly come up behind me honking because s/he wants to get past. The motorcyclists I’ve encountered don’t have much tolerance for cyclists’ slower pace.

  4. Tony 23/12/2011 at 11:19 am #

    I don’t think it will be much of an issue. You will notice that cyclists will ride left of centre of a bus line while motor bikes use to right of centre so. I’m a native London who has riden in London for many many years and have only ever had 1 incident with motorbikes.

    Overall I don’t see a problem with motorbikes in the bus lane.

  5. Bill Morgan 23/12/2011 at 11:20 am #

    I think anything that encourages people to turn to smaller and more efficient means of transport is positive, so I broadly support this. I am willing to be buzzed in the bus lane if it means one less car cutting me up while overtaking.

    Motorcyclists have a better awareness of distance on their left hand side as they don’t have half a car between them and the cyclist. They also tend to be better and more considerate drivers (with the exception of the pizza/curry delivery boys on their putt putts).

    I still object to motorbikes in the ASL (but then that is still technically illegal), mostly because I have to sit behind them in the line of fire of their exhaust, or alternatively go ahead of them and effectively jump the red light.

  6. amjb 23/12/2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Motorcyclists use bus lanes to speed into the cyclist box beyond the Advanced Stop Line. Given that bus lanes are on urban routes with many pedestrians, accepting a 41% speeding ratio is unbelievable. Shouldn’t tfl be concluding that with such a high proportion of motorcyclists breaking the law routinely, motorcyclists should be banned from urban areas?

    • Bill Morgan 23/12/2011 at 12:10 pm #

      On that basis, 90% of all motorists should be banned from urban areas. What a pleasant thought that is, however unenforceable…

  7. JJ 23/12/2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Appalling. Bus lanes are a (relative) safe haven for cyclists. It will put new cyclists off.

    • Bill Morgan 23/12/2011 at 12:15 pm #

      Your comment assumes that taking busy routes with bus lanes are the ONLY way for cyclists to get around, which is clearly not the case (at least on my various London commutes). It doesn’t take too long to map out a route on quieter back roads, and there are several decent smartphone apps that will help.

      However I would ignore advice given by TFL’s journey planner, as it has an inbuilt preference for funnelling cyclists along the superhighways which is not a pleasant experience for any cyclist, new or experienced.

  8. Murray 23/12/2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Which company helped to fund Johnson’s mayoral campaign? Oh, yes, it was Addison-Lee. A company that runs a fleet of motorcycle couriers. Funny that…

  9. Kathryn 23/12/2011 at 1:46 pm #

    I also agree with aiding those who use a less polluting form of transport; but I don’t like the motorbikes who line up in front of me at lights, blocking all the ASL space and forcing me to a) breathe their fumes and b) get caught up in the cars

    • Justin Rolfe 23/12/2011 at 5:22 pm #

      I don’t believe that motorbikes are less polluting than cars, though they don’t cause as much congestion.

  10. Gareth 23/12/2011 at 10:12 pm #

    I hate it! Motorcycle riders in the bus lane seem so aggressive and get very close when overtaking. Also, I don’t see any mention that being allowed in the bus lane means you’re also allowed into cycle lanes/cycle superhighways or into advanced stop-zones. But motorcyclists all behave as though it has ALL been opened up to them, so maybe it has. I hate it though!

  11. PaulM 29/12/2011 at 3:05 pm #

    In your quote above from the network Operating Strategy document (51%) your use of emphasis might have inadvertently given the false impression that a majority of cyclists approved of the trial. In fact the statement (nearly) verbatim is “51% of cyclists and car and van drivers who were aware of the trial”. So if you were to add those in those three categories who were not aware of the trial, presumably you would have had a value below 50%? If you looked at cyclists alone, presumably the value woudl have plummeted still further.

    This is just one of dozens of examples where TfL manipulates numbers to create an entirely false impression, to support their policies where the unvarnished facts would provide no such support. Their portrayal of the results of re-timing pedestrian traffic examples is another egregious example.

    I don’t much care about PTWs in bus lanes personally, as long as they stay well away from me. Similarly I don’t much care about them in ASLs – better in front than behind considering their rapid acceleration.

    On the other hand, gibe them an inch and they will take a mile. It is not just that the clear space leads them to exceed the speed limit to a totally unacceptable extent, they also now stray into cycle lanes so that they can undertake slower moving or stationary traffic in bus lanes and (illegally) enter the ASL from the side. That, I am convinced, is plain dangerous. I have complained to City Police about this on Blackfriars Bridge, and they appear to have done a Horatio Nelson in seeking out infringers. Oh well, one day someone will get hurt or worse, and that is usually what it takes to get them to do anything.

  12. Tony Parrack 29/12/2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Occasionally use my motorbike or car, but primarily a cyclist. Bus lanes are easily wide enough to paint a line down the middle of the bus lane – bikes to the left and m/bikes to the right?

  13. k8 30/12/2011 at 11:34 am #

    How is allowing noisy, racing polluting motorbikes to use TfL’s bus lanes going to get more children and less experienced cyclists to use London’s roads? Once again their interests have been completely ignored…. or not even thought of at all.

    Women and children are seriously underrepresented in cycling and it will stay that way unless our beloved leaders act positively to encourage them. All the school cycle training in the world won’t help if little Janey or Johnny’s parents see the threatening conditions on our roads. No sane parents would be happy to let their kids mix with the vile traffic that we have to put up with every day.

  14. captain nemo 02/01/2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Poor London, now you are saddled with it too. Boris & TfL always mentioned Bristol, where motorbikes have been allowed in bus lanes since the 90’s, as a shining example of how ‘it’ can work.

    Well, I have had problems being overtaken (& undertaken too) closely at speed by motorbikes in bus lanes here in Bristol and there is consistent abuse of the ASL and cycle lanes by motorbikes, even the ones which read ‘Bus & Cycle Only’. PaulM is right, give an inch and that’s it, all is taken.

    I worked for six months in London in 2011and my walk to the office took me across some major roads in the centre. And almost every day the ASL’s I saw were full of motorbikes with the cyclists stuck back in traffic. If the motorbiking farternity can’t respect a safety reservoir for more vulnerable, generally slower, road users then they should not be allowed in bus lanes.

    And as for Addison-Lee:

  15. Bethan 06/01/2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Interesting … I like the idea of a segregated bus lane for both, and even use of ASLs doesn’t bother me too much a long as they don’t sit in the middle of a bunch of cyclist then accelerate into the mass. I did see the police picking off motorbikes in ASLs just before Christams – no sign of it now though. Shame they don’t do the same for lorries / cars etc too occasionally.

  16. mr d a dervish 14/01/2012 at 7:38 pm #

    this goes out to all cyclist ,stop moaning about motorbikes being allowed in bus lanes.You lot dont pay anything like roadtax or insurance,you dont have mirrors or number jump red lights putting your life and others in lot all are breaking the law and if caught the police can fine dont stay in single lines and when hooted at are very rude by swearing and being very obussive.i dont know why the government dont make it law for number plates and insurance and mirrors to be fitted on push bikes.think of all the money they can make. the roads would be safer and nobody would jump lights if they knew they can be fined.

    • amjb 15/01/2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Mr Dervish – you are getting carried away with your generalisations. Some cyclists do jump red lights – but by no means all. No one pays road tax, because there is no such thing, although many cyclists are also car owners and pay vehicle excise duty. Many cyclists have third party insurance through their membership of the London Cycling Campaign or the CTC. As to swearing and being abusive, perhaps the person hooting started that exchange? The highway code is explicit on overtaking – it is the duty of the overtaker to ensure their manoeuvre is safe. If for any reason two cyclists are riding side-by-side, then the potential overtaker needs to exercise some patience. Sometimes a faster cyclist needs to overtake a slower one. Clearly you are a very impatient and angry man, and, assuming you ride a motorcycle, you demonstrate why many cyclists want you and your colleagues as far away from them as possible – including out of the previous haven of a bus lane.

      • mr d a dervish 20/01/2012 at 9:04 pm #

        Just to let you know that im not a angry man, im very patient.Im a ambulance driver and im in bus lanes when i need to get there urgent. I see alot of bikes in bus lanes and they dont over take they just swurve and dont even look behind them.Im not saying all cyclists are like that but the majority of them are.
        They should NOT overtake vehicles between tight spaces ie between the kerb and the vehicle.they should overtake from the right.MAYBE SOME CYCLISTS might have third party but i bet if you asked them to produce it most of them have not. i have nothing against cyclists.,i just wanted to point out if the law came in to have number plates ,road tax ,mirrors,insurance,proper helmets not turtles on their heads,the roads would be safer,less deaths and extra income for the government.So if you cant see the benefits in that then you need to look again my freind.

    • Jack London 17/01/2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Speeding, drinking and driving, driving whilst on the phone, pollution, noise, causing death by dangerous driving.That’s a pretty balanced argument you have there.

      Oh, and hooting at cyclists, that’s very brave isn’t it. Did you become a rude, inconsiderate person before you started driving or were you one already? Just asking.

  17. Jack London 17/01/2012 at 1:22 pm #

    This only applies to red routes:

    I can’t imagine many cyclists cycle along red routes (there are other routes from A-B).

    However, as a scooter rider (sometimes) and cyclist (most of the time) I can assure you that scooter riders feel just as, if not more vulnerable than cyclists.

    Safe riding

  18. Merlin Abrasives 20/02/2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi, just stopping by and decided to leave a comment to introduce myself. Unfortauntely I don’t also have a blog but I do read a lot of blogs in my niche. Nice metting you and if you like I’m on Twitter and various other social networking sites.

  19. Re Bethe 27/06/2015 at 12:21 am #

    Having been a motorist,cyclist and motorcyclist, in London for over 40 years,perhaps i might mention,that many other road users, that pay high costs to use the roads,resent, the no cost..-free for all, culture of untrained Cyclists. They demand special consideration ,yet contribute nothing. Many using the busy London roads [and pavements] as their own personal Velodrome. I am an avid supporter of safety for cyclists,but i do believe prevention is better than cure. Compulsory basic road training for cyclists.has to come,its inevitable. Until then all arguements or criticisms of other road users,will be ineffective. The government has a duty,that if they are to promote more cycling,[which i support] then give the cyclist equal standing as legitimate transport,with maybe a Cycle permit obtained by taking a Cycle CBT +test.. Charge a small yearly fee for the licence and ID plates for bikes. . Then cyclists will gain the respect of other road users. The system creates animosity. Lets remove it, and all use the roads together,safely

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