Some city councils are more than happy to let you ride your motorbikes in their bus lanes, but others aren’t.
Most of the fantastic cities in the United Kingdom of Great Britain have dedicated traffic lanes for buses. It’s a great way to help them (the buses) avoid rush-hour gridlock and get to their stops in a timely manner. That, in turn, incentivises the townspeople to use public transport, rather than clogging up the roads with their cars. And the good news for us motorcyclists is that a great many of these towns allow bikes and motorbikes to travel in their bus lanes too. This makes perfect sense, since we motorcyclists have a negligible impact on congestion, and we’re few enough in our numbers not to cause an embuggerance to the buses in their bus lanes.
But there’s a problem. Because there are still a good handful of cities in the UK that refuse to get onboard. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and parts of London are all still lumping motorbikes in with the rest of the traffic and banishing us from the bus lanes.
On a recent ride in Bristol, the three of us here at 44T all got pinged, one after the other, in the same bus lane, and were issued a £60 fine. The video from that fateful day is just underneath this paragraph. I’m not going to start making excuses for us; we should have took more notice of the signage. But a £60 fine does seem a little outrageous for something that would be absolutely fine in a different town – especially as it was the only bus lane in Bristol that doesn’t allow bikes.
Obviously there are huge benefits to letting motorbikes use bus lanes, as well as to everyone else involved. First of all, it would incentivise the use of motorcycles, over cars, in cities, which has the potential to cut congestion down massively. And not only congestion, but emissions, too; there’s a good chance your 2.5 litre, twin turbo, 4×4 Chelsea chariot is going to kick out a few more noxious gasses and hydrocarbons than anything on two wheels is likely to do.
As well as that, it’d reduce the need for filtering, which some car drivers still hate us doing. By putting bikes on a totally different piece of tarmac to the majority of road traffic, we can simply sail past the queues without having to squeeze through any gaps or frighten any car drivers.
When bus lanes are in operation, for the majority of the time they are completely empty. And it doesn’t matter whether your in a car or on a bike, seeing an empty lane when your sat in traffic is always going to be frustrating. So why not take a proportion of that traffic out of the gridlock and make better use of the bus lanes?
There are loads of reasons for allowing motorbikes in bus lanes and not many reasons against it. Not that I can see, anyway. The problem is, it’s not up to one organisation. Each city council makes their own rules where bus lanes are concerned, and unless there is a fairly dramatic change in the law, that’s the way it will continue to be.
And I suppose, whilst they’re making £60 a go, every time an unassuming motorcyclist strays into a bus lane, towns like Bristol, Glasgow et al might be inclined to keep things just as they are.
So let these be my parting words on the subject. Please don’t assume that, because you can ride your motorbike in the bus lanes in your home town, you can elsewhere. You might not be able to, and it might end up costing you £60. So wherever you are, make sure you double check the signs before entering any bus lanes. If there isn’t a little picture of a motorbike on the blue ‘bus lane’ signs, steer clear.