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Government launches Motorcycles in bus lanes consultation

Has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including most of the world’s biggest bike titles, as well as dabbling in car and technology journalism.



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It’s been thirty years since the first trial schemes to allow motorcycles in bus lanes were started back in 1994 but despite all those decades of experience and knowledge it’s still a topic mired in confusion and inconsistency. Local authorities can choose whether to allow motorcycles to share bus lanes and central government has traditionally been neutral on the subject but now there’s a consultation on whether to make motorcycles in bus lanes the default position rather than an exception.

The consultation follows on from the Government’s ‘Plan for Drivers’, published in October last year, which marked a move away from the DfT’s normally agnostic position to one that put more emphasis on the benefits of allowing bikes in bus lanes. In January this year, Government guidance to local authorities was updated to remind them of their power to allow motorcycles in bus lanes, encouraging them to use it by saying “Wherever it is appropriate, local councils should allow motorcyclists to use bus lanes.”

But despite that, there are still many areas that haven’t implemented that policy. The new consultation, which opened on 17 March 2024 and runs until 9 June 2024, suggests the default position could be reversed, with motorcycles allowed in bus lanes as the general rule rather than the exception, but giving local authorities the power to exclude them in particular cases where it might cause problems.


What are the options?

The consultation gives two options. The first is to stay with the current position, where bikes are only allowed in bus lanes where local authorities decide it’s suitable. The second option is to change the rules to make motorcycle access to bus lanes the default position.

When it comes to pros and cons, the consultation document says that the current rules have three benefits: giving local authorities the responsibility for their own roads, potentially reducing conflict between motorcycles and cyclists (who are allowed in bus lanes by default) and reducing any impact on bus services by additional motorcycle traffic.

But it then lists five drawbacks to the status quo, including worse safety for motorcyclists, a lack of consistency between different local authorities, failure to improve journey times, failure to reduce congestion, and potential for increased collisions between bikes and pedestrians.

In contrast, the document puts forward more positives than negatives to the idea of making bikes in bus lanes the default position. The main pros to changing the rules are improved journey times for motorcyclists (and as a knock-on effect making motorcycling a more convenient and attractive form of transport), improving safety for motorcyclists, reducing congestion for other motorists, and finally giving clarity and consistency to the rules.

Only two possible drawbacks to a rule change are listed, both prefixed with the word ‘possible’ to suggest they’re not even proven. One is that there are possible impacts on the safety of other vulnerable road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists, the other that there are possible negative impacts on bus journey times.


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The National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) has also strongly welcomed this consultation. It’s Executive Director, Craig Carey-Clinch, said: “The consultation is extremely welcome and marks an opportunity to finally bring clarity to the issue and certainty to riders regarding where they can and can’t use bus lanes. “The benefits to motorcyclists are clear, which includes reduced rider vulnerability and improved journey times. The benefits to public authorities are also clear in terms of reduced congestion potential and fewer conflicts on routes where motorcycles have to mix with general traffic. It also recognises the contribution that motorcycling can make to better urban mobility and enhanced options for travel – important elements of future transport policy.  This is a common-sense measure, which is good for road safety and good for urban mobility. We encourage all to support default access when responding to the consultation.”

The consultation itself is open to both local authorities and any other interested parties – and that means you. The first section is aimed at local authorities, asking them details about the percentage of their roads that include bus lanes and what percentage of those are currently open to motorcycles before going on to interrogate them about that decision.

The second section is for anyone else and only takes a few minutes to complete. You can complete it online here or via, and the latter page also includes a response form that you can complete at your leisure and then email or post in.

Every voice counts so make sure yours is heard. A few minutes now could make riding in town much easier and safer in the future.

BikeSocial’s Publisher, Steve Rose, shared his thoughts back in May 2022:



All bikes in all bus lanes, let’s make it happen

Imagine if there was a simple way to make motorcycling more appealing to more people, made it even easier and quicker to get about on two wheels and with even less risk? How many more drivers (and cyclists) would take to a motorbike or scooter for their daily commute? What if all the infrastructure already existed allowing this enormous benefit to everyone with no additional costs? Should we mention here the study done ten years ago that showed how just a ten per cent increase in motorcycle use in cities could reduce congestion by 40 per cent? So how come this simple step to open up biking to more people, reduce congestion and make motorcycling safer hasn’t happened? Nope, we don’t understand it either.

This magical answer is bus lanes. Our cities are full of them and if you’ve been on a bus recently, you’ll know how effective they are. You’ll also, as a rider or driver have noticed how underused they are while squeezing the road space for other vehicles. The space we riders used to have for filtering and helping the progress of other vehicles has been trashed by bus lanes.

Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) has been campaigning to allow access for motorcycles in bus lanes for three decades, arguing that bikes in bus lanes not only reduce congestion but also, separate riders from the other vehicles most likely to cause them harm. MAG has had some success – just under 50 per cent of UK bus lane miles allow motorcycle access.

But the access is haphazard and inconsistent. It’s not unusual for bikes to be allowed in some bus lanes, only for that to change as you cross into a different borough. In London, for example, the routes operated by Transport for London all allow motorcycle access, but most of those operated by individual boroughs away from inner London (Hackney, Islington, Camden, Greenwich etc) don’t. And so, as a rider you have to know when you cross boundaries and be looking out for the not-always-obvious blue signs while also scanning for all the other hazards of riding in London. Being able to just use all bus lanes on a bike would make things much simpler. I can’t imagine a scenario where a motorcycle would hold up the progress of a bus, plus it’s relatively easy for a bike to nip back into the edge of the main vehicle lane to pass a stationary bus at a stop.

So, what stops the 103 (out of 159) local authorities in the UK that don’t allow motorcycle access to their bus lanes seeing the benefits?

MAG’s Colin Brown explains that the way these authorities are structured means they don’t feel able to allow it without conducting a trial and trials are expensive – often costing several hundred thousand pounds.

But that’s just daft, surely. When 48% of available bus lanes are now in use by riders because other authorities have done the trials, made the decision and have many years of data to show the lack of impact on accident rates, is there any real benefit in one more authority doing one more trial? Commuting and the associated risks are surely the same regardless of whether you’re in Birmingham or Brighton? MAG (and BikeSocial) think it is time to act.

And here’s where you can help.

There’s a petition launched by a motorcycle-riding lawyer that you can access here asking that motorcycles should be given access to all the UK’s bus lanes. If it reaches 10,000 signatures the Government will respond, if that number gets to 100,000 signatures, it may get debated in parliament. More importantly though a successful petition will help MAG get a meeting with the Minister and act as leverage to push Baroness Vere on the fact that she promised to look into this and has so far done nothing.

Those of us who work in biking know that Government has a problem with motorcycling in the UK. They, like many other non-riders can’t see past the headline statistics and an inbuilt prejudice that riders are a menace to themselves and society.

Tony Campbell the boss of the Motorcycle Industry Association explains that every time he tries to sell motorcycling as part of a unified transport strategy, the first reply from Government is ‘Sort out your accident rates and then we can talk.’

But bikes in bus lanes is a perfect example of something that local authorities can sort out for us that will bring massive benefits to other road users, help reduce air pollution and reduce accidents too. All this at No. Additional. Cost.