Powered Two-Wheeler Access to Bus Lanes

Published on 10 June 2005 by Gill

See Annex A of this document for list of UK Authorities allowing PTW access to bus lanes.

See Annex B of this document for postive comment on PTW bus lane usage.

In considering whether powered two wheelers (PTW) should have access to bus lanes, some wider aspects relating to PTWs should first be considered in order to put them in an appropriate context.

What are Powered-Two Wheelers?

  • Power assisted cycle – 200 W electrical – accessible from age 14
  • Moped – up to 50 cc/45 km/h – accessible from age 16
  • A1 Light Motorcycle – scooter or motorcycle up to 125 cc/11 kW – accessible from age 17
  • Middle weight motorcycle / Super scooter (typically 250 cc – 650 cc) – full licence required – ideal for long distance commuting.
  • Large capacity motorcycle – various styles – readily capable of a range of journeys
  • All PTWs can make a positive contribution as part of an integrated transport policy. After all, a policy cannot be regarded as truly integrated unless all modes which have a rôle to play are included.

Positive Attributes of Powered Two-Wheelers

  • They reduce congestion and circumvent it when caused by other vehicles.
  • PTWs limit the impact of traffic on the environment. They have the knock on effect of reducing pollution and CO2 emissions through smaller size and the ability to avoid being subject to making intermittent progress.
  • They increases the efficient use of land by occupying less road space and particularly parking areas where up to 7 PTWs can occupy one car space.
  • They address social exclusion particularly for the impecunious and those poorly served public transport with distances too great to walk or cycle.
  • PTWs supplement public transport by being available when and where it is not.
  • PTWs provide choice by being the most practical alternative to single occupancy car use while offering even greater flexibility in use.
  • Modal shift to PTWs will limit the effects of anticipated traffic growth.
  • More reliable journeys by PTW reduce commuters' stress.
  • Increased PTW use can provide relief for overcrowded public transport enabling it to be restructured and expanded encouraging car drivers unlikely to use a PTW to change to public transport.

Limitations of Powered Two-Wheelers

  • Not suitable for everyone such as the infirm and severely disabled.
  • Limited carrying capacity of 2 persons and relatively little luggage.
  • Exposed to the elements – some PTWs include weather protection and protective clothing is very practical.

Drawbacks of PTWs

Air Quality -

  • PTWs have been subject to increasingly stringent EC emissions limits since 1999 with limits equivalent to closed loop catalyst equipped cars expected in 2007.
  • Their efficient use in congested conditions (enhanced by bus lane access) reduces pollutant emissions

Noise –

  • PTWs are not inherently noisy. New machines are subject to noise limits under EC Type-Approval with machines in use required to use BS AU and CE marked exhaust Systems.
  • Noise nuisance is predominantly an enforcement issue.

Security –

  • Theft is a problem but is not insurmountable.
  • A range of secondary locks, immobilisers, alarms and part marking systems harden

PTWs as targets.

  • Secure parking using street furniture and CCTV deters theft. 

Safety -

  • PTWs with other road user groups except children are subject to casualty reduction targets of a 40% reduction of numbers of Killed and Seriously Injured and a 10% reduction by rate of Slight Injuries between 2000 and 2010 using a 1994/8 baseline
  • Numbers of PTW casualties have increased over the base line but numbers of registered
  • PTWs, users and distances travelled have increased as well.
  • Except for fatalities, PTW casualty rates have fallen.
  • The casualty reduction targets do not give PTW users are not given parity with other road user groups by failing to take into account their increased usage or target perpetrators rather than victims of crashes.
  • The main causes of PTW crashes are loss of control in rural areas and urban collisions predominantly caused by other road users.
  • PTWs are claimed to collide with pedestrians and cyclists at a higher rate than cars collidewith them but the responsibility for the collisions has not been assigned.
  • The reduction of car occupant KSIs is predominantly through better occupant protection which does not readily lend itself to PTWs.
  • In considering casualty reduction and causation PTWs are not given parity with other vulnerable road users.

The following chart sets out PTW casualties and usage:





























Licensed PTWs x 1,000







Billion vehicle Km travelled







PTWs and Bus Lanes – Documentation and Needs
• The 1998 White Paper , A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone recommend properly monitored bus lane access trials by local authorities.
• DETR's LTP Guidance in March 2000 made several positive references to the PTW:
• Providing viable alternative transport
• Taking account of needs of riders
• Provision at transport interchanges
• Provision for parking,
• The need for road maintenance,
• An affordable alternative to the car
• Recommended disaggregation from traffic reduction targets
• Inclusion in the transport hierarchy between public transport and taxis,
• Recommended monitored bus lane accesses scheme

• The Draft DfT LTP Guidance for 2005 is less positive in that it concentrates on outputs rather than how they are achieved with only one somewhat negative reference to PTWs. However since its main tenets include:
• Giving transport priority locally
• Addressing congestion
• Enhancing accessibility
• Promoting value for money
• Making better use of the infrastructure
• Improving air quality
• PTWs have a clear rôle in helping to achieve these objectives, with one means doing so beingby granting them access to bus lanes.
• The 10-Year Transport Plan and Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 - Transport also makesreferences to the advantages of the PTW in transport strategies and planning which can be enhanced by bus lane access.
• The Final Report by the Advisory Group on Motorcycling makes a number of recommendations in relation to bus lane access. It calls for the DfT to adopt a neutral attitude towards PTW access to bus lanes rather than the current negative view and that the advice in Keeping Buses Moving Local Transport Note 1/97 should drop its recommendation that motorcycles should not normally be allowed in bus lanes. Research on bus lane access has indicated that there are no adverse effects on road safety but other impacts are not conclusive. While research continues, the DfT has been recommended to adopt a neutral position in advising local authorities.
• Arguments from the pedal cycle lobby against PTW access to bus lanes have largely been discredited particularly since they have adopted the premise that bus lanes are a cycling facility. From Advanced Stop Lines studies it is also apparent that the spokespersons from the cycle lobby do not represent the views of ordinary cyclists most of whom are not averse to sharing facilities with PTWs.
• We ask that local authorities recognise the value of the PTW by considering:
• Its rôle in reducing congestion.
• Its reduced take-up of land from other transport modes.
• Setting minimum secure standards for parking.
• Introducing formal parking facilities at transport interchanges
• Changig facilities and lockers in major town centre destinations and at Park & Ride sites.
• Recognising its rôle in addressing social exclusion
• Exempting PTWs from road pricing and workplace parking charges.
• Its inclusion in Green Travel Plans and Travelwise
• Allowing access to Advanced Stop Lines
• Allowing PTWs to join cyclists and taxi cabs in their bus lanes
Bus Lanes - Reasons for PTW Access

• Offering convenience to PTW users who are already contributing to alleviating local traffic problems.
• For local authorities wary of encouraging PTW use, access to bus lanes will facilitate their existing use.
• Seen to be a way of facilitating more practical and sustainable alternative transport modes.
• Making more efficient use of the existing infrastructure - a major tenet of the Highways Agency policy and the 2005 LTP Guidance.
• Improving the advantages that PTWs already have over other vehicles.
• Encouraging car users to consider alternative means of travel.
• Enhancing air quality and addresses climate change by permitting PTWs to make better
• progress and operate more efficiently
• PTWs (even mopeds) do not delay buses in bus lanes as pedal cycles do.
• DfT remains willing to help with the monitoring of the progress of PTW access schemes.
• Enforcement is not an anticipated problem since PTWs are a category distinct from cars.
• Allowing access by private hire vehicles is likely to create greater problems.
• The use of signs with a PTW icon is soon to be standardised and will not require permission
from DfT.

Bus Lanes - PTW Access Precedents

• PTW access to bus lanes has been a normal feature in many European cities for several years. i.e. cities in Italy and Spain, especially Barcelona, and Stockholm in Sweden.
• Bristol has operated a permanent PTW access since 1996 following a preceding experiment with Reading 's PTW access scheme made permanent in 1999.
• PTW access to bus lanes has been made permanent in Birmingham , Colchester , Bath and Hull .
• PTWs have had access to the non-car lane in Moorgate in the City of London for some considerable time.
• PTW access continues to be trialed by Transport for London with Department for Transport support on three corridor sites in central London on Transport for London Roads Network (TLRN) roads since early 2003. They comprise the A41Finchley Road between Hendon Way and Queens Grove the A23 Streatham High Road – Brixton Road between Camberwell New Road and Streatham Common South and the A13 East India Dock Road between Butchers Row and Abbot Road. The outcome of the trials has been positive but deemed inconclusive. It has agreed to continue with the trials and consideration is being given to conducting trials at additional sites in which the traffic mix will not change from external factors as was the case through the introduction of the Congestion Charge during the course of the trials.
• The ( London ) Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames has two bus lanes to which PTWs have been permitted access viz.
• Permanent access without monitoring on sections of Kingston Road/Cambridge Road since March 2003 when a bus lane first became operational. No complaints have been received to date.
• A trial of an an existing bus lane on London Road since March 2004 with the only potentially negative outcome being the reduction of pay and display car parking bays.
• The London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames has installed bus lanes in London Road in Twickenham and Eton Rise/Paradise Road in Richmond in June 2004 with CCTV monitoring and the collection of accident data.
• Swindon Borough Council agreed to allow PTW access to its bus lane network when it was expanded in 2003 and has been conducting trials during 2004 on two arterial corridors in Queens Road and Quickdale Road to which PTWs have access. At the time of writing, the results of the monitoring by TRL are still ‘subject to analysis with completion expected soon' as they have been since July! However, nothing adverse has been reported.
• All bus lanes in Northern Ireland have had PTW access since early 2004 with no adverse reports as a result.
• After 23 months of monitoring, the Highways Agency allowed access of PTWs to the M4 bus lane in July, 2002 on the basis of improving safety. Ongoing monitoring has not resulted in any negative reports.

• The Highways Agency is considering allowing PTWs use of the bus lane on the A6 in to Loughborough and have nearly completed their ‘before' monitoring.
• PTWs are granted access to High Occupancy Vehicle ( HOV ) Lanes in Leeds and South Gloucestershire .
• Following the positive experience in Colchester , Essex County Council is proposing that PTWs should be given access to all bus lanes in the county in its 2005 Local Transport Plan.
• The Surrey Motorcyclists Forum in its final report has recommended that Surrey County Council should permit PTW access to bus lanes in the county.
Bus Lanes - Safety Aspects
• As stated under the drawbacks of PTWs, while the numbers of PTW casualties have
increased, this has largely been commensurate with the increase in usage with the rate (for all severities except fatalities) falling. Most PTW casualties from single vehicle accidents which account for a high proportion of killed and seriously injured take place in rural areas where there are no bus lanes.
• The majority of accidents which take place in urban areas are at speeds of under 40 mph. UK and European studies have shown that the majority of multi-vehicle accidents involving PTWs are the other driver's fault. Access to bus lanes will limit the threats from other traffic by segregating PTWs from the road users most likely to collide with them.
• Following the introduction of the M4 bus lane which did not permit PTW access, sideswipe accidents involving PTWs filtering through traffic had increased by 75%. Granting access to the bus lane effectively segregating PTWs from most other traffic was expected to reduce these incidents and there has been no evidence to the contrary.
• Riders, in practice, do not abuse the privilege of bus lane access by riding recklessly. Speeds are largely regulated by the progress of buses.
• Pedal cycles are in bus lanes by default since this is safer than their being placed outside where faster vehicles are expected to pass either side of them.
• For existing alleged conflicts with pedestrians and cyclists, it is not known who is at fault. PTW riders should not automatically be held responsible.
• Bus lane access will reduce PTW conflicts with pedestrians by making them more visible to one another than when the PTW is filtering through traffic. Similarly cyclists and PTW riders will more readily see one another in a bus lane.
• Even a large PTW is highly manoeuvrable and occupies a fraction of the bus lane's width presenting less of a threat to a cyclist than a bus or taxi of considerably greater mass and occupying most of the lane's width.
• There is no evidence of safety being compromised where PTWs use bus lanes and the prejudiced perceptions of some cyclists and ‘representatives' of cycling groups should not be accepted as evidence of increased risk. As stated earlier, this is not the perception of most rank and file cyclists.

• A 1996 TRL video survey in Bristol (TR/TT/192/96) was inconclusive with regard to effects on safety and failed to detect any collisions involving PTWs or pedal cycles or conflicts between the two groups. However, in recorded incidents, PTW users were shown to behave more responsibly than other user groups, particularly cyclists.
Bus Lanes - Cost Implications

• Existing signs already display the classes of vehicles which can use bus lanes. These can be inexpensively modified by the use of stickers displaying a PTW icon. This exercise was undertaken for Bristol 's already extensive network for buses.
• If a monitoring exercise is required, DfT may assist with the costs of monitoring outside London and TfL may help with the London Boroughs.
• If access to bus lanes by PTWs is permitted, it will be necessary to publicise the change which is likely to incur a small cost although this can generate positive publicity for the local authority concerned.
• In granting PTW access to bus lanes, no other changes to the infrastructure are considered to be essential although if access is to be improved, it will be optimised by providing better PTW parking. These are low cost schemes which make the best use of the infrastructure as recommended in the 2005 LTP Guidance.

Annex A

The following Authorities are currently allowing PTW use of bus lanes:-











M4 bus lane - junction 4 to the elevated section of the M4 near Chiswick

London – 5 trial sites

PTWs are granted access to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes in Leeds and South Gloucestershire

All bus lanes in Northern Ireland

Non-car lane in Moorgate in the City of London


London Borough of Richmond upon Thames


Essex – Local Transport Plan 2006-2011 to propose county wide acces

M1 Junctions 7-10 HOV trial site



Annex B

Postive comment on PTW bus lane usage:-

White Paper – A New Deal For Transport Better For Everyone (D ETR 1998):-

‘In drawing up their local transport plans , local authorities should take account of the contribution that motorcycling can make and consider specific measures to assist motorcyclists, such as secure parking at public transport interchange sites. We would welcome proposals from local authorities interested in conducting properly monitored pilot studies of the use of bus lanes by motorcycles, to help inform decisions on whether there is a case for motorcyclists to be allowed to use bus lanes'.

Government Advisory Group on Motorcycling; Final Report August 2004

Referring to PTW access to bus lanes:-

' The situation to date remains, therefore, that the research tends to indicate no

increase in accidents from allowing PTWs to use bus lanes, although it is not

conclusive on the impact. The Task Force would like to see the position clarified and suggests that research is continued and extended in order to arrive at an

unambiguous position that is acceptable to all parties. The motorcycle and local

authority interests on the Task Force would like the Department's advice to be

amended to at least a neutral rather than a negative position, without waiting for

further research.'

London the Mayor's Assembly Transport Committee 23 rd February 2004 :-

‘David Rowe, Transport for London: transport strategy requires TfL, through the London Motor Cycle Working Group, to consider experiments to allow powered two-wheelers to share bus lanes. The arguments for doing so are: motorcyclists make up something like 2-3% of traffic on our roads but are involved in 20% of killed and serious injuries; also, potentially allowing motorcyclists to share bus lanes reduces their exposure to general traffic and increases their conspicuousness.'

Bill Wiggin MP, House of Commons Debate 22nd October 2003 :-

‘It is a simple equation. First, motorcycle admittance to bus lanes would improve motorcycle safety, which equals accident reduction. Secondly, giving people the incentive to filter past the traffic gridlock without the risks they currently face will encourage more to switch from their car, which will alleviate traffic congestion. Thirdly, encouraging people to use a motorcycle benefits the environment, potentially helping the UK to achieve its ambitious commitment of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010

The Government's Motorcycling Strategy, February 2005:-

‘ the evidence so far suggests that there are no apparent safety disbenefits from allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes'.

IHIE Guidelines for Motorcycling – Improving Safety Through Engineering and Integration, April 2005:-

‘Recent experience of shared-use bus lanes in Bristol and subsequent trials by Transport for London (TfL) would seem to indicate that shared use of bus lanes can be introduced with little or no detrimental effect for other road users (TfL 2004):

Reductions in motorcycle accidents between 0% and 31% at the trial sites, with no increase in overall accidents at any site.

Reductions in motorcycles using general traffic lanes of between 31% and 40% at the trial sites. There was no adverse effect on bus journey times.

In surveys 44% of cyclists reported that collisions and near misses they experienced when using bus lanes involved cars – this increased by 1% during the trial, and compared with 3% involving motorcycles, which again increased by 1% during the trial. The number of cars illegally using bus lanes fell during the trial, probably due to increased enforcement.

This work has taken place against a background of the introduction of the London Congestion Charge, which has lead to an increase in motorcycles within the charge zone, along with a reduction in motorcycle accidents (TfL 2003)'


Last reviewed/updated 10/06/05