Motorcyclists using bus lanes (TAL 1/24)

Motorcyclists using bus lanes

(Traffic Advisory Leaflet 1/24)

DFT - Published 15 January 2024

Just so there is no journalistic bias, I thought best to give you the text straight from the horse’s mouth, albeit straight from the Government's website. It seems that common sense prevails and bikers’ safety has been taken into account and for that I can only applaud.

Local authorities have the flexibility to allow motorcyclists to use bus lanes in their area.

This guidance:

  • outlines what local authorities need to consider in making their decisions
  • explains the use of traffic signs to implement schemes
  • provides advice on monitoring schemes

Traffic signs give local authorities the flexibility to allow motorcycles into their bus lanes. Wherever it is appropriate to do so, local councils should allow motorcyclists to use bus lanes. In doing so, they should take into account the factors set out in this advice.

Allowing motorcyclists to use bus lanes was first trialed in the 1990's. Various monitoring and research projects were carried out to determine the effects of these schemes on both motorcyclists and other road users and inform advice originally published in 2007. This guidance includes updates to legislation made since then but does not change the existing policy position.

Motorcycling can offer a range of benefits, for example: 

  • offering a cheaper alternative to the car 
  • providing independence and mobility 
  • widening employment opportunities, especially where public transport is limited 
  • providing a shorter journey time in congested traffic conditions 
  • reducing overall congestion as motorcycles generally occupy less space than cars 

There are potential benefits and dis-benefits to allowing motorcycle access to bus lanes, and, as with any scheme, the decision should be taken with care to mitigate foreseeable and avoidable risks. 

For the purpose of this guidance, the term ‘motorcycles’ refers to solo-powered 2-wheelers including mopeds but excludes e-scooters. 

Local traffic authorities are best placed to decide whether to allow motorcycles into with-flow bus lanes – a lane where buses travel in the same direction as general traffic in the lane next to it. Each case needs to be examined on its own, considering the positive and negative aspects of reaching a balanced view.

Local policy

Bus lanes can improve the reliability of bus services by giving priority to buses over other vehicles on congested parts of the road network.

Pedal cycles are also allowed to use most bus lanes for safety reasons. However, highway authorities can allow other vehicles into bus lanes, which may help implement wider transport policies.

In relation to motorcycles, policy considerations may include the:

  • safety implications involved in restricting motorcyclists to general traffic lanes, against the possible problems of allowing motorcyclists into the bus lane
  • effect on other vulnerable road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists
  • possible impact on bus journey time reliability due to additional traffic in the bus lane
  • reduction in congestion for other traffic on routes currently used by motorcyclists
  • potential for motorcycling to become a genuine choice for road users if it is seen as a more convenient means of transport
  • potential for overall improvements in transport efficiency
  • local publicity to help advise road users of a policy change

Local authorities should consider the continuity of bus lane routes that admit motorcycles. Ideally, once in a bus lane, motorcyclists should not have to check each section of the bus lane to see if they are allowed to use it.

A bus route that allows the intermittent use of bus lanes by motorcycles can be confusing to users and may pose enforcement difficulties. Traffic authorities should aim to ensure that, as far as possible, policies are consistent where bus routes cross boundaries.

Safety assessments and audits

The aim of road safety audits is to identify road safety problems to minimise the amount and severity of casualties. Road safety audits are not mandatory for local authorities.

However, when allowing motorcyclists into bus lanes, authorities should consider undertaking appropriate safety assessments as part of their decision processes.

Some safety issues can easily be identified, for example, those relating to highway layout, the mix and flow of traffic, queuing characteristics and pedestrian activity.

Other safety issues may not be evident until the lane is used by motorcyclists. Monitoring will be essential in confirming safe operation, particularly in the early days of operation of the lane.

Guidance on safety audits is given in:


Other road users can have difficulty identifying motorcyclists because of their relatively small combined frontal area when compared to a bus. Other road vehicles and roadside obstructions, such as street furniture and vegetation, can also add to this difficulty.

Remedial design work may be required to ensure maximum inter-visibility, especially at junctions. This is because a high proportion of collisions between motorcyclists and drivers in urban situations is thought to be due to poor inter-visibility.

Where motorcycles are allowed into bus lanes, this may improve inter-visibility due to the lack of other general traffic in that lane.


Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. The following should be considered:

  • if there are any major generators of pedestrian traffic nearby, such as schools and hospitals – this information can be used to establish pedestrian desire lines so additional informal or formal crossing facilities can be considered
  • pedestrians should be actively encouraged to use proper crossing places by sitting crossings on or close to desire lines – where this is not practicable, foot way design features that help encourage pedestrians to cross in safer places should be considered
  • pedestrians may expect only clearly visible or slow-moving vehicles to be using a bus lane, so the introduction of highly mobile motorcycles with a small front profile, possibly overtaking a bus and then re-entering the lane could introduce new conflicts
  • bus stops may create an issue, as pedestrians crossing between traffic to board or alight a bus may not expect to have to consider an overtaking motorcycle in a bus lane when they cross between traffic to board or alight a bus

Pedal cycles

Pedal cyclists are allowed to use with-flow bus lanes by default. This is because they are more likely to be involved in a collision if they are required to ride in the main traffic lane with buses passing on their nearside. Any potential for conflict between motorcycles and pedal cycles should be considered.

Turning vehicles

Turning vehicles are a general risk at junctions, both to other vehicles and to pedestrians who are crossing the road. Collision records will describe collision types and probable causes, which will help assess whether there will be a change if motorcyclists are allowed into the bus lane.

For example, a motorcyclist in a general traffic lane must cross a bus lane to turn left into a side road. If this type of collision is recorded, allowing motorcyclists into the bus lane may benefit them by reducing that risk.

However, there may be an increased risk of vehicles turning across the path of motorcycles in the bus lane. If the information indicates an inter-visibility problem remedial measures should be considered, such as:

  • moving a bus stop to the downstream side of a junction
  • implementing a traffic regulation order (TRO) to ban turning movements, parking or loading

Bus access control and bus gates

Some bus lane layouts where it may not be practical for motorcyclists to be allowed to use. For example, bus lanes with access control that pass through a pedestrianised area or those provided with a bus gate facility or bus pre-signals. At sites like these, buses equipped with a transponder pass over detectors in the carriageway causing bollards to retract or the traffic signals to change to or stay on green.

Motorcyclists attempting to pass through an access control or bus gate will not be given a green signal as the signals will not detect them. This could mean motorcyclists may have to make potentially dangerous manoeuvres to continue their journey.

Bus lane width 

Bus lanes should be a minimum of 4 metres wide, or more wherever possible. Narrower lanes may not allow buses to pass cyclists or motorcyclists safely without moving partly into the general traffic lane. It may also increase the conflict potential for motorcyclists moving into the general traffic lane to pass a bus.

Frequent bus stops

Frequent bus stops can encourage last-minute lane changes by motorcyclists, which can cause potential conflict with moving traffic in the general traffic lane. If this is a problem, assessments of bus stop positions should be carried out.

Consideration should be given to bus stop laybys and the conflict that could be caused by some bus drivers who pull out of these without seeing a vehicle in the bus lane.

Traffic regulation orders

TROs are required for bus lanes and form the legal basis for enforcement. Where solo motorcycles are to be allowed to use bus lanes, this must be explicitly stated in the Order. The introduction of motorcycles into an existing bus lane will require the TRO and associated traffic signs to be amended.

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