All aboard! Cycling in Bus Lanes…

Whilst you are more likely to find the abominable snowman in Cardiff than a good cycle lane, one piece of infrastructure that is open to us is the bus lane.

However, bus lanes can be scary places, especially if you unlucky enough to find a bus in one. Yet these lanes form part of the council’s plan to implement a 50/50 modal split between cars and sustainable forms of transport. We should probably have a chat about them, because we have quite a few of them around Cardiff and there are more on the way.

The Manor Way Bus Lane

The reason why we are talking about bus lanes now is because as of the 25th August lane restrictions were put in place on Manor Way as part of the scheme to install a bus lane between Whitchurch High School and the junction with Birchgrove. It might be worth reading the consultation document for a bit of background.

Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning & Sustainability, Cllr Ramesh Patel said: “The primary aims of this scheme are to improve bus journey times and pedestrian and cyclist access to and within the community. This will promote sustainable transport and supports the Local Transport Plan for improving sustainable transport in the City and City Region.

Source: City of Cardiff Council | Online media centre | Manor Way Lane Restrictions | Cardiff Media Centre

Whilst the main aim is to improve bus journey times into the city centre (and therefore make them more appealing), we can make use of them and they can protect us from much of the general traffic. However, it’s fair to say that bus lanes are an acquired taste.

From our point of view the rules are quite simple. Rule 65 of the highway code states:

Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs. Watch out for people getting on or off a bus. Be very careful when overtaking a bus or leaving a bus lane as you will be entering a busier traffic flow. Do not pass between the kerb and a bus when it is at a stop.

This goes without saying. You DO NOT pass a large vehicle on the left anyway. You probably won’t be seen and you may well end up getting yourself crushed to death. Not passing a bus on the left when passengers are getting on and off should also be common sense.

However, passing a bus in a bus lane that is barely wide enough for said bus is also a challenge, as you do need to move into the normal traffic lane. Also, once you pass that bus, then what? Unless you spend your working day in the pro peloton, that bus is going to catch you. Do you take the lane and adopt the primary position? Do you take the secondary position and hope that the driver passes you courteously?

We’ve not found any hard or fast rules here or indeed anything approaching bus lane etiquette, so our advice would be to treat it like any other traffic lane…albeit one that is a little quieter and will probably end abruptly at some point (not unlike a cycle lane…arf!).

Unless you are aware of a bus breathing down your neck, feel free to take the primary position until such time as you feel it is safe to let something pass. Then, move to about 1-1.5m (not in the gutter, please!) from the curb and wait to be passed.

Opinion Polls

We had a bit of a discussion on Twitter recently about bus lanes. When we say they are an acquired taste, what we probably should say is that most of the people who responded really didn’t have much love for them.

It is indeed true that they can be unsettling places and we should not fool ourselves into thinking they are cycling infrastructure, any more than the main carriageway is.  In the context of the Active Travel Act design guidance they are not cycle lanes and you shouldn’t see bus lanes appearing on the Integrated Network Map in September 2017.

However, in some places where the traffic is invariably horrific, such as Newport Road they can be a useful tool to unlock a little more of the city. They should improve journey times for bus travellers and hopefully encourage more people out of their cars.

September 2017 feels like a long way away. Until then we really can’t see the council spending too much money on dedicated cycle infrastructure until there is an approved plan in place. Until then, we may have to make do with the Taff Trail, the Ely Trail and a growing number of bus lanes.

One thought on “All aboard! Cycling in Bus Lanes…

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  1. Bus lanes are fine if there is a pathetically poor bus service, but as soon as there is a reasonable number of buses they become less welcoming for cyclists. If the bus lanes attract more cyclists that will make it difficult for bus drivers who are expected to do quicker journey times having been given dedicated lanes. So bus lanes may be a stop gap solution, but are not a way of stimulating active travel by bike – that needs filtering and protected cycleways.
    My memory of using a bus lanes (cycling permitted) in Cardiff in the early 1980s when a bus driver deliberately drove me into the kerb and expressed his opinion that he did so because he thought I shouldn’t be in the bus lane. I called the police who turned up. A 6-foot-6 bulky officer leaned over to an inch from my face and said “Fuck off” with such menace that I went home, with scratched body and scrapped bike.


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