Bus Lanes & Bus Gates – MAG Ireland Position Statement

MAG Ireland has campaigned for motorcycles to be allowed to legally use bus lanes (contra-flow lanes excepted) for over a decade now. The key points of MAG Ireland’s arguments for this position are;

  • Safety – In many situations, a motorcycle using a bus lane is at less risk than filtering outside traffic.
  • Normalising custom & practice – Motorcycles have always used bus lanes to make safe progress where appropriate, normalising this position is in everyone’s interests.
  • Reduced congestion/emissions – Motorcycles using bus lanes reduces congestion & emissions.
  • Zero cost to the Government – This proposal will cost nothing to implement
  • We already have legal access in 2 locations! – No issues have been reported where we do have legitimate access.
  • Viability – Motorcycles are a viable alternative to car commuting in many cases where cycling and public transport are not available or practical.

Despite having the support of all the key stakeholders, including many in the cycling community, and despite the RSA’s own studies finding no adverse effects to the use of bus lanes by motorcycles, there has as yet been no move to grant legal use of bus lanes to motorcycles.

Bus Gates are a relatively recent concept in Ireland, but yet again the utter lack of foresight by the authorities has resulted in the farcical situation whereby riders have been seen pushing their motorcycles through to avoid prosecution, while cyclists face no such restrictions. Bus Gates are no more than an exclusion zone for private cars, and once again the Irish transport authorities have failed to make the distinction between a car and a motorcycle.

MAG Ireland will continue to push for the common sense solution of allowing motorcycles to legitimately use bus lanes and bus gates. MAG Ireland recognises and acknowledges that many of the key stakeholders including the Bus operators, the Taxi drivers, many individuals in the cycling community and the local authorities as well as An Garda Siochana support our position.

The roadblock on this issue is a political one which has no basis in the facts of the situation and so we’ve outlined here the objections previously raised and we deal with each point in turn.

Motorcycles are dangerous, we don’t want to encourage them

The usual assumption is that because motorcycle users, pedestrians and cyclists are vulnerable, they – and not the vehicles that hit them – are dangerous. The perversity of this argument is that most motorcycle user casualties arise from collisions with other vehicles, usually cars, in urban areas, where the motorcycle has right-of-way and is travelling within the speed limit. Allowing motorcycles to travel independently of these other vehicles helps reduce potential for conflicts.

Pedestrians would be put in danger.

Allowing motorcycles to travel in the bus lane would make them more visible to people crossing the road. This is more likely to improve pedestrian safety.

Cyclists would be put in danger.

Both pedal cycles and motorcycles are susceptible to the same risks presented by adverse road and traffic conditions. Both are narrow and manoeuvrable, and do not impede each other at junctions. In addition, their riders share a common understanding of the need to give each other room. Added to this, being overtaken by a motorcycle is less hazardous than is the case with buses, taxis, etc.

Bus schedules will be disrupted.

Motorcycles are narrow & maneuverable. Experience in other countries, notably the United Kingdom, has demonstrated no adverse effects on bus schedules. Further, motorcycles using bus lanes are not adding to congestion elsewhere along bus routes.

Enforcement will be more difficult

Seeing motorcycles in bus lanes does not encourage drivers of other vehicle types, eg: cars and goods vehicles to invade the bus lanes. Road signs used to designate bus lanes clearly identify which vehicles are permitted.

Motorcycles break speed limits, allowing them to use bus lanes would encourage this.

This argument is based on dogma, not on fact. It is a common element of the “passive hostility” displayed by non riders, born of the mistaken belief that “motorcycles are dangerous” (See above).

Motorcyclists are all too often on the receiving end of the results of bad driving (Over 60 % of urban motorcycle accidents are caused by other road users). Because of this, motorcyclists have a keen sense of self-preservation. This is supported by novice motorcycle training that is of a higher standard than that of other road users. Riders are aware that a rogue car or erratically ridden cycle could pull into their path at any time and, in the main, ride defensively and at a sensible speed.

The speed of commuter traffic itself tends to be self-regulating, with the speed of all bus lane users further regulated by the speed of the buses that use them.

Problems with speeding motorists of all classes can be solved by a combination of education and more effective enforcement measures.