Edinburgh set to be first Scottish city to permit motorbikes in bus lanes

Motorbikes could soon be allowed to join buses, bicycles and black cabs on Edinburgh's bus lanes if a report to councillors gets approval this week.

The Council has invested heavily in a network of bus lanes.  These now total around 65 kilometres in length and form an important element in delivering a high quality and reliable public transport system.

Members of the City of Edinburgh Council's Transport and Environment Committee will consider the proposal next Tuesday (26 August 2014) as part of a review of the Capital's bus lane network, which would see a trial of motorcycles in bus lanes for an initial nine-month period.

If approved, Edinburgh would become the first city in Scotland to permit motorcycles in bus lanes, although a number of cities south of the border have already made this change.

Transport for London (TfL) recently decided to give motorcycles permanent access to most of London's red routes following two extensive trials. Other cities offering full or partial access to their bus lanes to motorcycles include Belfast, Newcastle, Reading and Leicester.

Another key recommendation of the report is to standardise operation times to peak periods only for the vast majority of the city's bus lanes, initially for a nine-month trial period under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order. 

At present, around 90% of the city's bus lane network consists of peak-period or all-day bus lanes.

Surveys taken between February and April 2014 showed that at most locations there was little or no delay to buses during off-peak periods, ie between 9.30am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. This appears to indicate that all-day bus lanes, compared to peak period lanes, offer little additional benefits to buses under normal traffic conditions.

A limited number of bus lanes operate on a 24-hour basis. As these are in place for specific reasons, for instance at Park and Ride sites, bus gates and contra-flow bus lanes, the 24-hour nature of these will remain unchanged.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener, said: "This report calls for the vast majority of bus lanes to operate at peak periods only, again for a trial period to begin with. Our surveys have shown that there isn't really any great difference made to buses at off-peak times on bus lanes that are currently all-day. We also know that it can be very confusing for motorists not knowing which bus lanes operate under which hours. Standardising around 90% of the network to peak periods only will make things much simpler.

"Having heard from motorcycle users during our review, we're minded to start a trial of allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes in Edinburgh.

"Given the relatively small proportion of motorcycles on Edinburgh's roads and the fact that motorcyclists themselves believe using bus lanes would make their journeys both safer and quicker, we think this change should have little or no impact on other bus lane users. We'll keep this under close review throughout the trial, of course, before any decision is taken to make this arrangement permanent."

As part of the bus lane network review, motorcycle users' organisations were asked to comment. In putting their case forward for including motorbikes in bus lanes, they explained that they are considered vulnerable road users and would derive safety and journey-times benefits from being able to use bus lanes.

Ken Glendinning, Edinburgh representative of the British Motorcyclists Federation, said: "We are delighted that the City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport and Environment Committee will consider this again next week. We have been campaigning for this for some time, along with our friends in the Motorcycle Action Group, and think that, if approved, it will make a significant impact for the safety of motorcycle and scooter riders.

"Motorcycles and scooters can play a significant part in reducing congestion and emissions and also reduce social exclusion by providing a cheap and dynamic alternative to the car for those with a lengthy commute. Trials in other cities have shown that bikes can co-exist successfully and safely with bicycles and other authorised vehicles in bus lanes and, in most cases, overall accident rates have reduced as people become more aware of riders and cyclists.

"Edinburgh’s motorcyclists have long appreciated the Council’s provision of free parking in the city centre and with the ability to make safe progress along the main arterial routes, there is the potential for Edinburgh to become a real two-wheeled city."

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