It is common practise for many UK road users to never use bus lanes as they are
unsure whether they are allowed to or not, you may of experienced driving in a bus
lane on the left and passing a long line of traffic on your right. The reason for
this is due to the drivers stuck in traffic in the right lane have taken an uneducated
guess and assumed the bus lane is in use, this is usually done by not taking a look
at the bus lane sign and simply following the other traffic. In this section, Fineline
Driving Academy will provide you with a thorough guide on how to interpret and use
bus lanes to ensure that you can fully utilise bus lanes the way they should be
used without receiving a fine.
Figure 1: Typical bus lane in London
Figure 1 is a typical inner city bus lane, notice the clear marking and solid line
to divide it from the right lane and also the red colour which is very commonly
used to indicate a bus lane. You will find that congested areas are more likely
to contain numerous bus lanes in order to ease traffic for public transport.
As mentioned in the introduction, a simple look at the bus lane signs, (which will
be in clear view before a bus lane begins), will allow you to make a swift decision
and realise whether you are able to use the bus lane or not. If the bus lane is
not in use, it should be used as a normal lane and as the highway code stipulates
that the left lane should be used at all times unless overtaking or turning right,
you are encouraged to utilise a bus lane if it is not within its hours or operation.
Lets begin by looking at a bus lane sign and dissecting it to realise what the different
parts of it mean, figure 2 shows a typical bus lane sign;
Figure 2: Typical bus lane sign
Firstly, the vehicles which can use the bus lane are shown by the icons and on this
particular occasion the sign dictates that local buses, cycles and taxis are permitted
to use the bus lane at any time. From the 23rd of January 2012, a law was passed
to allow motorcycles to use bus lanes in the majority of London roads, the reasons
for this is to reduce the risk taken by motorcyclists when overtaking as well as
reducing their journey times and a reduction of the collective carbon dioxide emissions
produced by the increasing number of motorbike users.
The times of operation on a road with an identical bus lane sign as shown in figure
2 would be between 7am to 10am & 4pm to 7pm, the reason for these specific times
is that these are the times when most traffic uses the roads and therefore a lane
must be spared to prevent buses being caught in long tailbacks of traffic. More
importantly is the days the bus lane is in use, Monday to Friday on this occasion and
therefore a on Saturday/Sunday, the bus lane should be used as a normal lane.
Figure 3 below shows a bus lane that is always in use, these should be avoided at
all times as they are constantly in operation. There may be rare occasions when
these types of bus lanes can be used, for example during roadwork’s or perhaps an
accident to ease traffic flow however this will be clearly explained via a temporary
sign which has been put up in clear view.
Figure 3: Bus lane which is in operation at all times.
Who is permitted to use a bus lane?
• Motorcycles (without side cars)
• Tricycles (non-motorised, motorised under 450kg, without side cars)
• London licensed Taxis
• Dial a Ride
• Buses which have a minimum of 10 seats (including the driver)
When can you enter a bus lane
To summarise when a bus lane can be used by a road user who doesn’t fall into any
of the above categories, you should only use a bus lane during non operational times
which will be clearly displayed on a signpost before the bus lane starts. There
are other mitigating circumstances when you are permitted to use a bus lane, one
such circumstance is if you want to turn left and you are within 20 metres of the
junction in question however there will be lines on the tarmac which will clearly
show when you can enter the bus lane to turn left, (normally the solid line breaks
and an arrow shows you should move over). As mentioned earlier in this section,
you may be permitted to use a bus lane whilst it is operational due to road works
but this will be clearly displayed, also if you need to move over for an emergency
vehicle you should temporarily use a bus lane.
Consequences of using a bus lane whilst it is operation
Driving in a bus lane when you are not permitted to can result in a fine if you
are caught on camera. The fine amount in London is currently £130, this fixed penalty
notice will not include any points however the amount should be enough to avoid
operational bus lanes at all costs!
Appealing a bus lane fine
Similarly to parking fines, you are entitled to appeal against a bus lane fine if
you have reasonable grounds to do so. The grounds to which you can appeal are outlined
• You were not the owner of vehicle at the time to offence took place.
• You feel there was no breach of a bus lane violation, for example if you think
you were not in the bus lane at the time, the bus lane signs were not clear or the
vehicle used is permitted to use the bus lane.
• The person in control of the vehicle at the time of the offence was without your
• The police are already taking action against the offence.
Once you can satisfy that you have reasonable grounds for an appeal, you can do
so through www.patas.gov.uk if the bus lane is in London. If the bus lane is outside
of London, you can appeal via the website here
Your case will be decided by an independent barrister/solicitor who will take all
of the information provided into account and make a decision.
FINELINES step through on how to deal with bus lanes
Heres our guide to dealing with bus lanes, a quick recap on everything we’ve gone
over on this page. Having an eagle eye for road signs and planning well ahead can
help you negotiate bus lanes in good time without having to make any last minute
1) Identify a bus lane by planning ahead and looking for a signpost, something along
the lines of figure 4 below;
Figure 4: Typical bus lane signpost seen in London
2) Firstly look at the days of operation, if the present day is not shown (use of
bus lane permitted on Sunday in figure 4), you may use the bus lane. If the present
day is a day the bus lane is operational, move on to the next step of checking the
3) Check the times the bus lane is operational, if the current time falls outside
of the time brackets shown on the signpost then you may use the bus lane (for example
when looking at figure 4, the bus lane can be used at various times such as 6:30AM
4) Remain particularly vigilant if using a bus lane, especially at junctions where
a car from the right lane may move over without checking their mirrors.
5) Do not follow too close behind any buses already using the lane as they will
more than likely stop many times and therefore you should be ready to overtake them.