August 2014

Edinburgh Bus Lane Retreat

[Update: The Council’s plans also include allowing cars/lorries into bus lanes all day on Saturdays]

Despite its policies to boost bus and cycle use – policies which are succeeding – Edinburgh Council is to experiment with bus lane changes which benefit private motor traffic at the expense of cycling and bus…

Councillors are considering a report which [for an 18 month experiment] …

  • Cuts back all-day bus lanes into peak-hour-only lanes
  • Allows motorbikes in bus lanes

Although called ‘bus’ lanes, these facilities are in fact bus/cycle lanes, as fully recognised by the council – for example, where possible they are constructed at a width to allow buses and bikes to pass each other, and the cycling revenue budget even contributes to maintenance for the inner 1.5m of bus/cycle lanes.

In rush hours bus/cycle lanes allow confident cyclists to bypass traffic queues.   At other times they allow less confident cyclists a largely traffic-free route, with cars and lorries always in a separate lane and only the occasional bus to contend with.

Of course, bus/cycle lanes are far from comparable with the sort of European infrastructure which gives almost everybody the confidence to get about by bike for everyday trips.  They are however a step forward from the past and have certainly helped to increase the cycling population.   The design and management of bus/cycle lanes also makes a big difference – their width, hours of operation, enforcement and other factors.


Converting all-day bus/cycle lanes to peak-hour-only means not just traffic moving along the lane but also cars and vans being more likely to park during the day.  The proposals will not change the actual parking legality position – as we understand it, cars are allowed to park in bus lanes when a single yellow line permits this, even when driving in the lane is illegal!  However with motorists allowed to use bus lanes all day througout the non-peak period, parking is also likely to rise.

Parking in bus (or cycle) lanes, whether illegal or legal, is a very serious problem, often forcing cyclists into the main traffic stream and with the danger of doors opening into their path.  People who currently nip down to the local shops on their bike in a car-free bus/cycle lane will feel much less confident to do so if they are faced by a series of parked cars.

The report does not even consider these issues, merely saying that Spokes will be consulted after 18 months of allowing cars and lorries in bus/cycle lanes during the day.

The report also plans to allow motorbikes into bus/cycle lanes for an 18-month experiment.  A similar experiment in London did not find cyclist or pedestrian safety worsened – but found more motorbikes exceeding the speed limit and a fall in motorcyclist safety.


The bus/cycle lanes give a clear message of the Council’s wish to boost bus and cycle use, as laid down in the Council’s own recently adopted Local Transport Strategy.

The LTS has targets [para 2.3] to raise public transport from 17% of all trips in 2009 to 21% by 2020,  raise cycling from 2% to 10%, and reduce car trips from 43% to 31%.  This requires improving bus and cycle infrastructure and a clear message of the Council’s direction of travel – the opposite of the message given by the new bus/cycle lane proposals.

The LTS also promises to ‘enhance’ the bus lane network when opportunities arise – and makes no promise to de-enhance it!

It is even more puzzling when data shows that the Council’s transport policies are succeeding – ranging from our own traffic counts through to the national census.

Only two reasons are given in the report for allowing cars into daytime bus/cycle lanes.  First, that outside peak hours buses are not currently delayed by congestion [so why risk that?]   Second, that the new system will be easier for motorists since all bus/cycle lanes will then have the same hours [apart from a few 24-hour lanes] –  but if this is a problem it could surely be solved in a way more compatible with the LTS, by converting peak-hour bus/cycle lanes into all-day!


If you are unhappy with these proposals, please let your councillors know – find them at

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