Is it ever OK to drive in a bus lane?

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Fear of a fine is putting drivers off moving into a bus lane if an emergency vehicle needs to pass.

One in 10 drivers would not move into a bus lane to let a fire engine, ambulance or police car through - even if the sirens were on and the blue lights flashing, a recent AA Populus poll revealed.

This figure is even higher in London, rising to one in six (17%) who say they wouldn’t risk going into a bus lane.

Many UK cities fine drivers £60 for entering a bus lane; this is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. And local authorities across the country are raking it in from these fines.

Who’s cashing in?

A junction in Lambeth, south London generated over £6m, the AA claimed.

In Cardiff, the council’s final accounts for 2014/15 show they made £2.8m from bus lane and yellow box fines.

The Telegraph recently revealed £3.7m had been generated through seven bus lane cameras and one mobile parking camera in Coventry between April 2012 and September 2015.

In Scotland, figures released to the Sunday Mail show drivers in Glasgow were hit hardest with fines worth more than £7million handed out. Edinburgh fines were worth in excess of £1.5million while cameras in Aberdeen took the total to about £10million.

The AA is now calling for an official investigation to be launched when fines from one bus lane exceed £10,000.

Edmund King, AA president, said: "Whilst we support the use of bus lanes in the right places, functioning at the right times, we are totally opposed to 'entrapment' cameras on poorly designed or poorly signed bus lane junctions.

"If thousands of drivers are getting tickets at the same junction then something is wrong and that junction or bus lane should be reviewed.

"We fear that too many local highway authorities have become addicted to the lucrative income from these rat traps."

Bus lane rules

For motorists, rule 141 of the Highway Code applies: ‘unless otherwise indicated, you should not drive in a bus lane during its period of operation. You may enter a bus lane to stop, to load or unload where this is not prohibited’.

But it’s quite different for cyclists. Rule 66 states: ‘most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs’.

So when can you drive in a bus lane?

Some cities have sought to clarify their enforcement of bus lanes, such as Nottingham City Council, which gives the following guidelines for when it's OK to enter a bus lane during its operating times:

  • When directed to do so by a police officer in uniform
  • To avoid a collision or debris in the road
  • To drop off or pick up a passenger
  • Owing to circumstances outside the control of the driver
  • To enter or exit a driveway to a roadside property.

In all cases it is expected that the stay in the bus lane is as brief as possible.