Tim Luckhurst: Motorcyclists in bus lanes? Oh yes, minister

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Indy Lifestyle Online

In recent years, a few enlightened local authorities have sought to reduce the potential for accidents like the one I was lucky to avoid, by letting motorcyclists ride in bus lanes. I've done it in Bristol and on the experimental routes introduced in London. It is great, maximising the motorcycle's potential as the fastest way to get round cities.

It also makes riders safer. There are two key factors. In the bus lane, I am not threatened by car drivers like the VW lady. The vehicles that are allowed in are driven by professionals. Bus and taxi drivers need their licences to earn a living. They drive with eyes open and minds alert. Car drivers who have wondered why I always slow to let buses and taxis pull out should wonder no more. I feel grateful.

I fear that Karen Buck, minister at the Department for Transport, does not understand why. In July, Ms Buck gave a parliamentary answer alleging that where motorcycles are allowed to use bus lanes, the number of accidents involving motorcycles has increased. Motorcyclists fear this was the prelude to a nationwide ban on bikes in bus lanes.

But Ms Buck is wrong. Analysis of DfT statistics by the British Motorcyclists Federation and the Motorcycle Industry Association proves what every biker already knows; bus lane access cuts accidents. The reduction in London alone, where three key bus lanes have been opened to motorcyclists on a provisional basis, amounts to 19.5 per cent - a lot of lives saved and limbs unbroken.

By pretending otherwise, Ms Buck fell straight into the clutches of the extreme wing of the anti-motorcyclist brigade; the zealots who pull their cars across to prevent motorcycles getting through, open doors on motorways to obstruct filtering and cut us up aggressively. They cannot compute the idea that our bikes are narrower than their cars and that is why we ride them.

So, where bus lane access is denied, we motorcyclists run constant risks. Some of us filter at speed. Others are wiser and wait until traffic is stationary. But we all seek to maximise the advantage of two wheels by getting to the front of traffic queues, using our power-to-weight ratio to maximum effect at traffic lights and squeezing through gaps. Still, though our headlights are always on and many of us wear luminous clothing, we get knocked off.

Do not be fooled by hysterical propaganda against sports-bikes riders who belt around country roads at silly speeds. Compared with a blameless commuter, these nutters are unlikely to get hurt. Most motorcycle accidents happen at low speeds in town. They occur because car drivers do not see us.

Bus lane access prevents these accidents. The only reason to deny it is that car drivers get jealous and resent the even greater time advantage it gives to those of us with the good sense and environmental credentials to ride instead of drive.

If Ms Buck is not persuaded by this argument, I make this offer. If she will ride pillion, I will let her experience riding through city traffic with and without bus lane access. If she still believes that letting motorcyclists ride where VW lady is banned increases our vulnerability, then she is too stupid to be a minister.


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