When are you allowed to drive in a bus lane? Almost never. In the majority of cases, bus lanes are reserved exclusively for buses. However, there are some situations when it’s OK to drive in a bus lane. But even then, you’re only allowed to do so temporarily.
When The Bus Lane’s Out of Use
Some bus lanes are coupled with big blue signs by the side of the road. These will indicate the bus lane’s operating hours, as the bus lane may only be in-use during peak hours. The sign might also indicate which other road users can drive in the bus lane. Cyclists can use some bus lanes, for example.
If a bus lane displays operating hours, then you’re free to use the bus lane outside of those hours. However, if you can’t see a sign, then it’s safest to assume that you cannot use the bus lane at any time.
Temporarily Using Bus Lanes
Even during a bus lane’s normal operating hours, there are some circumstances where it’s fine to use them temporarily:
- When you hear sirens behind you, you may need to move to make way for an oncoming emergency vehicle. If you’ve nowhere else to go, you can shift into the bus lane, so long as you move out of it as soon as the emergency vehicle has passed.
- There may be a broken down car, or some debris in the road, you can move into a bus lane to avoid it. But again, you can only do this so long as you move out of the bus lane as soon as you’ve passed the hazard.
- Bus lanes are marked by solid white lines. But look out for areas with dashed lines. These indicate that you can temporarily pass into the bus lane, usually to make a turn or enter a car park. It’s important to remember that these dashed lines indicate that you can pass through a bus lane. They don’t mean that it’s OK to drive in the bus lane to avoid a queue, for example.
What Happens if You Drive in a Bus Lane By Mistake?
Bus lanes are hard to miss. As we mentioned above, they have bold white lines on each side, so you know where they end and begin. They’re often a different colour to the rest of the road, and they usually have the words “bus lane” written in them in big bold letters.
Nonetheless, if you’re unfamiliar with an area, it’s all too easy to find yourself accidentally driving in a bus lane.
If this happens to you, then you should leave the bus lane as soon as it’s safe to do so.
You may get a penalty charge notice (PCN) in the post. It’s a fine of up to £160, but if you pay it within 14 days, you’ll only have to pay half. If you feel you made an honest mistake, you can appeal your PCN. And if your appeal is rejected, you can take things to an independent tribunal.
But bear in mind that, if you don’t pay your PCN, your local authority might take you to court. If this happens, your appeal process might prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. So only appeal if you’ve got a good case, and enough evidence to back it up!
Many councils use CCTV to monitor their bus lanes. Find out how bus lane cameras work.
The good news is that, if you drive in a bus lane by mistake, your PCN won’t affect the price of your car or van insurance premium.