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Driving in bus lanes: who can use them and when?

Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

December 11, 2018

Driving advice 3 min read

Let’s face it – driving can be pretty confusing at the best of times. Throw in some bus lanes in a busy city centre and you’ll be back wishing you were still on the motorway without a care in the world. If you’re confused by bus lanes – you’re not alone!

We asked 775 young drivers on Twitter* if they know about the restrictions of driving in bus lanes. 28% of those young drivers said that they either don’t have a clue about the restrictions or didn’t know there were any restrictions at all! As well as this, a further 46% of the young drivers said they actively avoid driving within bus lanes just to be on the safe side.

In order to help you out when you’re on the roads, we thought we’d address the confusion around bus lanes and let you know of the restrictions surrounding them.

Which lanes are bus lanes?

Bus lanes are clearly marked out by dashed white lines, or a solid white line. A solid white line marks the edge of the bus lane, and the dashes mark the beginning and end of the lane – as well as points where you’re allowed to cross into it (for instance, if you need to turn left). There are blue signs indicating the lanes, and they also have the words ‘bus lane’ marked along the road – a bit of a giveaway!

  • Solid white lines = Do not cross
  • Dashed white lines = Enter and exit

When can’t you use a bus lane?

Bus lanes have blue signs that show their times of operation. This will change depending on the road and time of day, so it’s important not to assume all bus lanes operate in the same way. If you’re driving within the times you see, for example, if the sign says Mon-Fri 7:30-9: 30 am, and you’re driving at 8 am, then you’re not allowed to drive in the bus lanes.

If you come across a bus lane that has no times shown, it means the lane is in operation 24 hours a day and therefore you are never allowed to drive in it.

When can you use a bus lane?

If the bus lane isn’t within its operational hours, you’re allowed to use it as long as it’s safe to do so. This actually helps with traffic as it frees up another lane!

What are the penalties?

If you ignore the rules and drive in a bus lane when you’re not permitted to – there are fines, and it’s not just if you’re caught! Bus lanes are increasingly operating CCTV which will record any unauthorised vehicles driving or parking in the lane.

The fines imposed differ inside and outside the Capital. Inside Greater London, the full fine is £160, or £80 if paid within 14 days. Outside Greater London will land you a full fine of £65, or £30 if paid within 14 days.

Long story short

The only way you’ll be able to tell if you can drive in a bus lane or not, is to check the signs and the operation times. If you’re in doubt, it’s probably best to avoid them and therefore avoid the potential fine.

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Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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