Words: John Baron
Council chiefs have given the green light for a £40,000 trial which would see motorcyclists being allowed to use bus lanes on the busy A65.
The trial would include bus lanes from Abbey Road through to the city centre, both inbound and outbound – although Kirkstall’s councillors have expressed their concerns.
The A65 was chosen in consultation with Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), primarily because the it has the widest bus lanes in Leeds, allowing the safest mixing of pedal cycles, hackney carriages, motorcycles and buses.
Highways officers say the pilot scheme will start in spring and run for at least 12 months.
A council report approving the trial this week admitted its impacts were ‘uncertain’ and said:
“The positive benefits of the scheme are hoped from a motorcyclist perspective to be supportive of the safety of motorcyclists by allowing them to use bus lanes on the A65, instead of congested and much narrower general traffic lanes.
“Motorcyclists are classed as vulnerable road users as they suffer a highly disproportionate rate of casualties relative to distance travelled. The scheme was also hoped to improve the sustainability of transport choices on the corridor.”
The report acknowledges that other cities who have trialled similar schemes have in some cases seen an increase in both rates of motorcyclists speeding and collision rates for motorcyclists. In some cases there has been an increase in pedal cyclists injured in collisions with motorcyclists.
Kirkstall councillors’ concerns are based on the perceived risk to cyclists caused by allowing motorcyclists to use the A65 bus lanes.
A council report added:
“The A65 is the only bus lane in Leeds which conforms to the widths specified. Because of this, Kirkstall members question the utility of a trial which would not be able to inform the other bus lanes in Leeds. [They argue] a trial could only inform a position on the A65.
“Therefore they see the risk inherent in a trial which could only have limited use in informing future policy as being unsupportable, with any benefits motorcyclists may accrue, not to be worth discomforting and deterring cyclists, nor risking injury to cyclists.”
The council is set to advertise an Experimental Traffic Order, and at the conclusion of the order a decision would be taken to make it permanent or to terminate the trial. Usage will be monitored at three points on the A65.
Collision statistics will be monitored and analysed by road safety officers.
In Leeds, motorcycling currently has a modal share of 0.3% (2019) but despite this in 2019 motorcyclists accounted for a highly disproportionate 19% of fatal and serious collisions. This is particularly acute for younger motorcyclists, such as 16 year olds who are restricted to riding 50cc mopeds limited to a maximum of 28mph.
Read more of WLD‘s coverage of the A65 bus lane proposals here.