Kirkstall Road: Bus lanes WILL be used by motorbikes in trial

A65 Kirkstall Road. Photo: Google

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.

What do you think? Have your say in our poll below…


  1. It’s about time LCC allowed motorcycles to use bus lanes, if only for a trial.
    I ride regularly in Newcastle where this scheme has been in operation for many years.
    All LCC need to do is look how well it works in Newcastle.

  2. I agree with Sean. I note that only the potential negatives have been referenced in this article without any reference to the positives of similar schemes nationally. I would have thought a cyclist is in more danger from a taxi or bus, plus proper motorcyclists (rather than those anti social types typically referred to in the press as ‘bikers’ whenever anybody misuseds a powered two wheeler) are trained and well experienced in watching for hazards on the road.

  3. I’m one of the people who worked on getting this through. The thing about bus lane width is to allow buses to overtake pedal cycles and doesn’t really apply to motorbikes. Other areas that have allowed motorbikes to use bus lanes have actually seen a fall in the number of cyclist casualties. Objections from Kirkstall councillors seemed to be not wanting the trial to go ahead because they might not like its findings.

    One question I still have is why we have these 24 hour bus lanes when we don’t have a 24 hour bus service.

  4. As much as I welcome allowing motorcycles to use them whilst they exist I’d prefer to see bus lanes scrapped altogether. Liverpool got rid of theirs and saw congestion reduced, pollution levels drop, an increase in city trade, and bus punctuality improve. Reducing road capacity by half so that one half empty 12 tonne diesel belching bus can pass through one section slightly quicker only to get stuck with congestion caused by the bus lanes further along is lunacy

  5. I often find myself in agreement with the Kirkstall councillors and they really do fight for local residents on a wide number of issues. As anyone local knows, Kirkstall is a nightmare when it comes to traffic congestion and the question surrounding the A65 is always hotly debated and a difficult one.
    I have to say I’ve read – for my sins – every word of the accompanying council report which
    WLD quotes and on this occasion I can’t really agree with the Kirkstall councillors. I see the Hyde Park and Woodhouse councillors are in agreement and I think a trial is the right may to go. I’m a cyclist and I’m more concerned about poor bus drivers knocking us down than a small number of motorbikers occupying the same space.

    Thanks, as ever, to West Leeds Dispatch for allowing us to debate this issue.

  6. Reading Borough Council was one of the earliest adopters of motorbikes in bus lane, some 20 years ago….do catch up. It has and continues to be a boon to the town. Accidents rates have been very, very, low and almost entirely due to rogue car drivers turning left or drivijng in the bus lane.
    The stats indicate that the increased use of the bus lanes has raised car driver awareness and increased safety for cylists.

  7. If a cyclist and a motorcyclist can’t use the same lane in a busy city safely, then at least one shouldn’t be on the road in the first place! I’m sure a cancer-inducing (diesel) 15 Ton bus almost 3 metres wide with poor manoeuvrability is a far higher concern to the cyclists than a motorbike.

  8. It’s about time.

    If a cyclist and a motorcyclist can’t share the same lane in a busy city safely, then at least one shouldn’t be on the road in the first place! I’m sure a cancer-inducing (diesel) 15 Ton bus almost 3 metres wide with poor manoeuvrability is a far higher concern to the cyclists than a motorbike.


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