Use of Bus Lanes by Other Modes policy Q&As

This page contains questions and answers about the Use of Bus Lanes by Other Modes policy.

Select any of the questions below for more information.

Why do we need a Use of Bus Lanes by Other Modes policy?

With Melbourne’s expected growth we need an integrated approach to the way we manage the various modes of transport and make better use of the road space. A key principle in determining which other modes can travel in bus lanes is that it should continue to support reliable bus travel times and efficient bus movements as well as improve safety and efficiency.

There is a need to provide guidance to VicRoads officers to ensure consistency in decision making relating to which modes, other than buses, could use a bus lane without impacting bus operations and safety. 

What does the Use of Bus Lanes by Other Modes policy say?

The policy reinforces the importance of supporting efficient and reliable performance for buses. It permits bicycles and coaches to travel in all bus lanes, unless signed otherwise. The policy also permits taxis and private hire vehicles (VHAs) to continue using bus lanes in which they are currently permitted.

Can any other modes travel in bus lanes?

The policy permits bicycles and coaches to travel in all bus lanes, unless signed otherwise. It also permits taxis and private hire vehicles (VHAs) to continue using bus lanes in which they are currently permitted.

The policy does not permit any other modes to access bus lanes unless permitted under the road rules. Road Rule 158(1)(a) states that ‘The driver of a vehicle may drive for up to the permitted distance (100m) in a …bus lane… if it is necessary for the driver to drive in the lane to enter or leave the roads.’

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Why is it safe for bicycles to use bus lanes and not safe for motorcycles?

The safest place for cyclists is in separate cycle facilities. VicRoads will continue to improve the bicycle network and provide alternative bicycle routes to bus routes. However, where a cyclist requires access along a road containing a bus lane, it is safest for the cyclist to use the bus lane rather than the next traffic lane out from the kerb where they would be in between buses and general traffic.

The safety issue with motorcycles and bus lanes is due to the small size of motorcycles and their speed difference with vehicles in other lanes. Vehicles turning into and out of side roads are often unable to see small motorcycles approaching intersections at speed. This is not the case with bicycles which are travelling much slower. This has been shown to result in an increase in the number and severity of crashes involving motorcycles when they are permitted to use bus lanes.

We have allowed motorcycles to travel in a few carefully selected bus lanes and have implemented countermeasures to address the key motorcycle safety risks along these routes. These countermeasures will be continually monitored and evaluated over the next few years to determine their effectiveness. For further information on the motorcycles in bus lane trial, go to our motorcycle in bus lane trial page.

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Is it safe for cyclists to ride in bus lanes?

The safest place for cyclists is in separate cycle facilities.

However, where a cyclist requires access along a road containing a bus lane, it is safest for the cyclist to use the bus lane rather than the traffic lane out from the kerb where they would be in between buses and general traffic.

Bicycles have operated safely in several bus lanes across Melbourne for many years. On roads where there are no bus lanes, cyclists operate alongside all traffic, including buses.

VicRoads will continue to develop the bicycle network and provide alternative bicycle routes to bus routes.

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What evidence is there to support allowing bicycles in bus lanes?

VicRoads engaged Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in 2012 to undertake an evidence-based assessment of the relevant safety risks of bicycles travelling in the bus lane versus the next adjacent general traffic lane to the bus lane.

The study included a literature review and expert panel discussions to identify factors contributing to cyclist safety and a mathematical model to calculate relative risks.

Key factors found to influence a cyclist’s relative safety include car and bus volumes, lane width, speed and vehicle mass.

Results showed cyclists were safer riding in the bus lane as opposed to the next lane out from the bus lane.

MUARC’s Safety Risk Assessment of Bicycles in Dedicated Bus Lanes report concluded that “it is considered safer for the cyclist to ride in the bus lane than in the adjacent traffic lane. The predominant reason is that the cyclist is less exposed to motor vehicle traffic.  While the number of conflict points for the cyclist remains similar while cycling in the bus lane, the frequency of interactions and thus the potential for conflict is greatly minimised.”

Will this affect bus travel times?

VicRoads undertook computer modelling and video analysis of existing bus lanes to investigate the impact of permitting bicycles to access bus lanes. This analysis indicates that bicycles will rarely delay buses. 

Operators are encouraged to provide feedback to VicRoads on any operational or safety issues they experience involving other modes, which will be reviewed.

Are there any safety issues with buses overtaking cyclists in the bus lane?

Buses stop frequently to pick up and drop off passengers, so it is not often that buses need to overtake cyclists in the bus lane. However, in instances where buses do need to overtake cyclists in bus lanes, it is expected that these professional bus drivers do so carefully, as is required of any vehicle overtaking a cyclist. 

Why can coaches use bus lanes?

Coaches are considered to deliver similar benefits to public buses and school buses currently permitted to use bus lanes, as they deliver efficient mass transport across the network. Furthermore, permitting coaches to use bus a lane does not introduce any operational or safety issues.

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Does VicRoads plan to improve bus priority across Melbourne?

VicRoads is continually looking for opportunities to improve bus priority. Improvements to bus priority may include extending bus lane operating hours, improving signal priority for buses and introducing new bus lanes.

What do other Australian States and Territories do?

Bus lanes are operated differently in States and Territories Australia. The number of bus lanes, technology available, bus lane design, operational and safety issues across the respective states and territories varies.

Western Australia is currently trialing motorcycles in two bus lanes in Perth and also permits taxis where signed.

The ACT and NSW permit motorcycles, taxis and hire cars to use bus lanes. NSW also permits emergency vehicles, special purpose vehicles and vehicles operated under the direction of Roads and Maritime Services to access bus lanes. NSW permits the greatest number of modes to access their bus lanes and can do so due to its camera-based enforcement system.

Why can't some modes use bus lanes in Victoria when they are permitted in other States? 

Victoria has approximately 120 bus lanes with an estimated total length of approximately 52 km. The vast majority (approximately 76%) of the bus lanes in Victoria have operational and/or safety concerns associated with allowing smaller car-like vehicles to use them. 

NSW also does not permit other vehicles to use lanes which use ‘queue jump’ lanes and special B-light technology due to operational and safety issues, however this only applies to 30% of their bus lanes (which are called ‘bus only lanes’ or ‘T-Ways’). 

Will bicycles and coaches be permitted to use all bus lanes?

Unless otherwise signed, bicycles and coaches will be able to use all bus lanes.

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