Bus lane penalty and usage

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One of the first things you are told as a learner driver is to use the bus lane only when the notices say you can. For example some bus lanes are only operational during certain times, usually 8-10am and 4-7pm whilst others are in use all day apart from weekends. You can find out if you can use a bus lane whilst approaching it as there should be a sign up telling you the times the bus lane is operational. If no signs are visible, then you should assume it's operational at all times, that is, 24hrs a day.

bus lane road marking

Getting in the bus lanes to avoid the queue

Using a bus lane is sometimes quicker than using the 'normal' driving lane as there may be queues or an accident ahead. Improper use of the bus lane does have consequences though. You must remember the times which are stated for bus lane usage is there for a reason; if the roads are congested during rush hour, it's designed to speed up public transport.

Penalty for improper usage

Bus lanes are usually monitored by bus lane cameras; if a car is seen to contravene the bus lane usage time, then the local authority has the right to sue that person. Normally a penalty charge notice (PCN) is sent to the offender by post. The person who was driving at the time is liable to pay within 28 days. If the penalty notice is paid within half that time (14 days), then the fine is half the charge. If the registered keeper was not driving at the time, then he should state who was driving his car instead and that person would then be liable to pay the penalty.

bus lane camera

The fine for getting into a bus lane when it's operational is currently set at £130.

How to avoid paying the fine for the bus lane penalty

As each council have their own rules about bus lane driving, there are a few things you could do to argue your case:

  • Turning into a road - if there are no clear road markings that indicate it's ok to turn into a road where a bus lane is present
  • Bus lane notice - you could argue that further down the road after a junction, there is no notice indicating bus lane usage
  • Bus lane length - it states clearly that bus lanes should end no less than 30 metres before a left turn; some people have found that bus lanes are ending up to 20 metres if not 15 metres before a turning

When is it permissible to use a bus lane and who can use it

bus lane sign

The following vehicles are allowed to enter a bus lane at any time:

  • Buses (minimum 10 seats)
  • Bicycles, tricycles, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles
  • London Licensed Taxis
  • Dial a ride

Other vehicles are permitted to get on the bus lane when:

  • it is not operational
  • turning left within 20 metres of a junction (the sign will show a dotted line or an arrow to indicate this is allowed)
  • avoiding emergency vehicles or road works

You can find more information on the Transport for London website.

gices Level 6
I'm a Software Developer and the co-founder of Clever Dodo. Born in Mauritius and now living in the UK, I usually blog about fitness, music, spirituality and driving topics to pass on my knowledge.

1 Reply

anonymous_2 Level 1

I took a left turn into a parade of shops before the bus lane ended and subsequently received a PCN. I turned in a maximum of 3-4 meters before the "bus lane ending" sign. Also the bus lane ended just a couple of meters before the left turn into the parade of shops. Also I can't confirm the time as the quality of the photographic evidence they have supplied is not at all clear. Do I have any chance of appealing the PCN? Thanks for any advise.

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