Should cyclists ride in bus lanes?

Update: This Wellington City Council document provides information about whether cyclists are allowed to use the bus lanes or not.

Essentially, cyclists are allowed to use the BUS LANE denoted lanes (example in picture), but not the BUS ONLY lanes.

A cyclist in this position requires the bus to switch in to the other lane to over take. If the other lane is full of cars, the bus has to slow down and drive slowly behind the cyclist.
A cyclist in this position requires the bus to switch in to the other lane to over take. If the other lane is full of cars, the bus has to slow down and drive slowly behind the cyclist.

I just had an interesting exchange.
I was on the bus home at night time, and ahead of the bus was a slow moving cyclist, that was holding the bus up. The bus driver and a passenger were having a conversation about how they didn’t appreciate it. When it came to my stop, I noticed the cyclist was locking up his bike, and so having told the bus driver and passenger that I would, I went and informed him that the bus driver and passenger were critical of his cycling.

This turned into a ten minute conversation about cyclists riding in bus lanes.

The cyclist’s argument was the bus lane is the safest place to cycle, much safe than cycling in the car lane. This argument has merit – bus drivers are professionals, and are likely to be much more attentive, more experienced, and less likely to pull a dangerous manoeuvre to riskily over take the cyclist. There are also less buses in the bus lane than there are cars in the car lane.

I pointed out that cyclists can safely cycle in the centre of car lane (‘riding primary position’), where unless the car driver is a psychopath, car drivers, annoyed as they may be, simply have to slow down and ride behind them.

My argument is that cyclists riding in the bus lane (and holding up the buses) defeats the purpose of bus lanes, which is to give the bus a priority lane where they can move faster than the cars.

Now to be fair to the cyclist in this story – I’m not sure there was an alternative place for him to ride in this particular story. It was night time which meant that cars are usually parked in the bus lane – meaning that the bus needs to be using the main car lane anyway.

There’s an apparent difference in values in my reasoning – I think that it’s acceptable to slow cars down, but not buses. A cyclist could ride in a position that doesn’t slow either down – eg on the sides of the lanes and in door zones, and let cars squeeze past, but in my opinion this is unreasonably risky.

Cyclists have a right to ride on the road, so if no other option presents itself for the cyclist to share the road in a safe manner, then all vehicles have to suck it up, and treat them like any other slow moving vehicle like a tractor.

However, when it comes to choosing between slowing a bus and slowing the car lane, I would argue that the safety consideration is only marginal. Unless they encounter a psychopathic car driver, riding primary position isn’t actually that much more dangerous that riding in front of a bus.

I suspect that the reason more cyclists don’t do this, is firstly they’re more aware of the antagonism of car driver (who are more likely to throw abuse, as opposed to a bus driver and its passengers who will quietly seethe), and that they’re not aware that it can be done.

Cyclists should taking steps to make the roads more friendly for buses. A public transport friendly city is also a cycle friendly city.

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