Can I be fined for driving in a bus lane?

ONE driving lesson you may have forgotten is what to do when faced with a bus lane.

There are hundreds of these lanes across the country so it is helpful to know the rules about using them.

What is a bus lane?

Bus lanes are marked areas of the public highway that can only be used by buses. 

They are there to ensure that buses can make their way through traffic, and that public transport can continue to operate through rush hour. 

Bus lanes are normally marked on the road and have accompanying signs.

This includes bus-only streets – roads that are effectively one giant bus lane. 

Some are 24-hour bus lanes, which means cars can’t ever use them. 

Transport for London has been trialling 24 hour bus lanes since September 2020, this trial will end in March 2022.

The trial will be reviewed before any changes are made to bus lanes.

Others are only bus lanes during certain times of the day, such as during morning and evening peak times – these are called the hours of operation.

Driving in these lanes during the hours of operation is not allowed unless you are in a bus or another authorised vehicle. 

Motorists contravening these rules could be fined.

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Is driving in a bus lane a criminal offence?

Unlike parking violations, which are decriminalised, driving in a bus lane can be dealt with by either the local authority or by the police. 

Normally, the local authority – the council – will detect a bus lane contravention and issue a penalty notice.

You will pay this civil “fine” to the local authority, or appeal against it using the local authority’s website.

However, the police can issue a fixed penalty notice for the same offence. 

This is a non-endorsable fixed penalty, or FPN, which is part of the criminal justice system.

It’s a crime of similar severity to driving with the wrong lights on. 

You will not get points on your licence, even if you receive a bus lane FPN from the police.

Even the shortest bus lanes can result in fines as 7,800 drivers found when they were charged for using the 39-foot lane between April 2019 and December 2021.

Who can use bus lanes?

Unsurprisingly, you can use a bus lane if you are driving a bus the minimum requirement for a bus is that it must have ten seats, including the driver.

If the bus lane includes the word “local” then you must be driving a bus on an official local route – which you’d probably know about, if that’s what you were doing. 

Other vehicles that can normally use bus lanes include cabs – black taxis – and bicycles. 

Private hire taxis, Ubers and minicabs cannot normally use bus lanes during their hours of operation. 

Motorcycles and scooters can often use bus lanes, though sometimes this is restricted to certain times of the day. 

You can enter a bus lane at any time and in any vehicle if directed to do so by a police officer.

There have been calls for other vehicles to be allowed to use bus lanes.

What is the fine for driving in a bus lane?

A typical penalty for driving in a bus lane when you shouldn’t is around £60, or £160 in London. 

You can get a penalty charge for driving in a 24-hour bus lane in the wrong vehicle, or for entering a bus lane at the wrong time.

These penalties are normally halved if paid within two weeks.

You will not get any penalty points on your licence for driving in a bus lane. 

There is a right to appeal against the fine but if you do not pay or appeal the council will raise the price by 50%.

If you still do not pay you can be registered with the court without a hearing and the council can collect the debt with sheriff officers.

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