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Victorian bus lane trial goes on and on …

Bus Lane Trial

While riders have been safely using bus lanes in NSW, the ACT and several major cities around the world for several years, Victoria is still in a protracted trial phase and other states lag even further behind.

In February, the Victorian Government announced that riders could use more bus lanes in Melbourne for the next five years, then stalled … until now.

The new trial sites from 24 July are: 

  • emergency lane and bus lane along the Eastern Freeway (citybound side of the freeway) between the Chandler Highway and Hoddle Street 
  • bus lane on Victoria Parade (citybound) between Hoddle Street and Nicholson Street 
  • Hoddle Street and Victoria Parade intersection

The eastbound bus lane on Victoria Parade will be included in the trial and announced soon.

In June, Victoria permanently allowed riders to use made the Hoddle Street bus lane (southbound) between Eastern Freeway and Victoria Parade.

Bus lane conundrum

Cyclists have been allowed to use bus lanes for years in several states without a trial and about 20 years ago motorcyclists were allowed to use NSW and ACT bus lanes.

They are also allowed to use them in cities such as London and Tel Aviv.

Bus lane in use in London lane filtering happiest commuters A British survey has found that riding a motorcycle makes you safer on a bicycle and vice versa, while other surveys show riders are the safest motorists. kerb motorists
Riders can use bus lanes in London

Yet, for some arcane reason, Australia lags behind.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense that cyclists are allowed to use bus lanes when they are much slower than buses, less visible and much more vulnerable than motorcyclists.

The Victorian Motorcycle Council says the six-month trial of motorcycles in Hoddle St that ended up running for six years had proven the safety of bus lane use.

“Indeed, there have been no PTW accidents whatsoever in the past 12 months leading to permanent motorcycle use of bus lanes in Hoddle St,” an official VMC statement says. 

“We note that the NSW use of bus lanes by motorbikes was introduced some 25 years ago without a trial, and has run successfully ever since. 

“These two facts alone should support permanent use of bus (excluding bus-only) Lanes within Victoria.

“We look forward to the new trial being foreshortened from the current five years and to more bus lanes being made available for the convenience of all road users by the reduced congestion benefits thus afforded.”

Safety treatments

As part of the Victorian bus lane trial, the following “safety treatments” will be included:

  • “Watch for motorcycles in bus lane” warning signs;
  • Motorcycle protection rails on guard rail;
  • Road surface repairs to the bus lanes; and
  • Signage to allow motorcyclists to use the bus hook turn from Hoddle Street on to Victoria Parade.

VicRoads will monitor and evaluate the trial sites over the next five years.

For more information refer to the VicRoads Use of Bus Lanes by Other Modes Policy.

Bus lane rules around the country

bus lanes
(Image from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers)

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have compiled this helpful guide to the use of bus lanes around the country:

  • New South Wales: motorcycles, bicycles, taxis, public hire cars, emergency services vehicles and, of course, buses are permitted in bus lanes, unless they are marked as ‘bus only’;
  • Queensland: bus lanes are for the use of buses, bicycles, taxis, limousines and emergency vehicles;
  • South Australia: buses and emergency vehicles can use bus lanes, while bicycles and taxis are also allowed into bus lanes during the times marked on the signs;
  • Tasmania: bus lanes are reserved for buses and service vehicles, as well as taxi drivers who are picking up and dropping off passengers. Other vehicles can only use the bus lanes if signs permit;
  • Victoria: bus lanes are for buses, emergency vehicles and taxi drop-off/pick-up only, unless otherwise marked. See the details above for bus lane trials;
  • Western Australia: bus lanes and busways are open only to buses and emergency vehicles unless otherwise marked. A trial was  undertaken to allow motorbikes and taxis into the bus lanes on two major Perth roads, but no further information has been released about its success or next steps.