Using bus lanes as a cycling facility is not necessarily preferred by cyclists, yet in New Zealand bus lanes still make up some of the cycling network. For more guidance about when this may be appropriate, see:

Cycling Network Guidance: Bus lanes 

When bus lanes will be used by people on bikes it is important to carefully consider design around bus stops to support a Safe System. As noted in Cycling Network Guidance, bus lanes that cyclists will use should be either wide or narrow. This is particularly relevant when alternative provision for cycling (such as for example, separated cycleways) has not been provided along the corridor.

  • Wide (4.2m or over but under 5m) lanes are strongly preferred. All bus lanes should be wide when the bus lane is only a part-time bus lane and accommodates other uses such as parking at off-peak times.
  • Narrow (3.2m) bus lanes can be used but are less preferable. They should only be considered for full-time bus lanes, only in slow speed environments in urban areas and are typically more appropriate for ‘bus only’ use (ie cyclists are provided for elsewhere). Ideally, narrow lanes are typically used only for segments of bus routes without bus stops if cyclist use is expected. Narrow bus lanes do not work well where speed differentials are high (for example, on hill climbs) and are better suited for short rather than long stretches of the network. Drivers may also find them uncomfortably narrow given the width of modern buses.

Unless purpose built cycling facilities are provided on the corridor, avoid in-between widths as they are associated with bus–bike passing conflicts.

Integrating bus stops and cycling movements is more straightforward with wide bus lanes than narrow bus lanes.

In the context of wide bus lanes, bus stop design is relatively straightforward as shown in the figure below.

  • Bus stops are typically in-lane.
  • Space exists for cyclists to pass the bus to the right of the bus and without needing to interact with other traffic lanes (for example, an adjoining general traffic lane).

In circumstances with increased risk of conflicts such as where multiple buses stop at once or where the adjacent lane is oncoming traffic we recommend a wider design at the stop, for example 4.8m.

A residual risk exists as bus drivers pull out, so local driver training should highlight safe driving around cycles and conflict areas may be highlighted with markings like green paint or other markings.

Wide bus lane (4.2m - 5.0m) at kerbside bus stop. View larger image [PNG, 53 KB]

Where bus lanes are narrow, bus stop integration needs to carefully consider how to support a Safe System. Unless bus dwell times are very short, many cyclists will likely look for a way to pass stopped buses (see the figure below). Because bicycles are much smaller than larger vehicles people on bikes may try to ‘squeeze past’ in some way. This issue is likely to be exacerbated where bus dwell times are long or on the approach to a signalised intersection where cyclists may be trying to ‘catch the green’.

Cycling conflict at a bus stop with narrow bus lanes. View larger image [PNG, 46 KB]

For low frequency or low use stops, one may consider making no provision for cyclists to pass, expecting them to wait behind the stopped bus. However, we do not generally recommend this approach, especially as bus stops or cycling routes become busier. This is because of the risk that cyclists will go in an adjacent or opposing traffic lane or onto the footpath when a passing movement has not been designed for.

The four main options for bus stop design in narrow bus lanes have different levels of preferability.

  • Indent the bus stop to accommodate cyclists passing (more safely) to the right of the bus (Preferable, first figure below.)
  • Make the bus lane wider at the bus stop to accommodate cyclists passing (more safely) to the right of the bus (for example, by reducing the median or adjacent lane widths) (Preferable, but may be harder to implement, second figure below.)
  • Build an island bus stop (also known as a bus stop bypass) where cyclists pass bus stops on the footpath side. (These are often used in the context of separated cycleways.) This option introduces some conflict between boarding and alighting passengers where pedestrians and bus passengers do not have the surrounding visual context of a cycleway. Factor pedestrian and cyclist numbers into consideration of this design as well as topography. (More appropriate for primary cycling routes than secondary or tertiary and a longer cycleway way lead in/out might help mitigate visual context issues.)
  • Expect people on bikes to merge into an adjacent traffic lane (if available) to pass buses. This introduces a potentially unexpected conflict for drivers. (Less preferable, more applicable for stops with low bus frequency and low dwell times where number of conflicts is likely to be low.)

Options for creating ‘extra width’ for a wider bus lane at bus stop locations include:

  • moving bus shelters slightly upstream or downstream
  • narrowing the width of medians, general traffic lanes or, less preferably, footpaths or bus shelters.
  • to support a Safe System, speeds in these environments should be slow. Also, be mindful that at busier bus stops where two or three buses may be regularly lining up, people on bikes may not be able to see the indicators of the first or second bus in the queue when buses are ready to depart from the kerb so extra buffer space should be provided.

Narrow bus lane (width = 3.2m) with partially indented bus stop to accommodate cyclist passing. View larger image [PNG, 55 KB]

Narrow bus lane (width = 3.2m) with reduced median to accommodate cyclist passing. View larger image [PNG, 47 KB]

Use of buffered advance stop boxes

For bus stops near intersections, consider use of a buffered advance stop box for people on bikes rather than a standard advanced stop box design. A buffered advanced stop box can reduce encroachment by buses by 83% over a standard design thus reducing bus – bike conflicts. It can also provide a bit more space, increase comfort levels and help time acceleration between modes more harmoniously. Refer to:

Buffered advance stop box: design guidance note

Further guidance and references

For more information, see: