A65 Kirkstall Road bus lane access for motorcyclists 'really needs to be trialled' hears committee as councillors criticised

Leeds councillors trying to block a trial that would allow motorcyclists to ride in a bus lane have been criticised for engaging in unhelpful nimbyism by members of an influential committee.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 4:07 pm

Several members of Leeds City Council's Infrastructure Scrutiny Committee this week urged decision-makers to press ahead with plans for the trial on the A65 Kirkstall Road, saying the suggestion that cyclists would be put at greater risk if motorbikes were also allowed into bus lanes "just doesn't fly".

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Proposals for a trial were originally brought forward in September 2019,with the A65 between Abbey Road in Kirkstall and the city centre then being identified as a potential site.

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The council has been considering a trial on part of the A65 Kirkstall Road that would allow motorcyclists to use bus lanes. Picture: Google

But having developed proposals for a scheme, council officers said they did not get the support of Kirkstall ward councillors due to their concerns about the safety of cyclists.

Speaking at the scrutiny meeting, panel chairperson Coun Paul Truswell (Lab) said: “In principle, the board was sympathetic to the idea of supporting motorcycling as a much more environmentally friendly form of transport. However, as we found, it’s been difficult to translate that in-principle support into practice.

“The other great obstacle, it’s clear that no one bus lane is representative, so if we have a trial, the results are only applicable to that bus lane.”

But other members of the panel voiced their frustrations the lack of progress seen in the last two years.

Coun Jonathan Taylor (Con) said: “We are looking to expand bus lanes and bus provisions and this trial would give us the opportunity. It may work or it may be deemed unsuitable, but we should encourage the administration to go along with it.

“This guidance suggesting cyclists will be under more inherent risk from a motorcycle than a bus or a taxi using the bus lane just doesn’t fly with me.

“Kirkstall ward members are saying the trial should take place elsewhere in Leeds. This sort of nimbyism that we are coming to expect from certain quarters is really not helpful.

“The amount of initiatives imposed on the rest of us despite our protests, also need to be taken into consideration.”

But Coun Neil Buckley (Con) added: “At this rate, it will be 2040 before we make a decision. There aren’t any potential delays to buses – a motorcycle zipping down a bus lane cannot possibly hinder a bus – it’s just not going to happen.

“On the same page, it mentions a city where residents do not need to own a car – this fits in perfectly with that strategy.

“The only objections, it seems to me, are coming from the local councillors. It is a trial. We would not expect them to exercise a veto.

“We really need to get this thing trialled. It’s only a trial, after all.”

Coun Mohammed Shahzad (Lab) said: “Wherever we go in Leeds, we will get concerns as ward members, but we would never be able to take this trial on, because everyone will say ‘not in my ward because it didn’t happen in Kirkstall’.

“It’s one of those things we will have to be firm on and say ‘we have agreed to trial this’ – we can’t keep on delaying this.”

Guidance from Leeds City Council officers stated that, since the board last discussed the issue, “significant changes” were made to national guidance on cycling, warning that allowing motorcyclists into bus lanes used by cyclists “is likely to be a deterrent to cycling and increase conflict”.

The council’s portfolio holder for transport, Coun Helen Hayden (Lab), said: “I am very cognizant of the ward members and their residents, but it is a citywide issue.

“When I looked at what the cyclists said, they would like a segregated cycle lane. That to me makes a lot of sense.

“It would be very confusing if you could use one bus lane and not another. But in terms of having a trial, I am in favour of that if we can find a suitable site.”

Members of the panel voted for a working group to look further into the issue.

The trial has been the subject of campaigning by the Leeds and Bradford Motorcycle Action Group, which has voiced concern that motorcyclists are being ignored when it comes to transport policy.

Prior to the scrutiny meeting, MAG representative Richard Manton said: “We strongly believe that the council are trying to swerve this issue as they plough ahead with their cycling and public transport schemes whilst making things more dangerous for another section of Vulnerable Road Users (motorcyclists) by compressing road space throughout the city.

“We’ve contacted many councillors and a few MPs and had positive support.”