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„Take the Proper Lane” Campaign

Bus lanes in Europe

Bus lanes in Europe

Public Transport Authority (ZTM) cooperates as a EMTA association member with 29 European partner cities and with Montreal in Canada. It benefits from this cooperation using their experience and information that help in implementing worldwide transport policies.

In total, there are 32 kilometers of lanes separated for public transport in Warsaw. More bus lanes are scheduled for the current year. As a result, the capital city will advance in European cities ranking concerning privileges for public transport.

From Prague to London

Comparing other Central European capitals, Warsaw manages quite well. In Prague, only 20.5 km of lanes have been opened for the use of public transport (including over 6 kilometers for trams). The same number of bus lanes have been opened in Vilnius. However, comparing to Budapest, Warsaw is far behind. In Budapest, the network of lanes for public transport has over 60 kilometers.

Amsterdam can be proud of the 35 km network. Buses in Brussels use 26 kilometers of special lanes, from which 10 kilometers are intended for both buses and trams. The total length of the lanes for trams is 71 km.

There are about 60 km of bus lanes in Turin. Separate lanes for public transport are a common solution in Spanish cities that are associated with EMTA – there are 113.5 km in Barcelona and 72 km in Valencia.

A little over 80 km express lanes have been created in Lyon. However, the real leaders are London and Paris. In urban complexes of these cities, there are about 300 km of bus lanes.

In Berlin, buses may use over 230 special lanes that have 101.5 length in total, and the network is constantly being developed. Over 40 km of the lanes have been created for the last 15 years. Further development is scheduled.

In Montreal, a non-European city associated with EMTA, public transport uses 85 km of separate lanes.

Bus lanes have been in use for 50 years

Because the policy that facilitates public transport has been launched in each city in divers periods, at present there are disproportions in the length of bus lanes. The first bus lanes in Paris, London, Turin, Brussels and Barcelona were started in the 60’s. In Valencia, Amsterdam and Montreal they were created in the 80’s. The first bus lane in Prague was opened in 1995 and in Vilnius in 2002. The beginnings of the bus lanes in Berlin date back to 1970, however, the buses could already use separate tram lanes then.

In Warsaw, first bus lanes were created in 1993. This short, few hundred kilometers long lanes were located on ul. Marszałkowska and plac Bankowy. In 1998, public transport lanes were created on aleja Sobieskiego. In 2001, separate lanes were created on ul. Grójecka between ul. Wawelska and pl. Zawiszy, as well as on Aleje Jerozolimskie – on most Poniatowskiego and from ul. Żelazna to pl. Zawiszy. The following year, another five lanes for public transport were opened: two passages on Łazienkowska Route, and lanes on ul. Kasprzaka between ul. Brylowska and Towarowa, on Aleja Niepodległości: from ul. Batorego to Łazienkowska Route and another on Aleja Solidarności between ul. Szwedzka and Targowa. Since 2005, 3.5 km long lane on ul.Modlińska has been in use. In 2007, on Trasa W-Z (W-Z Route) a tram lane was created. Since September 1, 2009, it has been changed to the first tram-and-bus lane, abbreviated to PAT. During renovation works of W-Z Route, a lane for trams has been created on ul. Młynarska. Moreover, on Aleja Solidarności a permanent bus lane from ul. Okopowa Street to Aleja Jana Pawła II has been generated and the lane along ul. Radzymińska and Aleja Solidarności has been lengthen (a passage from ul. Jórskiego to Szwedzka has been assigned for the permanent use of buses).

In 2009, the longest bus lane has been opened on Łazienkowska Route. Its total length in both directions is 11 km and 290 m. Other lanes, for example both tram-and-bus lanes on W-Z Route have 4.8 km, and the shortest bus lanes in Warsaw – on pl. Bankowy and Aleje Jerozolimskie (from ul. Żelazna Street to pl. Zawiszy) have no more than 300 m. The latter will be lengthen significantly this year. In the capital, there are 19 bus lanes with total length of 30km and 333 m (excluding tram lane on ul. Młynarska).



In the European cities that are in EMTA, similarly to Warsaw, the policy of bus lanes creation has a negative reception among private transport users.

There is a very strong “car” lobby in Brussels. There were also protests against bus lanes in Prague. In Vilnius, when a new lane is opened, city authorities receive numerous complaints. However, they have no influence on the firm policy of public transport facilitation. Only one bus lane has been closed down so far because it hasn’t met assumed purpose. In London, the bus lane operating hours are disputable. Most of the bus lanes operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the lanes located on the most congested streets operate 24h a day.

In Amsterdam, in order to minimize social discontent, bus lanes are incorporated already in the designs of new housing estates.

In Berlin, mainly sales agents were dissatisfied with the bus lanes, because creating lanes involved elimination of parking places of the agents’ prospective clients.

The citizens of Montreal, Lyon, and Turin have the most positive attitudes towards the public transport facilitations. According to the research conducted in Turin, 51 percent of private car drivers is willing to use public transport if there are more bus lanes. When new bus lanes have been opened, a number of public transport users increased by 30 percent in Birmingham borough. One of the lanes in Birmingham has been closed down when a small number of citizens demanded such action. The same situation took place in Vilnius.

Bus lanes not only for buses

In all the cities mentioned above, taxis are allowed to use bus lanes under some conditions: in Prague – only if the taxis carry passengers, and in Brussels – when a special signal of permission is on. In Turin, bus lanes are also opened for postal vehicles and automobiles carrying larger number of passengers. The authorities of Seville want to promote car pooling, but only on the routes outside the city center. In Barcelona, motorcycles are accepted on the public transport lanes. Motorcycles in London have trial access to some of the bus lanes. In the capital of Great Britain as well as in Birmingham, Paris and Valencia, cyclists can use bus lanes. In Berlin, school buses or the buses for the disabled are free to use bus lanes. Other vehicles driven by the disabled, taxis, cyclists and private buses may use public transport lanes provided that they have additional markings. Cyclists are willing to use bus lanes, however, they may use some of the lanes only off-peak. Trucks may use bus lanes from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. and only for loading or unloading. There are parking places along the edge of a bus lane if possible.

Heavy fines

Drivers who break the prohibition for vehicles of driving bus lanes risk heavy fines. In Brussels the fine is 50 Euros, in Turin – 74 Euros, in Prague 80 Euros (after conversion), in Amsterdam – 90 Euros, in Lyon – 135 Euros, and in London - up to 120 Pounds. In Paris, the motorcyclists who are banned to use bus lanes risk particularly heavy fines. The methods of law enforcement are also different. In Barcelona, there is a special car with a camera to record offenders, in Vilnius photo radars are used, and in Turin, bus drivers take photos of the offenders. Next, the photo is sent to police who prosecute the abuser. However, this is a temporary solution.

In Berlin, the bus lanes with parking places along them and those frequently used by delivery vans are under special supervision. Police are responsible for traffic supervision, but also municipal police have the right to control improper parking. Moreover, the public transport employees are trained by police, and may report any problems on bus lanes, bus stops or tram lanes. On the basis of such reports, a vehicle that hinders fluent movement may be towed away. In 2008, the Berlin Police towed almost 6 thousand cars off the bus lanes, and further 2 thousand off the bus stops. Furthermore, 14 thousand fines have been imposed for prohibited stopping or parking on public transport lanes.

Partners of "Take the Proper Lane" Campaign: AMS, Stowarzyszenie Integracji Stołecznej Komunikacji SISKOM (Association For Warsaw Transport Integration), Miejskie Zakłady Autobusowe.

Media sponsorship: Gazeta Stołeczna.

published 26 March 2010
latest update 13 March 2012

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