Enforcement of bus lanes and bus-only streets
This is a general guide to how bus lanes are enforced, including CCTV camera locations, who can use bus lanes, and under what circumstances you can use one if not usually permitted.
CCTV camera locations
Bus lanes are enforced by:
- fixed CCTV cameras and a mobile CCTV camera vehicle recording unauthorised vehicles illegally driving in bus lanes
- the PSNI through police officers on the ground (at present the PSNI alone enforce motorway bus lanes)
- traffic attendants - against vehicles illegally-parked in bus lanes
Fixed enforcement cameras operate at the following locations in Belfast:
- Donegall Square South
- Donegall Square East
- Great Victoria Street
- East Bridge Street
- College Square East
- *Castle Street (buses and cycle in both directions between Fountain Street and Donegall Place)
*Due to a change in traffic arrangements in the area to allow for building development works, the CCTV enforcement cameras in Castle Street have been switched off until further notice.
If the CCTV camera detects a vehicle illegally driving in a bus lane, it will automatically record a minimum eight-second long video of the vehicle for the purposes of evidence.
Note that there is no camera flash to show that the camera has been activated when it detects a vehicle that is not permitted to drive in the bus lane.
Mobile CCTV camera
The mobile CCTV vehicle enforces bus lanes during their operational hours. The CCTV operator manually records a video of any vehicle that is not permitted to drive in the bus lane.
CCTV video review
All video clips recorded by the enforcement CCTV cameras are reviewed by NSL, who operate the enforcement system on behalf of the Department for Infrastructure.
If a contravention of the bus lane is confirmed by the reviewer then a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) will be issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle.
Using the bus lanes
There is specific legislation in place for each bus lane which determines when the bus lane is in operation and which vehicles are permitted to use it. Normally the bus lanes can be used by:
- buses which can carry more than eight passengers (the bus must therefore have 10 seats or more, including the driver - this includes coaches/ minibuses)
- motorcycles (including with a sidecar, provided it has less than four wheels and the unladen weight does not exceed 410kg)
A bus, cycle, motorcycle or permitted taxi may only wait in a bus lane long enough to allow a person to get in or out of the vehicle. The maximum period of waiting is two minutes.
The days and times the bus lanes are operational are clearly displayed on the signs at the start of each bus lane and at regular intervals along the bus lane. It is important to check bus lane signs to confirm the hours of operation and if your vehicle is permitted to use it.
Note that bus lanes are operational on all bank holidays in Northern Ireland.
When you may enter a bus lane
Vehicles may enter a bus lane to avoid an accident, with the direction or permission of a police officer in uniform, or to allow the vehicle to be used:
- in an emergency by a medical practitioner, or for police, military, fire and rescue or ambulance purposes
- in the services of the Department for Infrastructure in pursuance of statutory powers or duties
- for access to or from premises next to or accessible only from the bus lane
- for access to or from a taxi stand, lay-by, loading bay, disabled bay, coach bay or pay and display parking bay next to or accessible only from the bus lane
- for the removal of any obstruction to traffic
Access to or from a bus lane
Unless your vehicle is permitted to use a bus lane, during its operational hours you can’t enter, drive in, or wait in a bus lane:
- to deliver or collect goods from premises next to the bus lane
- if you are a Blue Badge holder
- if you are a Class A or Class C taxi
- to set down or pick up passengers
- to queue in a bus lane to turn left into a side road because the traffic is backed up from the junction - you must wait in the outside lane until the turning area is clear
- to straddle the bus lane with the passenger wheels of your vehicle wholly in the bus lane
An exception to this is on arterial routes where the bus lanes operate from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm, where the sign below is shown, you’re allowed to stop in the bus lane to load or unload goods between the hours shown on the sign.
Also, a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge is allowed to wait for up to 10 minutes to allow a person with a disability to get into or out of the vehicle.
Crossing a bus lane
You can cross a bus lane:
- to turn left into a side road next to a bus lane - however, you must turn as close as possible to the junction (it is considered reasonable that the turn should be made within one vehicle length of the junction)
- to turn right across a bus lane to enter a side street - however, you must make the turn as close as possible to the junction (it is considered reasonable that the turn should be made within one vehicle length)
- to access a lay-by, for example disabled bay, loading bay or parking bay alongside a bus lane
- to access a private entrance (provided it is a vehicular access and the vehicle does not wait in the bus lane) - you must make the turn as close as possible to the access point (it is considered reasonable that the turn should be made within one vehicle length)
- if a driver chooses to undertake a vehicle in front that is waiting to turn right they should make sure that they do so safely and immediately return their vehicle to the running lane after completing the manoeuvre
The enforcement of infringements of the bus lane regulations is carried out in a pragmatic and sensible way using video clip evidence. Each case will be treated on its merits by the Department for Infrastructure and it will adopt a common sense approach when reviewing the video clips.