Monthly Archives: March 2019

How green is my motorcycle?

Motorcycles are more environmentally-friendly than cars, right? They take less raw materials to produce, burn less fuel, do less damage to the road surface and don’t get stuck in traffic pumping out fumes. End of argument, or so you might think.

The problem is that, in the bid to improve air quality in our polluted cities and towns, private motorised transport is being discouraged, and that includes motorbikes and scooters along with cars. Instead, the authorities want us to switch to public transport. We no longer need to argue that motorcycles are ‘cleaner’ than cars, instead we must prove that they’re better than buses.

That isn’t easy, because emissions from buses are measured differently to smaller vehicles, so it’s difficult to make direct comparisons.

Fortunately, Transport for London published details for their eco-friendly hybrid Routemaster buses, which were introduced in 2013. These pump out 690g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometer – is roughly half that produced by equivalent diesel-engined buses.

Meanwhile Honda’s PCX125, one of the country’s best-selling scooters, emits just 48g/km of CO2 and the hugely popular CB125F is even better, at just 45g/km. That’s 93% less than an eco-friendly design of bus or, to put it in real-world terms, a bus would need to carry more than 14 passengers to be ‘greener’ than a 125cc motorcycle/scooter.

Average bus occupancy in the UK was 11 people in 2012 – the last year for which the government published figures – which is far short of the 14+ needed to offset the emissions from such a big vehicle. And that’s a hybrid bus – a diesel-engined model would need to carry 25 passengers!

It’s a slightly different story in London, where 19 people travel on the average bus, so the hybrid designs are marginally better for the environment, but the full diesel models still fall short of powered two-wheelers, by some distance.

How green is your motorcycle? It’s probably better than a bus, in the real world, and it will deliver you door-to-door without having to wait ages for three to turn up at the same time!

Life in the bus lane

Why are motorcycles only allowed in some bus lanes?

Picture a situation in which the rules of the road varied from city to city. Imagine if, in Leeds, vehicles already on a roundabout must give way to traffic joining it; or in Lincoln, you’re allowed to park on double yellow lines for up to 30 minutes and in Leicester you may ignore no entry signs after 6pm.

For Britain’s 1.26 million motorcyclists, this mayhem is reality.

Bikers in Bath, Bristol and Belfast can use bus lanes. In some parts of London riders have access to bus lanes, which then changes when they cross an invisible border into the next borough. Motorbikes are not permitted to use any bus lanes in Oxford or Cambridge.

You’re probably wondering how this confusing state of affairs was allowed to evolve. The answer is that the Highways England is only responsible for motorways and major A-roads. All other routes are controlled by local authorities, and they all have different views about motorcycles.

Some, like Northamptonshire, embrace powered two wheelers as part of the solution to their congested roads. Others see any private transport with an internal combustion engine as a major threat to the environment that should be discouraged (or, better still, banned).

So far, every council that has run a pilot scheme, to test the effects of bikes in bus lanes, found no significant problems and allowed access. You won’t be surprised to learn that authorities which refuse to permit motorcycle use of bus lanes also refuse to run pilot schemes. It’s almost as if they’re afraid that they might not get the results they want.

If you can’t use bus lanes in your area, you might want to bend your local councillor’s ear, or even arrange a meeting with your MP. And if you need some facts and figures to back up this common sense proposal, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) has published an excellent report on “PTW access to bus lanes” which you can read at