Emergency vehicles and pop-up cycle lanes

A common misconception about pop-up cycle lanes is that emergency vehicles will somehow be held up by them.

This is simply not true.

Drivers of vehicles running under blue lights can use the pop-up lanes to bypass queuing traffic. Ambulances have already been seen doing this in Horsham, something they would not have been able to do before the cycle lanes were put in.

Representatives from the three emergency services are in regular consultation with WSCC on the monitoring of the lanes, and changes to the lanes have been made to accommodate them.

Ambulance using a pop-up cycle lane on Kensington High Street (pic: @JKBartsHeart)

Redressing the imbalance on our roads by providing safe space for people on bikes is often seen as a zero sum game: if you provide for cyclists you must be taking something away from motorists.

This again is not true, due to something called traffic evaporation. Essentially, if you make it more difficult for people to travel by car, traffic literally evaporates. People choose to travel a different route or at a different time, or they choose a different means of transport, they walk or cycle – or they choose not to drive at all.

Fewer people driving cars mean less congestion for those remaining.

Traffic evaporation

Traffic evaporation is the inverse of induced demand, which we’re probably all familiar with. If you widen a 2–lane road to reduce congestion all that happens is that you encourage more people to drive, and after a short period of time you end up with 3 lanes of congestion.

Congestion is due to the inefficient use of road space caused by too many cars carrying one or two people. Providing cycle lanes to enable more people to replace some car journeys by cycling (particularly short journeys) is part of the solution to congestion, not the cause.

A YouGov survey carried out in the summer found that 77% of people support measures in their local area to encourage cycling and walking – that equates to 6.5 people for every 1 against.

Cycle lanes are good for everyone, including motorists (and ambulance drivers).


  1. Robert Armour says

    I totally agree with your observations, and can’t understand why so many people don’t get it. This lack of understanding is precisely what lead to the whole smart motorway fiasco – even worse, in the case of the M23, which must be one of the least congested motorways in the country, so didn’t warrant the treatment at all.

    • Geoffrey Bragg says

      The M23 next for a cycle lane then?Only joking but you make a good point.Have driven Albion Way today.Traffic very light but because it’s single lane only I find myself not having to rush, I am more watchful and am not bothered by other vehicles rushing past me and no cylists to overtake! What’s not to like?

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