DRIVERS and cyclists might call them “bike boxes” but the Advanced Stop Lines that were imported from Denmark and have sprung up at traffic lights throughout the UK continue to cause confusion for motorists.
Introduced for trials in 1993, the ASLs are meant to provide protection at traffic lights for both cyclists and motorists, ensuring that a safe, visible area is reserved for those using pedal power.
They typically consist of a stop line for cyclists, an additional stop line for motor vehicles situated further back from the signals, a reservoir area between the two stop lines for waiting cyclists to occupy, and a lead-in lane which allows cyclists to make their way past waiting motor vehicles and enter the reservoir.
However, few drivers realise that it is an offence to drive into the bike box when the traffic lights are red.
Despite the Highway Code stating that, “Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked,” many drivers still creep beyond the first white line.
Motorists can be fined if they are caught doing this when the traffic lights are amber or red. The Department for Transport says the penalty incurs a £60 fine and three points on a driving licence (with a maximum £1,000 fine if it goes to court).
However, confusingly, the Highway Code adds: “If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area.”
For that reason, police officers are unlikely to penalise drivers and motorbike riders unless they see them wilfully stopping in the cycle zone on a red light when it was safe to stop at the first white line. The DfT adds that the police have some discretion over which bit of the Road Traffic Act to use, but most likely any penalty will fall under “Failure to comply with a traffic sign or road marking”.
Whatever, the advice for drivers and motorcyclists approaching a bike box is to leave plenty of space to the vehicle ahead and be prepared to stop at the first line when the lights turn red, or risk breaking the law.