When a double decker bus stops in front of you, what do you do? Is it safe to attempt to overtake the bus?


2 Answers 2


The Highway Code comes in handy with this question...

In London drivers of all buses are exceptionally well trained and likely to be highly experienced. They know every part of their route and have 'dealt with' plenty of cyclists before. They will always indicate when they are pulling over and indicate again when they are going to pull out. It is highly unlikely that you will be in their 'blind spot' at any stage of your overtaking manoeuvre.

It all depends on the traffic situation, how much speed you have and how important your journey is. Sometimes you can look through the back of the bus and see how many people are to dismount/catch the bus - if the stop looks like a busy one then you should overtake the bus, in part this is to clarify your intentions to road users behind you that may be 'waiting' for you to overtake before they do likewise. Conversely, if the bus is only dropping off one person, and, if the terrain does not suit you, then it can be advantageous to let the bus go, to 'draft' it and get a good, maintainable tow along the road.

Some bus stops, e.g. on a narrow road with a curve to the left may not allow you to see the oncoming traffic. It may be advisable to hold back in these situations, even if the traffic coming the other way is bumper to bumper. This is because a motorbike or other cyclist may be using the gap between the bus and the cars coming the other way and, once you have committed to overtaking the bus, you cannot duck in to the side again.

There is the Highway Code and you are supposed to let bus drivers pull out. Normal car drivers know this better than most cyclists although not all of them will let the bus out first as they do not want to be stuck behind it. As a cyclist you do not necessarily have the same need to overtake as the bus is likely to be faster than you between stops.

Hence, as a general rule, you should overtake the bus if the general situation is safe AND the bus does not have its right hand turn indicators on. If the bus does have the right hand turn indicators on and you overtake then that is against the spirit of the Highway Code.

  • 6
    Some mention is deserved for the passengers that think they can disembark and run around to the front of the bus to then cross the road. Yes they are idiots and they can ruin your day. Anticipate them and their iPods, look out for them, give as much room as possible between yourself and the bus and in that way you should not have to mow them down. May 20, 2011 at 19:07
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    For all non-UK cyclists, please replace left with right, and right with left. I got caught up a few times when reading this.
    – Kibbee
    Oct 17, 2011 at 18:59
  • Just to add - some cyclists seem to take a stopped bus as a challenge to get past, but then don't cycle fast enough (or left-most enough) to get out of its way when it starts up again. As described, getting an idea of how long it's going to be stopped can help you make a more selfless decision whether to hold up all the people on that bus when it can't get past you, or to wait for a few seconds and ride along behind it. Sep 13, 2021 at 9:21
  • +1 for London bus driving training. Lots of road users are somewhat fearful of buses and complain about them pulling in or out unexpectedly etc. Personally, I've found them all to behave about the same day in, day out and are meticulously careful about their passengers and other road users - yet are also pragmatic and assertive enough to get where they're going quickly. Sep 13, 2021 at 9:27

Agree very much with Mathew's answer but would add a few extra points.

It is often the case that in city centre traffic - particularly where there are cycle lanes - that you will be much quicker than the bus between stops and traffic lights as you will not be limited by the queuing traffic as much. In the city centre there are a few other things to take into account. Has the bus stopped in front of you because of a bus stop, or because of queuing traffic? If you can't see what is in front of the bus, it may not be safe to overtake as you may not be able to pull back in to the correct lane.

If there is a cycle lane and there is queuing traffic in front of the bus, you may want to use the cycle lane to undertake the bus (assuming it is not at a stop). In this case, make sure that you can see a clear cycle lane in front of the bus and that there are no left turns coming up. Even then be extremely cautious. Undertaking buses (and lorries) which are about to turn left is the main way cyclists are killed in London. Untertaking you can easily end up in a blind spot and because of the turning circle of a bus (or lorry) you will be crushed if they do turn left.

  • Wouldn't the safest thing to do is to dismount your bike and push it on the path when the bus as at a stop so you can overtake it?
    – Ambo100
    May 20, 2011 at 13:00
  • Sometimes that is an option, yes. May 20, 2011 at 13:13
  • With the exception of special minibus services, a bus will only stop to let passengers on/off at a well signed bus stop. Even if you cannot see the sign on your side of the road, there is likely to be another stop on the other side of the road. The bus will also use indicators to show that it is pulling over and not just 'sitting in traffic'. As for pushing the bike along the pavement, this will not please the bus driver or the people getting off. Negotiating around the mum with her granny slows you down. It is a bit naff, be courteous you may see these people again next time you ride. May 20, 2011 at 19:02
  • I agree with @mathew, unless there are specific excuses (e.g. you are or are with a child) then there should be almost no reason where you should feel that you have to get off, walk around, then get back on again. Even in a busy urban setting if you feel that the situation is so dangerous that you can't overtake a stopped bus, then you've probably chosen the wrong route for your ability.
    – Unsliced
    Oct 17, 2011 at 12:20

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