A police car answering a 999 call was caught on video driving along a cycle superhighway to avoid rush-hour congestion.
The patrol car, which had blue lights flashing and its siren blaring, used the CS5 superhighway to bypass gridlocked traffic on Vauxhall Bridge Road.
The cycle route, which runs between Pimlico and Oval via Vauxhall Bridge, was opened by Boris Johnson last November and is designed to protect cyclists by using a kerb to segregate riders from vehicles.
The footage was shot about 5.30pm on Friday February 5 by cycle safety campaigner Gareth Williams, 27, who posts “helmet cam” videos on his Cyclegaz YouTube page showing incidents on his daily commute from Croydon to central London.
Cyclists can be seen pulling over to allow the police car to pass. The two-way superhighways are so wide that cars can easily drive down them – as has happened, apparently by accident, on the north-south superhighway on Blackfriars Road.
Mr Williams told the Standard that the police car, which was doing about 12mph, was right to use the lane if officers were responding to an emergency.
Mr Williams said: “It depends on the circumstances. There was low traffic on the cycle superhighway. There was traffic on the other side of the road. In that situation it was the best thing to do. It was a short stretch with nothing coming the other way.
“With all police responses, it depends on the situation. If the police or ambulance or fire engine had to get to an emergency and there was no-one in it, would that be appropriate? That may be the best thing to do. I am sure they are all trained.”
He added: “Initially I wasn’t exactly sure what it was going to do but it passed me with enough space. I never felt at any risk. But you don’t often see police cars or fire engines doing that.
“They were going no faster than a cyclist would be doing. In some cases a cyclist would be going down there quicker.”
A Transport for London spokesman said police vehicles using blue lights were allowed to enter cycle superhighways as they were considered to be part of the road at times of emergency.
He said the east-west superhighway, which runs along Victoria Embankment, had been designed without a central reservation in places to allow emergency vehicles to cross over onto the “wrong” side of the road rather than having to enter the cycle lane.
Other cyclists were split on the use of the lanes by emergency vehicles. Adam Safford said on the CycleGaz comments page: “I think emergency services should be allowed in the cycle superhighways, as long as they take extreme care.”
But Cameron Primrose said: “This is a tricky one. On the one hand it is clearly going to be quicker for the emergency services to do that in situations like this but I can’t help thinking its incredibly dangerous.”