Friday, 15 November 2013

Crack Down On Selfish Drivers Who Block Bus Lanes

Councillors are set to discuss plans to crack down on inconsiderate drivers who break the law by blocking bus lanes, stopping emergency services and risking the safety of cyclists.

Encouraging people to use public transport and cycling is an important element in reducing congestion and helping people move around the County. Last year Cambridgeshire saw around 19 million bus trips – the majority of these trips are in and around Cambridge.

Without the free flow of public transport and cycling then it is clear the City would become gridlocked with the weight of traffic in the narrow historic streets.

A survey of just three bus lanes in Cambridge discovered they were being misused up to 150 times and hour in peak periods - equating to at least 600,000 a year.

Bus lanes are to be used by authorised vehicles only, including buses, taxis, emergency services and cyclists. Keeping them clear is essential to reducing congestion, helping the emergency services and protecting cyclists.

The new scheme being considered by Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet on November 26, would, like other authorities across the country, use cameras to enforce contravention of bus lanes. Any money raised by the fines would be used to pay for the scheme to operate or be invested in public transport or highway improvements.

A review of signage and lines on bus lanes would be carried out before enforcement took place. Any potential infringement of a bus lane by a driver would also be looked at by an officer to see if there may have been good reason and fines issued only if there isn’t.

Evidence collected in Cambridgeshire has demonstrated significant levels of contravention of certain bus lanes. Enforcement powers have been taken up by 28 other authorities in the country. A Transport for London Study has shown that routine enforcement of bus lanes can result in a 15% reduction in delays to buses as a result of an 85% improvement in compliance levels.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been awarded funding by the Department for Transport, through the Better Bus Area Fund, to implement the proposed enforcement.

Subject to Cabinet approval, it is anticipated that the implementation of bus lane enforcement utilising static or mobile cameras will commence in summer 2014.

Andy Campbell, Managing Director of Stagecoach East, said: "our customers and drivers are regularly frustrated at being held up by motorists in bus lanes who think that the rules don't apply to them. This is also a safety concern for our drivers, who have experienced some very erratic and selfish driving from those using bus lanes. We are confident that the proposed enforcement would bring about real improvements to our services."

Graham Stagg, Chief Fire Officer at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "It is imperative bus lanes in our county are kept clear and accessible for emergency vehicles and we support initiatives that help to do this.

"Fire engines are large vehicles and in congested places like Cambridge city centre, can often find it difficult to pass along roads when attending an emergency. Having a scheme to promote the clear passage of bus lanes would assist our crews greatly in getting to incidents as quickly and safely as possible, and therefore, will help to make Cambridgeshire a safer place."

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Noel Kavanagh, Cycling Champion, said: “This is a step forward in reducing selfish driving that can threaten the safety of cyclists, especially when the vast majority of motorists abide by the rules. Many of the bus lanes around Cambridge are used by cyclists and having cars driving in and out of them can be dangerous. Hopefully, the Council can use this trial to look further at the enforcement of car-free cycle lanes in the near future".

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mac McGuire, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Infrastructure, said: “Bus Lanes are there for a reason. Blocking bus lanes is inconsiderate and annoying for the vast majority of law abiding drivers who use the road. But more importantly it is breaking the law, increases congestion and puts lives at risk. Keeping bus lanes clear means public transport can work and reduce congestion and pollution. The lanes are also used by emergency services and cyclists. The survey shows clearly that a minority of drivers are ignoring the law. We know from other Councils across the country that enforcement helps improves bus times and reduce congestion. The enforcement will be done on a common sense basis where officers will look at the footage of any suspected offence before issuing a fine.”

Cabinet are being asked to agree a penalty charge of £60 for bus lane and bus gate contraventions. Motorists who pay the fine within 14 days pay at a 50% discount rate of £30.