Bus lanes. They’re the bane of many a motorist’s life, sitting there completely empty while you wait in traffic minute after minute, hour after hour on occasion. If only you could use that desolate lane, alas you can’t. Daring to venture into such a free and open section of road will net you a hefty fine as you’re picked up on camera for disobeying the system.
Not only are bus lanes a congestion contributor, but they’re also a handy way to net local councils a healthy income boost. Take the recent news article regarding the bus lane fines in Reading, the local council handed out a whopping 96,000 fines over the 2017/18 period. One street racked up an extortionate 22,412 fines, that accounts for nearly 23% of the total, a single road caught more than four times as many people as the next highest in the town, which is mostly down to poor signage. Of course, the council aren’t about to change that when Minster Street has earned them over half a million pound in a single year.
Councils argue that bus lanes need to be sacred ground, free of cars so that their use to transport people en-masse is unhindered. Misuse of bus lanes makes them less efficient, leading to delays on public transport and an increased risk of accidents as other road users aren’t likely to be aware of cars driving where they shouldn’t be.
While this argument can work for sleepy communities which often use bus lanes or restricted roads only for buses in a bid to cut down on cars using rat runs, but in built-up areas the hallowed ground of the bus could be used at peak times to cut down on traffic and congestion for everyone.
Instead of monopolising a single lane for buses, why not make them timed? During the hours of 9am to 5pm they’re solely bus lanes, from the hours of 7-9am and 5-7pm allow cars to use them freely. This way, motorists benefit by doubling the capacity of the carriageways at peak times, it’s a no-brainer.
Sadly that’s not the way parliament thinks about it, a Select Committee meeting form April 2011 shows what a happy bubble our leaders and decision-makers must be in. Supplementary evidence from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK said:
For the bus lane to have a positive economic impact there needs to be a regular flow of well–patronised buses whose passengers benefit by more than the disbenefit suffered by car users. However, there are also likely to be environmental benefits resulting from any significant switch from car to bus.
Most of us hate commuting as it is, nobody in their right mind is going to sell their car and take up public transport to get to and from work. It boils down to the adage that people hate people. Given a choice, the majority of the driving population would much rather sit in their own cube of comfy metal, listening to what they want at a nice temperature, away from anyone else.
The only foreseeable way to tempt people from that is to make commuting by bus free, which isn’t going to happen any time soon. Few people that travel by bus do so because they want to, it’s out of necessity, that’s not going to change, which means the many motorists who all pay individual road tax must sit in congestion staring at empty lanes next to them.
Likewise, many local councils see bus lanes as a cash cow in the same league as parking, with this mentality they aren’t going to give two hoots to easing congestion, which puts us back to square one. Congestion costs the average road user 178 hours a year, that equates to around £1,317 per driver, doesn’t it make sense to legislate bus lanes nationally?