Bus lane plan fails as drivers steer clear

Drivers avoid the bus lane on Calder Road, even when the restrictions are not in force. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Drivers avoid the bus lane on Calder Road, even when the restrictions are not in force. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A BID to ease traffic flow by allowing motorists to use bus lanes outside peak periods has got off to a slow start with most drivers failing to take advantage of the new arrangements.

And now council chiefs are being urged to launch a driver education campaign to make sure everyone knows that previous restrictions have been lifted on many routes.

Most of the Capital’s 65km of bus lanes were opened up to cars and lorries – except for the morning and evening rush hours – from Monday. The aim of the nine-month trial is to reduce congestion by allowing all available road space to be used to maximum effect.

But so far motorists seem to be continuing to steer clear of the bus lanes, which means queues of cars are still building up at key spots.

Some 60 per cent of bus lanes were already peak period only, but others had “all day” restrictions from 7.30am to 6.30pm, with a few operating a 24-hour ban. Other vehicles are still not allowed to use the 24-hour lanes or “bus gates” – short stretches of bus-only roads.

Bus lanes which were previously all day but have now been made peak period only include those at Leith Street, Leith Walk, Calder Road, Lanark Road, the A702 and York Place.

Tory councillor Dominic Heslop said opening up bus lanes was a good move, but it should have been better 

“If the uptake is not great, that is a failing on the council’s part for not making people aware,” he said.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, backed the call for better information. He said: “They need to work hard to get publicity out there and also make sure the signage is simple and clear.

“People often find it hard to take in information from signs as they are driving past.”

But he said drivers would also be wary because of bad experiences with bus lane enforcement cameras.

Motorists in the Capital were fined for driving in bus lanes once every 20 minutes last year.

More than 25,000 were penalised for the infringement, which carries a £60 fine if not paid within 14 days.

Mr Greig said: “The fact people are avoiding bus lanes shows people don’t trust the council to get it right after the problems they had when these cameras were first introduced and people were being fined for turning into their own driveways, or being in the bus lane when it wasn’t supposed to be working. We need a bit of a campaign from the council, but also looking at the roadside signs, reassuring people they have the backroom systems working properly as well.”

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said it was too early to judge how the scheme was working, but most people welcomed the change.

She said there had been signs telling motorists of the change in advance, but she was happy to look at whether 
signage could be improved.

“There will always be people who avoid bus lanes no matter what,” she added.