A TRIAL scheme launched today will see most of the Capital’s bus lanes opened up to all traffic outside rush hours in a bid to end confusion and beat congestion.
Almost all of the “all-day” bus lanes will now operate only during peak periods, bringing them into line with the majority of bus lanes which already have restrictions only during morning and evening rush hours. In a parallel trial, most bus lanes in the city will also be opened to motorcylces to use at all times.
The changes were agreed following a review of Edinburgh’s 65km of bus lanes.
But the move sparked criticism from Greens, who said allowing all vehicles to use the lanes was a backward step which would mean more road space for private cars and HGVs when the council should be attempting to reduce traffic flow.
They said it would increase noise and pollution and worsen conditions for cyclists.
But transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds defended the trial, which is expected to run for nine months. She said: “The different operating hours that apply to bus lanes can cause confusion. We are therefore running a trial to have 90 per cent of bus lanes operating at peak periods only.
“The purpose of this is to see if standardised operating hours will make it simpler for drivers, without impacting adversely on bus journey times or compromising the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
“By allowing motorcyclists to use bus lanes we will also be making their journeys both safer and quicker, with little or no impact on buses. Both trials will be closely monitored throughout to assess the impact on all road users.”
Some 60 per cent of bus lanes are already peak-period only.
Under the trial, all-day bus lanes, which currently operate between 7.30am and 6.30pm, Mondays to Fridays, and between 8.30am and 6.30pm on Saturdays, will be changed into peak-period bus lanes which operate 7.30am–9.30am and 4pm–6.30pm on Mondays to Fridays.
Restrictions will remain in place, however, on 24-hour bus lanes and bus gates, stretches of road which only buses, taxis, cyclists and emergency vehicles can use.
The council said that since the 1990s, it had invested heavily in bus lanes, which improve journey reliability and save time for buses, encouraging people to travel by bus rather than car.
However, following the introduction of bus lane camera enforcement in 2012, it was found that many drivers were confused over operating hours of bus lanes in the city.