A new bus gate was introduced last year to make sure cars do not turn off Vicar Lane onto Lady Lane between 5am and 10pm, as part of work to improve roads for public transport in the city centre.
But it has now been revealed that a traffic enforcement camera on the corner of the two roads issued hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fines in just 39 days for making the now-illegal manoeuvre.
A senior council decision-maker has said the camera has now stopped issuing fines, and all paid tickets have since been refunded to motorists.
Coun Conrad Hart-Brooke had submitted a question to the council’s ruling Executive Board, asking: “How many bus lane camera tickets have been issued by the camera on Vicar Lane/Lady Lane since it went live last year?”
He went onto ask whether fines had been waived, whether the policy was still in place and whether fines had been successfully appealed.
A written response to Coun Hart-Brooke’s question from executive member for infrastructure and climate Coun Helen Hayden (Lab) stated: “The gate (and traffic regulation order supporting it) was introduced earlier in the year, but the camera was switched on in October 2021 and initially only warning notices were sent out.
“The camera began issuing penalty notices on November 1 and 11,159 notices were issued between November 1, 2021 and December 9, 2021. To date we have received 1,261 appeals.
“Experience of such restrictions in the past has been that the number of contraventions falls away sharply after a short period as drivers become used to the new arrangements. The objective of such restrictions is always to promote and support sustainable transport modes, not generate income.”
The council has stated that work to improve roads for public transport in the centre of the city includes plans to convert the stretch of Vicar Lane north of the Headrow into a two-way street, in order to close traffic to New Briggate.
In order to do this, the council says, it needs to remove general traffic southbound on Vicar Lane, and that a new southbound bus gate restricting movements into Lady Lane as well as going on to the Headrow was introduced.
Coun Hayden’s response continues: “Because of the ongoing concerns about the numbers of penalty notices continuing to be issued, and following discussions, it has been agreed to allow all the appeals that have been submitted and refund the costs of penalty notices paid to date. Any notices outstanding will be dismissed.
“Whilst it is felt that the current markings and advanced notices are legally sufficient, the volume of infringements indicates that extra measures should be considered. These measures are soon being drawn up with a view to approval and implementation as soon as possible.
“These measures will include enhanced signing and carriageway markings to make it clearer to drivers what the restrictions are.”
The council has confirmed that all 4,747 paid tickets were paid prior to the decision to stop issuing fixed penalty notices was made, this equated to £142,410. It also said that the camera was initially purchased to be used to enforce the now-scrapped clean air zone, and has been re-purposed.
Coun Hart Brooke said: “They need to open back up Lady Lane – there is absolutely zero reason why you would close this much used, logical and well understood route.
“It’s a crazy waste of resources to issue over half a million pounds worth of fines before realising something wasn’t right. Anyone stood on Vicar Lane for 10 minutes could see the problem.
“This is real life, not Sim City.”