A million fines issued for flouting bus lanes

Bus Lane  on York Road, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme
Bus Lane on York Road, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

MORE THAN one million fines are handed out to drivers caught in bus lanes every year in the UK’s 20 biggest cities.

Some 3.4m penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued by councils between 2015 and 2017, according to new data seen by the RAC.

In the Leeds City Council area 145,394 PCNs were issued during the two-year period. But charge notices in the city fell from 66,418 in 2015 to 37,639 in 2017.

A freedom of information request made by the RAC to London councils and city councils outside the capital revealed that there was a five per cent rise in the number of PCNs issued for bus lane misuse between 2015 and 2017. It rose from 1,078,816 to 1,129,613.

While bus lane fines can vary considerably nationally, a conservative estimate of the total value of penalty charge notices is £68m a year. The RAC is concerned that many drivers are being punished for accidentally straying into bus lanes because of confusing or inadequate signage. It is calling for a review of national signage guidelines and the introduction of ‘smart bus lanes’ to make things simpler.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Bus lanes have a vital role to play in ensuring the reliability of public transport as they help to keep our urban areas moving. But the sheer quantity of fines – more than a million every year – suggests something is awry and we don’t believe the vast majority are knowingly breaking the rules. While there is clearly no defence for deliberately driving in a bus lane, we believe more can be done to make it obvious to drivers when they can and can’t drive in one. A lot of this is down to improving signage. Every city driver will be familiar with the blue bus lane sign, but on city centre streets with a lot of signage ‘clutter’ it can be very easy to miss the specific times of operation. This poses the risk of drivers straying into bus lanes when they shouldn’t be or avoiding using one when they are actually allowed to.”