Some months ago I rather foolishly said that “[bus lane camera] success will only be if the number of fines issued diminishes rapidly over the next number of months, because that will be the indicator of a change of behaviour – the real purpose of the cameras.”
So, in the week that DRD released figures on bus lane camera tickets being issued since June, it feels like a pretty good time to see if I need to eat my words.
|Bus Lane/Buses Only Street||Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs)|
|Castle Street (Fixed Camera)||835||1,748||1968||1466||1515|
|Castlereagh Road (Belfast)||7||11|
|College Square East (Fixed Camera)||189||379|
|Donegall Square East (Fixed Camera)||625||3,006||3695||1185||2662|
|Donegall Square South (Fixed Camera)||58||217|
|East Bridge Street (Fixed Camera)||245||250|
|Great Victoria Street (Fixed Camera)||316||2,091||2425||103|
|Upper Lisburn Road Finaghy||3||17||3|
|Upper Newtownards Road (Belfast)||1||5||22|
|Upper Newtownards Road (Dundonald)||44|
|Upper Queen Street||2||9||3|
|Income (£) received in respect of PCNs issued within the time periods above||67,760.00||308,645.00||304,426.05||100,705.00||138,240.00|
June’s figures refer to one week only, as only warnings were issued for the first three weeks.
The total for the period up to the end of October is certainly big, but there is a massive difference between the figures in July and August on the one hand, and September and October on the other. I want to watch what happens in November and December, but there was a collapse in the number of tickets issued between the summer and the autumn – and even though October was substantially up on September, it was still significantly down on the summer.
Significantly, four of the fixed cameras didn’t detect a single motorist in October, and of those only Great Victoria Street detected motorists in August and September. The mobile camera caught 408 motorists in July, 189 in August, 226 in September and 238 in October.
So what of Castle Street and Donegall Square East?
I’ve noted before that the bus/cycle only section of Castle Street probably has very little to do with buses, and a great deal to do with making the city centre a better and safer place for pedestrians by preventing rat running – except that it was widely ignored, not unlike the general ban on motor vehicles in the city centre other than permit holders, loading and blue badge holders. Within a few months of the introduction of the restrictions, the “No motor vehicles except buses” signs [Not “No flying motorbikes? “- Ed] were replaced with “No entry except buses and cycles” to emphasise the restriction, but it seemed ineffective as motorists continued to drive straight through as the restriction was never enforced until the camera was installed.
It’s frankly disturbing that all the signs – the No Entry signs, the yellow signs in Royal Avenue and Castle Place stating no entry to Castle Street, and signs in High Street and Castle Street (Streetview a little out of date – is now No Motor Vehicles) stating the restrictions on motorists – aren’t enough to stop 50 determined motorists every day.
It’s equally disturbing that all of the following have barely had an impact on the number of motorists prepared to insist on illegally crossing from Donegall Square South into Adelaide Street:
- blue bus lane signs designed strictly according to the legislation,
- the proper authorised road markings up to the very end of Donegall Square East,
- a yellow sign stating the left lane is buses only Monday-Saturday 7am-7pm (Streetview link added), and
- a flashing electronic sign stating no access to Adelaide Street except buses during those hours
Alban Maginness is hardly unique in refusing to believe “that thousands of people have deliberately driven into the bus lane in Donegall Square East” – several other politicians have said as much – but faced with so many road signs placed to attract their attention, there are only three plausible explanations for their behaviour:
- drivers are not paying attention to what is going on around them, including believing sat navs over the evidence of their eyes (careless driving)
- they do not know the meaning of the road signs (no defence in law, and the Highway Code has told them what bus lane signs mean for the last 40 years), or
- they are wilfully ignoring them – and then blaming the cameras for getting caught.
The correct route to that part of Adelaide Street is incidentally via May Street – either using Chichester Street and Montgomery Street or Donegall Square South, Bedford Street, Franklin Street and Alfred Street. The restriction appears to be so that buses can get out of the stops in Donegall Square East to turn right into Donegall Square South with less conflicting traffic.
So, at this stage, two cheers out of three for the bus lane cameras substantially stopping abuse of bus lanes in Belfast. Only once the selfish driver behaviour around Donegall Square East and Castle Street changes can we give the third cheer – whether DRD earns £0 or £2,000,000 a year from the cameras is entirely in their hands.