If ever there was a solution looking for a problem it is allowing other vehicles into bus lanes. The clue is in the name. They are there because buses are the most efficient way to move people on the roads.
Bus lanes are there to ensure the journey is quick and reliable. We’ve seen what happens when roadworks and congestion cause delays to buses: people stop using them. The same effect works the other way. If you prioritise buses you make them an attractive alternative to the car. More people out of private vehicles and on buses means less congestion for everyone on the road.
Furthermore, there are serious pollution and road safety consequences for vulnerable road users from opening up bus lanes to other traffic.
Who wants to break bus lanes?
We recently wrote, with other organisations, to the Welsh Government to warn of the dangerous idea put forward by the Traffic Commissioner for Wales that HGVs should be sharing bus lanes. We pointed out the road safety, air pollution and bus reliability arguments. The response from the minister was unsatisfactory, suggesting that a review of HGVs in bus lanes is to happen. There is no need for this review
The road haulage industry in particular has been pushing for HGVs to use bus lanes for some time but is now publicly lobbying the Secretary of State and is trying to sweeten the pill by either saying certain bus lanes or at certain times, which is almost unenforceable. Once any precedent is set, it will be difficult to halt the the adoption across the country over time.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen attempts to dilute the efficiency of bus lanes. Back in 2015 potential London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith got out his crystal ball and declared that there would be no point in having bus lanes "within two to three years" because we will all be driving electric cars. How does that work? More people in cars of any type and fewer in buses means more congestion for all as the roads fill up.
But switching focus to another city mayor, Andy Burnham suggested allowing cars with more than one passenger in bus lanes to bring down congestion. Car sharing is undoubtedly a good practice, but allowing only certain cars in bus lanes would be an expensive and impractical scheme to operate and police.
What next for bus lanes?
Bus lanes make bus services more reliable and more popular. Any attempt to erode or pollute bus lanes with other traffic risks worstening bus services, creating increased congestion as people switch to cars where they can. We’re taking a stand for bus lanes and we’re not giving up an inch.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Nash via Flickr