Fleet News

1.1m drivers fined for driving in bus lanes each year

bus lane fine, driving in a bus lane, penalty for driving in a bus lane.

More than one million penalty charge notices (PCNs) for driving in bus lanes are issued to drivers in the UK’s 20 largest cities every year, on average, according to the RAC.

The motoring organisation reports that some 3.4m (3,437,348) PCNs were issued by councils between 2015 and 2017.

And, while bus lane fines can vary considerably, a conservative estimate of the total value of fines issued to drivers for straying into bus lanes is £68m a year, or around £200m over the three years.

A freedom of information request made by the RAC to London councils and city councils outside the capital revealed that there was a 5% rise in the number of penalty charge notices issued for bus lane misuse between 2015 and 2017 (1,078,816 to 1,129,613).

Outside London, there was a 9% increase over the three years (741,777 to 810,642) while inside the London there was a 5% reduction (337,039 to 318,971) in penalties issued.

Due to the sheer numbers of fines issued, and given that the vast majority of drivers surely do not set out to deliberately drive in a bus lane, the RAC is concerned that many drivers are being punished for accidentally doing so due to confusing or inadequate signage.

As a result, the RAC is calling for a review of national signage guidelines and the introduction of ‘smart bus lanes’ to make things simpler and clearer for motorists.

The data analysed by the RAC shows that Manchester City Council issued the most notices between 2015 and 2017, with 352,688 sent in total and 172,311 in 2017 alone – a dramatic 175% increase on 2015 (62,580 notices).

Glasgow was not far behind, issuing 339,402 notices between 2015 and 2017, although the city recorded a fall in the number sent to drivers annually over the three years.

Scotland’s most populous city was followed by Cardiff (267,713 notices), Bradford (208,790 notices) and Nottingham (194,993 notices) in most frequently penalising drivers for driving in a bus lane.

Differences in PCNs issued between 2015 and 2017

Of the locations that saw the greatest increase in the number of notices issued to drivers between 2015 and 2017, Birmingham City Council was top with 31,768 sent for contraventions across its 19 miles of bus lanes in 2017, up from just 1,287 in 2015 (a 2,368% increase), despite no change in either the miles of bus lanes or the number of cameras.

The London Boroughs of Croydon (221 to 1,960 – 787% increase), Havering (1,286 to 6,936 – 439% increase), Southwark (902 to 4,328 – 380% increase) and Wandsworth (30 to 109 – 187% increase) came next – suggesting that enforcement or infringement increased significantly from 2015 in all of these locations.

Inside London, of the 27 out of 33 local authorities and transport bodies that responded to the RAC’s data request, around half recorded a rise in bus lane fines issued (13 authorities) and half recorded a fall between 2015 and 2017, with the sharpest drops in the London Borough of Hillingdon (79% drop compared to 2015, with 268 issued in 2017).

Of all London authorities that issue bus lane penalties an average of 11,839 penalties were issued each year per council.

Outside the capital, the picture is equally mixed. Of the 16 councils that provided full data, seven saw an increase in penalties handed out and nine saw a fall between 2015 and 2017.

Of those authorities that issued PCNs for bus lane infringements an average of 50,828 fines were issued by each council each year, with the largest rises after Birmingham taking place in Leicester (182% rise between 2015 and 2017, up to 36,836 contraventions) and Manchester (175% rise, up to 172,311 contraventions).

The sharpest fall was in Belfast (84% drop between 2015 and 2017, with 5,274 sent in 2017).

The RAC believes the widespread disparities in the data may be down to a number of factors. A fall in PCNs could be an indication of drivers adhering to the rules more rigorously or perhaps improved signage, while some rises might be as a result of the increased use of existing enforcement cameras.

There have also been instances where a sudden surge in PCNs have been issued over a short period of time, which should set alarm bells ringing in local authority offices that something is not right.

Interestingly, the data suggests there is no direct correlation between the number of bus lane enforcement cameras in operation and the number of penalties issued.

For example, Bristol is reported to have the most enforcement cameras (51 as of January 1 2018) and issued 48,148 fines in 2017 (944 per camera). In stark contrast to Manchester which has fewer than half the number of cameras (22 as of 1 January 2018) yet issued more than three times as many penalties (172,311 or 7,832 fines per camera).

Lewisham Council had the highest total number of PCNs per camera in 2017 of any of the 53 authorities and transport bodies that responded to the RAC’s FOI, with its one bus lane camera issuing a total of 9,261 notices.

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.

“We also think it is time we saw modern technology being used to make things clearer for road users, which would also have the benefit of making the best use of available road space at times when bus lanes can be used by all vehicles.”

Stretches of smart motorway use roadside signs to indicate which lanes are open and closed – the RAC believes towns and cities should now consider introducing ‘smart bus lanes’ that use similar signage so drivers clearly know when they are permitted to use bus lanes.

The fine for driving in a bus lane varies across the UK, with London levying some of the steepest charges (£160 or £80 if paid quickly), while other metropolitan and provincial areas charge much less (around £60).

The law dictates that local authorities have to issue the penalty charge notice within 28 days of the offence. Motorists can then pay the fine at a reduced rate if they do so quickly.

Councils inside London

Miles of bus lane - as at 1st Jan 17

Enforcement cameras - as at 1st Jan 17

PCNs 2015

PCNs 2016

PCNs 2017

Total PCNs

Average PCNs over this period

PCN % change 2015-17

Avg no. PCNs per camera in 2017

Barking

n/a

n/a

20,994

27,511

   28,618

77,123

25,708

36%

n/a

Barnet

1

11

11,601

6,642

     6,701

24,944

8,315

-42%

       609

Brent

n/a

4

11,362

8,370

   10,355

30,087

10,029

-9%

    2,589

Bromley

2

12

12,150

18,384

   15,282

45,816

15,272

26%

    1,274

Camden

6

n/a

10,631

16,630

   16,729

43,990

14,663

57%

n/a

Croydon

n/a

7

221

1,633

     1,960

3,814

1,271

787%

       280

Ealing

2

4

25,238

28,492

   23,970

77,700

25,900

-5%

    5,993

Enfield

3

11

33,203

24,213

   19,451

76,867

25,622

-41%

    1,768

Greater London Authority / TfL

76

n/a

13,083

8,462

     4,314

25,859

8,620

-67%

n/a

Hackney

n/a

4

3,917

5,098

     5,705

14,720

4,907

46%

    1,426

Hammersmith and Fulham

6

19

23,620

24,486

   21,410

69,516

23,172

-9%

    1,127

Haringey

n/a

20

10344

15748

   14,451

40,543

13,514

40%

       723

Harrow

n/a

6

9,916

10,308

     8,729

28,953

9,651

-12%

    1,455

Havering

n/a

n/a

1,286

3,359

     6,936

11,581

3,860

439%

n/a

Hillingdon

n/a

4

1,303

2,209

         268

3,780

1,260

-79%

         67

Hounslow

3

4

11,818

8,741

     6,180

26,739

8,913

-48%

    1,545

Islington

3

17

11,105

11,809

     9,656

32,570

10,857

-13%

       568

Kingston upon Thames

n/a

n/a

28,818

24,674

   28,984

82,476

27,492

1%

n/a

Lambeth

29

35

45304

43082

   44,401

132,787

44,262

-2%

    1,269

Lewisham

3

1

9790

11317

     9,261

30,368

10,123

-5%

    9,261

Merton

n/a

12

24,306

16,542

     9,126

49,974

16,658

-62%

       761

Newham

4

14

7,908

6,205

     9,145

23,258

7,753

16%

       653

Richmond

n/a

n/a

1,577

4,943

     4,524

11,044

3,681

187%

n/a

Southwark

n/a

5

902

1,690

     4,328

6,920

2,307

380%

       866

Sutton

1

1

0

0

     1,354

1,354

451

n/a

n/a

Tower Hamlets

2

18

4,207

5,827

     4,150

14,184

4,728

-1%

       231

Waltham Forest

n/a

9

2,402

2,008

     2,874

7,284

2,428

20%

       319

Wandsworth

n/a

3

33

80

         109

222

74

230%

         36

TOTAL

 

 

337,039

338,463

318,971

994,473

 

 

 

% change

 

 

 

0.42%

-6%

 

 

 

 

% change 2015-2017

 

 

 

 

-5%

 

 

 

 

 

Council outside of London

Miles of bus lane - 1st Jan 17

Enforcement cameras - 1st Jan 17

PCNs 2015

PCNs 2016

PCNs 2017

Total PCNs

Average PCNs over this period

PCN % change 2015-17

Avg no. of PCNs per camera in 2017

Belfast City Council

31

5

32,254

27,911

5,274

65,439

21,813

-84%

    1,055

Birmingham City Council

19

12

1,287

49,836

31,768

82,891

27,630

2368%

   2,647

Brighton & Hove City Council

n/a

8

15,161

10,273

9,107

34,541

11,514

-40%

    1,138

Bristol City Council

n/a

48

38,502

40,099

48,148

126,749

42,250

25%

    1,003

City of Bradford Metropolitan Council

3

21

82,548

71,284

54,958

208,790

69,597

-33%

    2,617

City of Cardiff Council

11

14

102,793

83,316

81,604

267,713

89,238

-21%

    5,829

Coventry City Council

5

8

41,892

51,701

68,231

161,824

53,941

63%

    8,529

Edinburgh City Council

40

8

25,300

26,726

26,306

78,332

26,111

4%

    3,288

Glasgow City Council

25

0

125,297

112,045

102,060

339,402

113,134

-19%

n/a

Hull City Council

n/a

12

0

1,476

1,649

3,125

1,042

n/a

        137

Leeds City Council

14

27

66,418

41,337

37,639

145,394

48,465

-43%

    1,394

Leicester City Council

13

8

13,055

9,267

36,836

59,158

19,719

182%

    4,605

Liverpool City Council

0

8

0

0

0

0

0

n/a

           -  

Manchester City Council

n/a

20

62,580

117,797

172,311

352,688

117,563

175%

    8,616

Newcastle-City Council

n/a

7

30,478

118,130

43,250

191,858

63,953

42%

    6,179

Nottingham City Council

n/a

n/a

58,410

78,649

57,934

194,993

64,998

-1%

n/a

Sheffield City Council

11

13

43,432

49,031

32,880

125,343

41,781

-24%

    2,529

Stoke-on-Trent City Council

>1 mile

2

2,370

1,578

687

4,635

1,545

-71%

       344

Sunderland City Council

>1 mile

0

0

0

0

0

0

n/a

n/a

TOTAL

 

 

741,777

890,456

810,642

2,442,875

 

 

 

% change

 

 

 

20%

-9%

 

 

 

 

% change 2015-2017

 

 

 

 

9%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for safety and risk management best practice and procurement insight

Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of John Lewis vouchers.

Every issue of Fleet News the editor picks his favourite comment from the past two weeks – get involved for your chance to appear in print and win!

Comment as guest


Login  /  Register

Comments

  • Darren - 05/04/2018 07:41

    I'd love to know what percentage of these tickets were handed out to motorcyclists, especially around London. Riding around in traffic these days can be a minefield of bus lanes you are legal to ride in, and those you cannot. Apparently it's down to who runs the bus lanes, council or TFL. If I ride from the White Heart and head towards South Ruislip for example, the bus lanes swap from motorcycle legal, to no motorcycles. And of course for cars where some bus lanes only operate at specific times of the day, and those that are 24/7 bus lanes, it's almost like they want you to stray so they can hand out fines.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • The Engineer - 05/04/2018 15:47

    I am amazed at the figure for Birmingham! I see more of a problem with actually getting people TO drive in bus lanes. 85% of drivers seem oblivious to the fact they can use bus lanes outside of the times as indicated on the preceding signs. I get lots of 'queue dodger' angry looks when passing other people using them and constantly see the right lane blocked by people queuing to join the left lane after the bus lane ends, when they could have just queued in the left lane at that time of day. They struggle to get in because the 15% that understand road signage have already correctly queued up the left lane. Presume these people are the same 'sign illiterate' ones that suddenly swerve in front of you from lane 2 to 1 at a motorway exit when the signs quite clearly show (several times) that both lanes 1 and 2 can exit so this is totally unnecessary dangerous manoeuvre.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register