First it was officious parking wardens, then it was hidden speed cameras; now comes a new menace to motorists: bus-lane ‘entrapment’.
Underhand tactics are being blamed for a massive rise in fines handed out to drivers who are caught straying into a bus lane. Five years ago, approximately 321,000 bus lane fines or ‘infringement tickets’ were issued. But last year that figure had climbed to over one million, raising around £30million in revenue for cash-strapped councils.
Critics are pointing the finger of blame at poorly located signs and confusing road layouts. In London, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol, which top the list for complaints from motorists, the most common problem is when a driver wants to turn left and inadvertently merges into or crosses a bus lane before they are allowed to.
The typical penalty for driving in a bus lane is £130 in London and £70 outside the capital. Drivers who pay promptly can have their fine reduced by half.
Many won’t know they’ve made a mistake until a brown paper envelope containing a penalty notice is dropped through their letterbox. Becky Barrow, a writer for The Sunday Times and mother of three children, suffered exactly that fate during the school run. She moved to the left slightly too early in preparation to turn left, near the Westfield shopping centre in West London.
After returning to the scene of her ‘crime’, Barrow found that the bus lane was the same colour as the rest of the road, and the thick white dividing line separating buses from other traffic stopped before arrows tell drivers they may merge left.
The Daily Mail reports that in London’s borough of Lambeth, one camera positioned at a junction has generated more than £6m in fines to date, while in Glasgow another camera has effectively handed out more than £3m worth of penalties.
Unlike money raised from speeding fines, which is handed to the Treasury, revenue from bus lane fines and parking tickets is kept by councils. Ten years ago, bus lane enforcement would have been carried out by the police on location. Today it’s overseen by video camera operators sat in a windowless control room, or in some cases older-style photographic cameras capture the evidence.
How to appeal a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for driving in a bus lane
Not many drivers realise that it is possible to appeal against a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for driving in a bus lane.
Motorists must take up the matter with the authority that issued the ticket in the first place, within the specified time limit – typically 28 days. If your appeal is unsuccessful you can turn to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. This is an independent adjudicator with the authority to cancel a PCN.
Given that the most common complaint among drivers is that they moved to the left slightly too early in order to turn left, the most significant ground for appealing a bus lane fine is that drivers are permitted 20 metres of grace – approximately five car lengths.
So if the supplied photographic and (in some cases) video evidence does not show the car travelling more than 20 metres in the bus lane, there are good grounds for an adjudicator to throw out the PCN.
(For vehicles 10 years & under on our closest equivalent UK cover)