It’s the Conservatives turn to have the first ‘golden’ motion debated at next week’s Full Council – Tuesday, 19th January- and they have chosen to table a controversial proposal which calls on the Mayor to allow all road users access to bus lanes during off-peak hours.
At present, only buses, pedal cycles and (in certain cases) solo motorcycles and taxis are permitted to use these corridors, which usually operate 24/7 and are enforced by CCTV. Errant drivers straying into them face automatic fines of £60 which can be discounted or increased depending on prompt payment of the penalty notice.
Cllr Lucas – who is also the Conservative Mayoral Candidate – is convinced that there needs to be a review of the effectiveness of these dedicated routes, which are meant to improve the reliability and punctuality of public transport but, critics argue, can often contribute to traffic gridlock.
The motion deliberately stops short of suggesting bus lanes be scrapped, a measure undertaken by the Labour Mayor of Liverpool in 2014, which saw the removal of all but four in that city following a year-long trial.
Cllr Lucas said: “I know that the Mayor has previously rejected the option of removing bus lanes in Bristol but we are asking him to consider a compromise step here which would allow motorists to use this valuable road space at times of the day (and night) when this makes a negligible impact on bus services.
“It is clear that his current transport planning is not working – with Bristol still having the unenviable reputation of having some of the longest journey times in the country.
“Funnelling cars nose-to-tail into single file so that they can crawl along cheek-by-jowl to empty highway is not only a huge underutilisation of the network, it seems a policy designed to infuriate and discourage drivers and 'engineer' congestion.
“I understand the Conservative Mayoral Candidate for London, Zac Goldsmith is promising to scrap these lanes in the Capital within three years. Whilst other cities are keen to examine their effectiveness.
“If I were to be elected to be Mayor in May, there would be an immediate change of emphasis and policy. We need to establish which (if any) of these corridors actually work and get rid of those that do not.
“There also needs to be an end to a policy of deliberately seeking to criminalise, demonise and penalise the motorist at every turn. It is time Bristol City Council stopped being anti-motorist.
“For the moment, we hope to be able to persuade the Council and Mayor to adopt this relaxation in the enforcement rules and try something different. It could actually help to get traffic in Bristol moving again.”