Bus lanes crackdown 'needs to be flexible'
More than 1,000 fines have been issued to drivers using city centre bus lanes late at night or early in the morning when few services are actually running.
Earlier this week, the city council revealed nearly 19,243 drivers were fined for straying into bus-only zones in Charles Street and Causeway Lane, Leicester, from July to the end of October.
Yesterday, it said 1,418 – 7.4 per cent of the total penalties – were issued between 11pm and 6am, when most buses are not running in the city centre.
The lanes were installed to try to stop buses getting caught up in city centre traffic, but now there have been calls to rethink the 24-hour enforcement.
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A handful of drivers have contacted the Mercury to point out they have been caught late at night or in the early hours when public transport is not running.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has commissioned a council scrutiny commission to review the round-the-clock enforcement but stressed he felt it was the best way to avoid confusing motorists.
He said: "In other cities, bus lanes are not enforced 24 hours a day and I would like to see what their experiences are.
"My own feelings are that a bus lane should be a bus lane at all times. That way it is always clear to drivers.
"If people are deliberately breaking the rules, they deserve to be fined, but I have asked officers to look again at the signage to make sure it is totally clear."
Liberal Democrat Councillor Nigel Porter, who sits on the scrutiny commission, said: "I think the council needs to be flexible with its enforcement.
"The fact that so many people continue to get caught suggests the enforcement is not having the desired effect.
"That desired effect is to free up buses but we are fining people when buses are not even on the roads."
Roy Rollings, assistant manager of Pillings Lock Marina, at Quorn, said his staff were driving back from a Christmas party at 12.34am on December 18 when a fine was issued on Charles Street.
He said: "At the time, the weather was awful.
"Driving rain meant the signs could not be seen, or not specifically identified among the various other signs littered around the streets.
"The company spent in excess of £800 on the event in Leicester.
"It is a shame that when valuable custom is brought to the city, people are issued with penalty notices.
"I do not see why any restriction should be on a bus lane at 12.34am at night.
"There were no buses running."
The scrutiny commission will carry out its review in the coming months and make recommendation the city mayor.
Overall, the council has collected nearly £450,000 in fines, which it says will be pumped back into public transport schemes.