Bristol bus gate fines quashed over poor warning signs

Signage of bus gates in Bristol have been deemed inadequate by an adjudicator
Signage of bus gates in Bristol have been deemed inadequate by an adjudicator Credit: ITV West Country

Fines given to people for driving through a new bus gate in Bristol have been quashed because the council’s warning signs were not clear enough.

In July, more than 81,000 fines were given to drivers who passed through Baldwin Street junction at the side of Bristol Bridge by the High Street.

One driver was given a ticket which was later quashed following an adjudication by a fine tribunal.

The adjudicator said at that tribunal: "I am not satisfied that the council have proved the adequacy of the signage for this bus lane for drivers who approach eastbound along Baldwin Street.

"The road marking at the entry point is not typical. The lettering 'BUS GATE' is placed just before the route splits into two lanes, which makes it seem to be only partly in each lane.

"In my view, this layout is ambiguous as to which lane the marking applies. No turning circle or other escape route is provided."

The adjudicator ruled that 'BUS GATE' lettering is poorly located on the road approaching Baldwin Street Credit: ITV West Country

There are four 'gates' or no-entry points - one either side of Bristol Bridge, and another at the Bristol Bridge end of Baldwin Street which forbids turning either right onto the bridge or left onto the High Street.

There is also a no-entry point at the western end of Baldwin Street, where it meets the Hippodrome.

Drivers can access Baldwin Street from the Queen Square area but anyone approaching Bristol Bridge in a private vehicle has to turn right towards Welsh Back down Queen Charlotte Street.

The adjudicator added: "This type of bus lane has the effect of blocking the route. It does not leave a general lane alongside. General traffic is not permitted to pass the entry point eastbound.

"The only way to avoid it is to have turned right into Queen Charlotte Street about 80 yards earlier. A map-style advance sign tells drivers that straight on becomes ‘bus route only’ in 90 yards and directs 'other traffic' to turn right.

More than 81,000 fines were issued in July alone Credit: ITV West Country

"It is on the left pavement against the background of an advertising panel and large tree, a short distance before the right turn. Just before the sign there is a loading bay/taxi rank, giving rise to the material risk that a large vehicle using the loading bay will obscure it.

"At the junction itself with Queen Charlotte Street, there is no road marking or sign to inform ‘other traffic’ to turn. If a driver misses Queen Charlotte Street, they travel on towards the entry point. No further escape route is available.

"The entry point has a pair of blue ‘bus route only’ signs on large yellow backing boards on the left and right pavement. These boards also display ‘Bus Lane Cameras’ signs.

"For the reasons set out above, I am not satisfied that the Council have proved that the advance sign and the signs and marking at the entry point are sufficiently visible and adequate in the context of this road layout."

Bristol City Council has recognised that the traffic restrictions need altering and are committed to working on new designs by Autumn.

There are 'no-entry points' at either side of Bristol Bridge Credit: ITV West Country

A council spokesperson said: "The scheme was initially implemented as a trial and, although signs and road markings have always conformed to legal guidance, we have upgraded to larger signs and painted additional road markings since it first launched.

"An initial period of soft enforcement, where we issued warnings rather than fines, was also designed to give motorists time to get used to the new restrictions.

"Penalty charge notices are now being issued to those who ignore the signage and road markings.

"Now that the changes haves been made permanent, the council is considering additional physical changes to help emphasise the new road layout, such as red road surfacing in the bus lanes.

"It was crucial we balanced implementation of the experimental scheme with the need to protect council resources by avoiding investment on longer-lasting infrastructure before a decision on permanence was made.

"We are now working on designs, which are due to be finalised by October."