Friday 19 October 2018

Man overturns council fine for driving in bus lane - and it may open floodgates

A driver who successfully won an appeal against the council for driving in a bus lane could inspire change for thousands of other motorists.
Keith Stevenson, 56, took Bristol City Council to a tribunal after being slapped with a £30 penalty charge notice for using the city's M32 Metrobus-only slip-road in June.
The Bristol motorist admitted he accidentally used the slip road during heavy traffic because he became distracted by a driver in front of him.
And although he expected the council to send him a warning, Keith said he was appalled when he was issued with a fine on August 4.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson has since confirmed the slip-road design is now being reviewed in light of the tribunal judgement.
“It was back in June that I used the slip road,” Keith told Bristol Live , referring to his fine.
“It was an honest mistake. It was heavy traffic and I was pulling a trailer at the time.
“I use the M32 all the time and I know the junction that I need to take so I think my attention must have been distracted by a driver in front of me.
“The new slip road looks like any other junction so I thought it was mine and I came off. I realised my mistake right away and when I got to the roundabout on the other side, I noticed a little sign that said ‘you are entering a bus lane’.
“In theory, the only thing you can do at this stage to avoid a fine is reverse on to the bridge - but that would just be utter madness.
“As you go around the roundabout to go back on to the M32, there are these great big cameras filming you - so I knew I’d been caught.
“I was just expecting a warning, though. Surely they could realise this was done in error?”
Upon receiving his penalty change notice, Keith became one of the 9,500 drivers who were caught using the slip-road between May and September.
Of those, approximately 6,000 have already paid their fines - meaning more than 3,000 remain outstanding, though this figure is expected to have risen since last month's report.
In fact, on the day Keith was caught, 15 motorists were filmed using the slip-road in just two and a half hours.
In light of his tribunal success, Keith said he hoped Bristol City Council would agree to rescind any outstanding notices now “a precedent” had been set.
The 56-year-old also called on the local authority to address the “inadequate” slip-road signage, which was highlighted in the adjudicator's ruling.
“The tribunal hearing was done over the phone but the council chose not to take part,” he said.
“The adjudicator was quite clear in her ruling.
“She said the signs and layout is not adequate and the council knows this. 10,000 people have been caught using this slip-road since May, of which 6,000 have paid and 3,000 haven’t.
“Once you come off the M32, you don’t have any choice at all but, like the adjudicator pointed out at the tribunal, if you use the roundabout to come back on to the motorway, then you are using the least amount of bus lane possible.
“I think anyone who has already paid their fine should be allowed to appeal, and I think the council should re-mark the slip road so the mini-roundabout does not fall within the bus lane.
“They should put a sign on the bridge, directing drivers towards the ‘amnesty roundabout’, so they know they won’t get a fine for using it.”
The adjudicator made a number of recommendations regarding the M32 bus-lane slip-road and the council’s enforcement of it following Keith’s appeal success.
Due to the sheer volume of drivers being caught, the adjudicator advised Bristol City Council to issue warning letters before dishing out penalty charge notices.
The adjudicator also highlighted the fact drivers were left with no alternative but to drive over the bridge and use the bus-only roundabout once they have exited the M32.
It was in her ruling that she said drivers should not be penalised for using the roundabout in order to avoid an accident.
“If a driver enters the slip road as Mr Stevenson did, the only way to correct the mistake is to use the roundabout in the bus lane and take the second exit to immediately leave the bus lane and join the southbound M32,” the adjudicator wrote.
“Mr Stevenson was only in the bus lane while he went round the roundabout. Indeed, he had passed a sign on the slip road that directed use of the roundabout to get back to the M32.
“This sign invites use of the roundabout, without showing that it lies just inside a bus lane.
“Obviously, it is understandable that Highways England do not want drivers to reverse back onto the M32.
“But if this results in the council putting up a sign inviting drivers to use the roundabout to return to the M32 without mentioning the bus lane, and taking a ‘low key’ approach to signing the entry point, drivers are at a disadvantage.”
Keith said he hoped his success at the tribunal in overturning the penalty charge notice would set “a precedent” for other drivers going forward.
The 56-year-old added: “The penalty charge notice was for £30 and, if I had lost my appeal, it would have been doubled to £60.
“To tell you the truth, it was never about the amount - it was the totally illogical approach from the council and the fact they were not prepared to admit the faults with this slip-road.”
In September, a highways expert told Bristol Live additional signs were required to deter drivers from wrongly using the slip-road.
At the time, a council spokesperson denied they were trying to “catch drivers out” and insisted the road was “clearly marked”.
In light of the tribunal result, however, a council spokesperson said the slip-road design was now under review.
“Although the signage for the new M32 bus-only route was agreed by the Department for Transport (DfT), we are reviewing it following this judgement and will consider making improvements. We will comment further once this process is complete," the spokesperson said.

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