Some drivers flout rules.
Any motorist could confirm that. Some see traffic laws much as a rebellious child sees school rules, as prohibitions to be broken. The sign says the speed limit is 30mph? 40 will do. The lights are turning red? Go through anyway. There's a traffic jam but a clear bus lane? Drive along it and force your way in further along; if a bus comes, tough. These motorists are not only an irritant, but are often a danger too, though most mistakenly imagine themselves to be highly skilful behind the wheel. No question about it, they deserve to be caught and fined for their anti-social ways.
Sometimes, however, rules are so vigorously and inflexibly applied as to seem draconian even to the law-abiding majority and there are signs that could be the case with Glasgow's bus lane camera system. A Freedom of Information request to Glasgow City Council has revealed that just one of Glasgow's 11 bus lane cameras has clocked up nearly a quarter of the penalty notices to drivers in the city centre.
What is going on? The council says that in spite of the bus lane being clearly marked, some drivers continue to break the law and believe cameras will eventually deter them, adding that the number of fines issued is declining.
Glaswegians, though, will wonder why drivers are behaving so much more badly on Glassford Street, where they clocked up 44,657 fines, than on Cathedral Street, the second-top black spot, where they were apparently guilty of just 25,298 breaches. Could it not be that there is something about the way traffic is managed on Glassford Street that is contributing to the problem?
The Institute of Advanced Motoring is an organisation that exists first and foremost to promote safe driving; it is no mouthpiece for petrolheads. Nevetheless, it is indignant about Glasgow's bus lane cameras and suggests that on this particular one-way street, because of its narrowness, it is very hard for drivers to overtake the many buses that stop on the street and give them a wide berth without breaching the bus lane on the other side of the road. Is this causing the high level of fines? If so, is that fair or desirable? Glasgow City Council should investigate more closely.
This is not the first time the way cameras operate in Glasgow has provoked objections. The Herald reported in the summer that Glasgow City Council rakes more than three times as much in bus lane fines each day as Edinburgh and Aberdeen, even though the level of traffic in the two cities combined is similar to that in Glasgow and in spite of the fact that they have 18 cameras between them compared to Glasgow's 11.
Glaswegians may well wonder how much this is about keeping bus lanes clear and how much about making money. These fines are worth a fortune to the council; it has made £4.3m since the scheme was launched including £1.2m from Glassford Street alone. It intends to raise £376,000 more through better bus lane camera enforcement by 2015. Bus lane cameras should be used to catch motorists who wilfully flout the rules, not to chase revenue targets.
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