Bus gates continue to catch thousands of drivers each month

A driver is fined every three minutes despite work to raise awareness about “bus gates” in Brighton over the past two years.

The bus gate at the bottom of Trafalgar Street

And thousands of drivers are fined every month for driving through the bus gates in Valley Gardens a year after more signs were put in place to highlight the new road layout.

The latest figures were released by Brighton and Hove City Council in response to a request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

It followed publication of the council’s parking annual report which said that 213,549 penalty charge notices were issued to drivers entering bus lanes – or bus gates – or other “traffic management areas”.

Extra signs were introduced early last year after councillors were shocked to hear that in 2021 a driver was fined every two minutes during the average working day.

The drivers were fined after passing through at least one of the bus gates – a form of short bus lane that can be used by “local traffic”.

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth calculated that a driver was fined every two minutes in 2021, based on a 10-hour working day, given how much quieter the roads are at night.

Councillor Nemeth spoke out again after hearing that thousands were still going through the bus gates more than a year after he had asked why the numbers are so high.

He said: “Deliberately trapping motorists to collect what are essentially highway tolls is crooked to the extreme and further damages our reputation as a welcoming city.

“So many people have been in touch with me after I initially exposed the scam, saying that they would never be returning.

“Getting these junctions so wrong is ultimately a resignation issue. Whoever is responsible is not fit for office.”

Last year Councillor Nemeth unsuccessfully urged the council to redesign the junctions and refund £2 million in fines. But the council said that there was “nothing wrong” with the signage.

Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson has renewed calls for “physical change” on the roads to make drivers more aware of the bus gates.

He said that Labour wanted to encourage “sustainable travel” and keep bus lanes clear of cars but the high fines indicated that there was still a problem.

Councillor Wilkinson said: “It would be a very good use of bus lane enforcement money to then go back in and reinforce the message and improve and enhance the signage.

“Although the signs and road markings have always conformed to legal guidance, I now believe we need to consider additional physical changes to help emphasise the layout such as upgrading to larger and better placement of signs, additional painted road markings and red road surfacing in the bus lanes.

“I would also like to see more than average bus lane contraventions flagged up much earlier in order to review any signage issues sooner.”

Councillor Robert Nemeth

The council issued 97,169 fines to drivers using just three bus gates in 2021 – in Marlborough Place and Gloucester Place, in St George’s Place and York Place and in St Peter’s Place.

The peak month was August 2021 when more than 12,600 drivers received fines for passing through the three bus gates.

In January last year, the council introduced more “new road layout ahead” and repeated signs, after councillors called for more details about how drivers were alerted to the new road layouts.

The council’s assistant director for transport Mark Prior told councillors that the road would be surfaced red where the bus gates start to alert drivers who had missed signs which went “above and beyond” the legal requirement. The red surfacing has yet to appear.

Last year the number of penalty charge notices fell to 63,622 which still equates to a driver passing through the gates every three minutes over a 10-hour working day.

August was again still the busiest month, with 6,689 drivers fined for passing through the bus gates.

Councillor Gary Wilkinson

Most drivers were caught at the St George’s Place and York Place bus gate as they headed north towards London Road rather than turning into Trafalgar Street.

An average of 4,575 drivers a month missed the turn in 2021. The figure was down to an average of 3,362 last year.

The council said: “Additional lining and signage has already been introduced near the Valley Gardens bus gates since the issue was discussed at the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee in January 2022.

“This was in addition to existing signage which already met the requirements of the Department for Transport.

“To ensure consistency across the city’s bus gates, council officers decided that red surfacing was not appropriate.

“Bus gates play a vital role in keeping public transport moving in busy parts of the city, improving the reliability and journey times of more sustainable travel options.”

  1. Paul Temple Reply

    Why call it a bus gate? Call it a bus lane and there can be no ambiguity. Typical of the transport department to say they will do something, (use red tarmac), and then decide not to use it, (those fines are a great money earner). Interseting to note that numerous London boroughs exempt blue badge users, (no such generosity with this lot).

    • Ary Reply

      Paul there’s no excuse, those areas are well signed and legal as well as lots of extra road markings. Any motorist driving through without exemption really requires to take a Highway Code test. Regardless of the “confusion” between Gate and Lane the blue signs are still the same so it should be known that they are liable to fines.

    • Helen Reply

      Paul Temple
      With the greatest of respect Paul they can not call it a Bus Lane because it’s not. Other vehicle’s need to access the area like delivery vehicles, disabled and LOCAL residents and other users to access roads etc.
      There are plenty of signs installed along this road giving clear instructions of where traffic is allowed to go. Motorists who can’t understand or look at those signs should be more aware of their surroundings.
      While the layout of the system may be confusing, road markings and signs are not. Drivers really need to be paying more attention.

  2. ChrisC Reply

    Drivers need to be looking at the actual signs and not what their Sat Navs say.

    It’s called paying due care and attention.

    • T F Bundy Reply

      Exactly! The signage is really clear.

  3. Hendrik Reply

    Anything to make great profit by the most devious means. It just about sums up the Greedy Greens.

    • Helen Reply

      That should read, drivers who fail to read road traffic signs get caught out.

  4. Peter Elvidge Reply

    Firstly the bus lanes are great at reducing unreliability problems for buses; but it is no ones interest if motorists are unintentially using the bus lanes, as it gives enforecement of bus lanes a bad name; and buses lose out, as each car illegally using the bus lane could be delaying a bus.
    I would like to see the signing further improved. Firstly in Pavilion Parade, I would like to see a big yellow sign saying ‘Ingore SatNav, A23 & A270 traffic ahead’. In Marlborough Place, instead of almost meaningless ‘local traffic’ it should state ‘Marlborough Place only’, and in North Road (alongside coloured tarmac), the sign could state something like ‘Access only’ with a warning of enforecent cameras. With even clearer signage, everyone should gain.

  5. Brighton cabby Reply

    A red sign saying “no entry” would not be misunderstood in the way these are being misunderstood tens of thousands of times per year. The fact that satnav leads drivers through the bus gates is disgusting. The signs have been designed to be confusing from the choice of colour, the design of the graphics to their location, to trap drivers as a revenue source for the council, but also allow them and people like Helen here to blame this systemic issue on (tens of thousands of) individuals. I think she would change her tune if she was ever caught out by small print that was deliberately designed to be confusing and trap people, while being sufficiently plausibly deniable that her complaints would fall on deaf ears.

    • Helen Reply

      Brighton cabby
      Thank you for your comment.
      First, the road is not a “no entry” as you well know, TAXI’s, Delivery vehicles, disabled and motorist needing access to side roads are allowed to enter this road, but you should know that.
      There is no mistaking the signage or road markings, Blue signs give clear instructions as to what vehicles can enter and big arrows on the road give clues.
      If driver’s were aware of their surrounding and paid more attention there should be no misunderstanding, but I agree that the layout could be confusing.
      The fact that satnav lead drivers through the bus gates is disgusting, or is it ? Perhaps drivers not updating their systems could be part of the problem don’t you think ?

      The signs are legal, clear and the correct colour, perhaps get a Know your Traffic signs and Highway code to refresh yourself as you appear to lack basic knowledge of signage.

      The graphics show a BUS and a cycle and worded taxi, what is hard or difficult to understand ?

      What small print ? I can only assume you mean on the signs. They are the official size so I suggest having a eye test and secondly perhaps even more so as I assume you’re a taxi driver and some have difficulties seeing their speedo’s, or do taxi drivers think 20 and 30 are minimum speeds ?

      As it happens I’ve been driving for 30 odd years and never received any motoring offence because I’ve never been caught out.

  6. Ian Reply

    There’s a really obvious sign behind Robert Nemeth’s shoulder in the photo in the article!

    • Helen Reply

      Yes there is and worryingly brighton cabbie and a few others seem to think they are wrong or too small to see.

  7. Peter Reply

    The council have many of these tricks up their sleeve. For the past sixteen years I’ve been sent an annual reminder to renew my residence (‘Z’ zone permit) which I always use as a prompt to pay. This year however I did not receive one and didn’t know the renewal was due until I noticed two parking tickets on my car.
    I immediately called the main switchboard and the lady informed me that the parking office had stopped sending reminders and many people had been “caught out”. All other payments, council tax, MOT, insurance, energy bills etc.. always reminders are sent. The council could’ve emailed me or sent me a letter to advise they are no longer letting permit holders know it’s time to renew. Also, my permit is checked by traffic wardens twice a day, they could easily leave a reminder on the windscreen. Instead they wait until they can start issuing parking tickets. This is how the council treat residence. It’s disgusting.

    • Benjamin Reply

      “Man gets caught out because he didn’t take responsibility.”

      • Peter Reply

        “Smug twit misses the point because he doesn’t have the brain power to understand”

        • Ary Reply

          Understand what Peter? If your car insurance runs out and your provider “forgets” to send you a reminder to pay for another year and then you get pulled over for having no insurance by the police do you really think that excuse and attitude would save you a fine? No. As Ben said it’s a called taking responsibility.

          • Peter

            Except insurance companies don’t forget do they. That’s because they don’t stand to profit by tricking you into a fine by not reminding you. It’s really not that hard to understand. Why don’t you give your head a wobble and then read through the thread again?

    • Helen Reply

      I’m just curious as to how CEO’s know when your Permit runs out ?

    • Ban driving Reply

      There’s a date ON your permit. No excuses

      • Peter Reply

        Helen, there’s no reason to ever look at it or put a reminder into your phone etc.. if they’ve been sending the reminders out for sixteen years. That’s the prompt to pay, which I did on time every year. They suddenly stopped without letting anyone know. It’s a trick to gain revenue from parking tickets, just like the lady on the switchboard suggested.

      • Peter Reply

        Helen, there’s no reason to ever look at it or put a reminder into your phone etc.. if they’ve been sending the reminders out for years. That’s the prompt to pay, which I did on time every year. They suddenly stopped without letting anyone know. It’s a trick to gain revenue from parking tickets, just like the lady on the switchboard suggested.

  8. Car Delenda Est Reply

    When they learn that whining will get them nowhere they will learn to pay attention while driving.

  9. End the tory scum Reply

    Robert calling it a scam but voted for it and voted against reducing the fines

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