London: Bus lanes or how to get a fine for nothing image

In the Daily Telegraph, assistant editor Phillip Johnson vented his fury on traffic regulations.

“Driving home from work on Sunday evening, I came across a queue of traffic mostly heading straight on when I wanted to turn left. The inside lane was clear, but it was reserved for buses. Only after sitting and waiting for 10 minutes did I realise that it was actually permissible to drive in the bus lane at that time.

“So cowed have we become in London by the remote enforcement of traffic regulations via CCTV that we no longer know what we can or can’t do. Or at least I don’t; and that has a lot to do with the three fixed-penalty enforcement notices that popped through the family letter box in successive days, accompanied by startlingly clear photographs of our car unarguably in a bus lane near our home. What they did not show was that there was no other reasonable option for turning left, save to shoot across from the outside lane at the last second. For this minor infraction we were fined £100 for each offence. You get less for shoplifting.”

Johnson pointed out that such fines started life at £80 but have risen to £130, “proving that this is not so much about deterrence, or improving traffic flow, as raising money. This particular bus lane generated £300,000 in its first five months, while saving buses an estimated 35 seconds per journey.”

 

“Councils may call them fixed penalty notices, but these punishments are fines by another name, issued in an arbitrary fashion without any recourse to what is right and just”
– Phillip Johnson, Daily Telegraph

He added: “Unsurprisingly, councils across the country want to join the feeding frenzy.. Local authorities in England and Wales have lobbied the Government for the right to fine motorists themselves, and ministers have said they are ‘sympathetic’ to the idea. These are the same ministers, by the way, who before the last election promised to end the ‘war on motorists’, as though we were alien creatures rather than the majority of voters.

 

“Councils may call them fixed penalty notices, but these punishments are fines by another name, issued in an arbitrary fashion without any recourse to what is right and just.”

But surely, if you stick to the rules you will be ok. Johnson argued: “The law should be enforced by an impartial examination of the evidence, not by a photograph that brooks no extenuating circumstances. The sense of powerlessness that many people feel when they fall foul of these laws has probably done more than anything to widen the gulf between the public and local government. What is absent is any sense of reasonableness and proportionality, both of which are necessary for laws to gain public acceptance.

“But still – at least you get a nice photo of your car.”