I generally have little sympathy for people who are ‘caught out’ at ‘point’ restrictions because on the whole they are laid out logically and to miss the restrictions takes quite a lot of effort.
However, sometimes they are not always clear and despite the signs, people still drive through. A ‘point’ restriction is in essence a line across the road over which only some people are allowed to travel (or if we are being pedantic, it could be a very short section of road). Bus gates are a common type of point restriction and the are used to give passengers a journey time advantage over general traffic where drivers have to take a long way round.
A news item caught my eye today regarding a bus gate at Duke, Chelmsford. Essentially a driver has successfully had a PCN (penalty charge notice) overturned by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal on the grounds that the signs were inadequate. An adjudicator apparently visited the site and felt that although the signs for the bus gate were large, they were with other signs which made the installation cluttered.
The driver is a psychologist who thinks there are too many signs for a driver to process at once and that drivers are getting trapped in the area and “panicking”. So we don’t have enough signs, but we have too many at the same time. Essex County Council has said;
Before turning on enforcement cameras in 2017, we increased signage at all junctions, sent more than 3,000 warning notices and painted the words “BUS GATE” in five-foot high letters on the road at both entrances to help make drivers aware of the restrictions.
I do like the sarcasm at the end of the statement in relation to the five-foot high letters!
So what is going on because there are actually plenty of signs in the area and there are indeed five-foot letters saying “BUS GATE” painted on the road. Perhaps more to the point, why am I having an off day by having any sympathy at all?
Chelmsford is a typical UK city which has become a victim of car-centric spatial and transport planning. There are lots of big roads around the place and lots of congestion and the pace of development in the area doesn’t seem to be letting up as some of the old industrial areas become out-of-town-but-in-town retail parks.
However, there is quite an important cycle/ bus/ rail interchange at Chelmsford Station which sits on Duke Street. The bus gate has been placed at a low bridge where the railway crosses the street. As an interchange, there are lots of local and long-distance bus routes converging on the station, there are taxis and private vehicles being used for drop-offs/ collections and the large cycle parking facility helps add to the transport mix.
The bus gate itself actually allows passage by buses, cycles, taxis and motorcycles and the headroom of the bridge restricts larger vehicles (maximum height of 3.8m). The bridge is also narrow and so it operates as a “priority pinch point” which has relevant traffic signs and so therefore, it is fair to say that there is quite a bit going on.