Liverpool bus lanes - good riddance?

Liverpool City Council has, from this week, removed all its 24 bus lanes as part of a nine-month project to examine whether they help or hinder traffic flow around the city. And, as you’d expect, it’s proven to be a controversial move.

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The case against…

Opponents of the plans point to the confusion that could arise when the lanes are removed, particularly as bus lanes are still in operation in the neighbouring boroughs of Sefton and Knowsley. Concerns have also been raised about the safety of cyclists who use the lanes to keep a safe distance from other traffic. (Before any drivers get a bee in their bonnet, cyclists are allowed to use bus lanes under rule 65 of the Highway Code.) Then there’s the impact the move could have on bus services themselves. Buses can now presumably get snarled up in delays caused by congestion or roadworks and, if services are running late, there’s a worry this could turn people off public transport and force them back into their cars. So that would be more vehicles on the road leading to even greater congestion, not to mention the negative environmental impacts. Arriva, which operates buses along all Merseyside routes, says it wasn’t consulted on the plans before the decision to scrap the bus lanes was made, while Green Party councillor, John Coyne, has dismissed the move as a flippant one. He said: “The city centre movement strategy designed to keep cars round the edge of the city has been torn up on the mayor's whim." Unsurprisingly, the directly elected mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has rejected these claims, so here’s the counter argument…

The case for scrapping the bus lanes

After facing criticism for his decision to remove Liverpool’s bus lanes, mayor Joe Anderson has come out fighting, insisting Arriva representatives were part of discussions and reminding them they are one of a number of companies which receive a £17million annual subsidy from Merseyside taxpayers. Mayor Anderson has also made clear the reasons why the plans have gone ahead: “While we don't have extensive data, the evidence we do have suggests that bus lanes are not benefiting the city as planned, that they are not leading to an increase in bus usage, and that they may actually be making congestion worse. "This (9-month) trial is about getting the data we need so we can make an informed decision over this important issue." He has also reiterated that, once the trial ends, a decision will be made on whether or not some or all of the lanes should be re-introduced.

National focus

Given the divided opinions surrounding this move, it’s certain that civic authorities around the country will be keeping a close eye on developments. The next nine months will no doubt be interesting ones for the roads in and around Liverpool city centre. We’ll keep you up to speed. Ever been stuck in a queue of traffic, fuming about the empty bus lane to your left? Sat on a bus exploding with rage because someone’s parked in front and nipped into Greggs for a steak slice? Worried bus services would become less reliable and roads more congested? Would you welcome a similar experiment where you live? Let us know, below…

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