Cumberland Road Bus Gate developments

Matt Sanders, an Aardman Animations Designer, complains that the signage around the Cumberland Road ‘bus gate’ fails to comply with Department of Transport regulations (link to main report).  These failures may explain why there have been so many penalty charge notices raising over £500k in fines over a six-week period until mid-February this year. Good news for a cash-strapped Council.

Sanders argues that the signs are either too small or inappropriate, leading many drivers to pass through the gate. For example, the two blue signs with four traffic types indicated (as in our featured image) are too small and drivers fail to appreciate their significance. The regulations allow clearer, more standard, red no-entry signs to be displayed when a single bus gate operates on a two-way road (as in our second image). According to Sanders, ‘this alternative would be more effective at persuading non-authorized vehicles not to drive through the bus gate – yet the Council chose to specify the blue signs instead’. The national average for a bus gate is around 5,000 fines per year, but a freedom of information request by Sanders revealed that the Cumberland Road gate has triggered 29,078 penalty charge notices in the first three months of this year. He estimates that the corresponding figure is now around 45,000. With most fines paid at the discounted rate of £35, the income to date is likely to be over £1.5 Million.

The Council has responded by pointing out that they have installed red road surfacing at this bus gate ‘to further enhance its visibility.’ Why so many motorists continue to ignore the notice is unclear. Perhaps it is because there is no obvious reason to expect a bus gate here. In our objections to the gate we argued that it will not reduce traffic volume but divert it along Coronation Road, running parallel to Cumberland Road barely 50 metres south. Increased traffic along a congested Coronation Road will be slow-moving at best. This is likely to worsen air pollution rather than improve it, particularly for those Bristol residents living south the New Cut. City Council’s John Smith (Interim Executive Director: Growth & Regeneration) told us that the scheme ‘would achieve elements of the wider policy aspiration of the City Council’s overall transport strategy’ but he failed to identify which elements.

It is time for the Council to confirm the effectiveness of this bus gate: has air pollution been reduced (on both sides of the New Cut) and have the journey times, reliability and use of the M2 Metrobus service improved? If these benefits have failed to materialize, the Cumberland Road bus gate must be removed.

Update June 2024: See latest BBC coverage.

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