‘Sharers’ to be allowed in Sheffield bus lanes
MOTORISTS will be allowed to drive in some Sheffield bus lanes if they have at least one passenger as part of an experiment due to be launched next year.
At the same time, some other lanes could be opened to delivery vehicles - all in an attempt to make more efficient use of road space.
The initiative is being prepared by the council in expectation that roads in the city will become more congested during the huge highways repair programme, which will get fully into gear next year.
The council is trying to strike a balance between encouraging car sharing and helping local businesses - without undermining the principle of bus lanes.
Highways officers and councillors have visited a High Occupancy Lane scheme in Leeds and one that allows goods vehicles to share lanes with buses and some other vehicles in Tyne and Wear, and concluded that there is potential for an experiment in Sheffield.
Councillors have approved an £80,000 budget.
Roads for the High Occupancy Lane trial have yet be confirmed, but they will be major routes and it is thought the likes of Western Bank, next to the University of Sheffield, Savile Street, near the Wicker, and Mosborough Parkway are candidates.
Enforcement will be key, whether it be by council officers or the police, with offenders facing the same fines as those who currently ignore bus lane rules. A strategy will have to be agreed.
High Occupancy Lanes - in which at least one passenger is required for cars to be allowed into bus lanes - are enforced in other parts of the country by the police.
If the Sheffield project is deemed to be successful, other bus lanes could be included, but each would be chosen after an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages, especially for road safety. Some are likely to be ruled out as impractical.
The idea is not new in Sheffield. High Occupancy Lanes were part of the Penistone Road ‘Smart Route’ scheme between Wadsley Bridge and Shalesmoor which failed to attract Government funding.
The plan to open up bus lanes to delivery vehicles is designed to provide support for local businesses and to help free up the main lane to reduce congestion for cars. Labour cabinet member for environment and transport, Coun Leigh Bramall, said the driving force behind the experiment was the highways Private Finance Initiative, which is expected to produce “a significant amount of extra congestion.
“We hope that by introducing car sharing in some of the city’s bus lanes we can reduce congestion on Sheffield’s roads and make life easier for motorists.
“We are looking to make the maximum use of existing capacity.
“The trial will give us an opportunity to see if it works. We are not committed to the project indefinitely, but we are going to see if it makes a difference. It may be one scheme has some merits and the other doesn’t.”
Coun Bramall added: “The bus companies have been reasonably supportive. When I have mentioned it, they have said they are willing to have a look.”
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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