Re-visiting Brighton in 2020 was something to look forward to, but for the unfamiliar motorist, it could be a trip laced with peril.
The weather was perfect; a crisp frost, an expanse of clear blue sky with not a cloud in it, plenty of sunshine. What better way to spend a Sunday than to find my way to Brighton, with the help of my trusty phone Sat Nav? Recalling last year’s highlights, (see Bright ‘n’ Breezy 2019) I was looking forward to exploring the North Lanes again, a feast of colourful shops, lively cafés, street art and plenty of places to grab a bite.
So here I was on the A23 descending a long hill towards the city centre. To the untrained eye this looked like a typical dual carriageway when I suddenly thought: ‘Holy Crap, I’m in a bus lane.’ A memory jolted me. Swiftly moving over to the right, I hope the realisation didn’t come too late. Like it or not, things have changed in the last year and I’m not having a go but if you dare enter the city by car, beware of the council’s new policies which could leave a rather large dent in your finances.
In 12 months more than 75,000 fines were issued for driving in bus lanes in Brighton & Hove. The fines totalling more than £4 million.
A report, issued by Brighton & Hove City Council, showed the number of bus lane penalty charge notices (PCN) issued between April 2018 and April 2019 had increased by almost eight times over the previous year. My husband was one of the unfortunates but where were the signs? No one drives into a bus lane on purpose. Peter had no clue and neither did I. So I’m bracing myself, waiting for a fine. Not a pleasant way to start 2020.
A spokesman said: “Bus lanes in the city are there for a number of important reasons – to ensure public transport runs efficiently, to reduce the number of cars and lorries in the city, cut dangerous fuel emissions and improve air quality in the city centre and to make the city safer for pedestrians.”
I don’t have a problem with that. I would also say that on my journey I saw numerous ranks of ‘pay as you go’ bikes for hire, thinking ‘how cool’ and if I lived here, I would use one of those; enjoy cycling without the expense of owning a bike. We all need to do our bit protecting the environment. Of course we must cut down CO2 emissions, reduce plastic waste, recycle as much as we can and source cleaner fuels. I have every respect for the Green Party, but is lashing out at drivers and hitting them where it hurts the best way to press their policies? It seems a little Draconian to me.
“Western Road bus lanes are very clearly marked and there is plenty of obvious signage, so claims that driving in a bus lane is a ‘simple mistake’ or an ‘accident’ to ‘extract money from motorists’ is wholly incorrect.”
Reading various blogs and forums, it seems the signage is far from clear. I mean who the hell would deliberately enter a bus lane if they knew they’d cop a £60 fine? Reading on, their argument seems lame, a system fated to screw money out of motorists and if so, they do themselves no favours. What if it puts tourists right off visiting Brighton? How much longer do the Greens hope to cling to their power by penalising people?
Rant aside, I enjoyed wandering around the lanes. It’s a joy to see so many independent traders in today’s economic climate and I’m happy to support them above the multinational chains and online giants. But maybe next year I’ll get a train.
Afterthought: Watching the news, specifically the World Economic Forum in Davos, I was stunned to see campaigner Greta Thunberg come under attack on the climate change movement by Donald Trump. While the US president blows his own trumpet about himself, that the US economy is burning bright right now, we have seen the gradual increase in extreme weather conditions including terrible fires that have ravaged Australia for months. How unbelievably short sighted.