Peer Pressure at the Bus Lane

Do you illegally queue in the bus lane and risk getting a £30 fixed penalty notice?
OR
Do you incur the wrath of fellow motorists who accuse you of queue jumping?

Most mornings my journey to work takes me along the A259, a main coastal route between Saltdean and Rottingdean, on my way into the South Coast City of Brighton & Hove.

Bottleneck at Rottingdean Crossroads

Bottleneck at Rottingdean Crossroads

For as long as I can remember, there has been a bottleneck for westbound traffic at Rottingdean crossroads because, despite being two lanes wide, only the left lane can be used by the bulk of the traffic going straight towards Brighton. The right lane is for a just a few vehicles turning right to go north through the High Street.

 

Until recently, traffic approached in a single lane, which divided into two lanes near the junction and drivers simply drifted into the additional lane as it appeared if they wanted to turn right. A few years ago the local authority had a brainwave and decided to squeeze a bus lane in beside the westbound traffic which meant there was two lanes approaching the crossroads, although normal traffic could not legally access Lane 1, until the bus lane ended about 200 metres before the crossroads.

A259 before the new bus lane

Before

A259 with the new bus lane

After

 

The designers of this engineering masterpiece presumably thought that drivers would stay quietly in lane 2 until the last moment and then, in a relatively short distance, lane change safely into lane 1 as required. Anyone having an interest in driver psychology might have guessed they would be wrong.

Queueing in the bus lane

Queue on the A259 West to Rottingdean

As soon as the traffic queue reaches the bus lane drivers approaching the end of the queue are faced with the dilemma of either joining the end of the queue which is clearly illegal or driving past the end of the queue in the hope that you can get into line further down the road. On some mornings the illegal queue in the bus lane regularly exceeds 50 cars.

I really believe that most people want to comply with the rules but I have realised that we are all prepared to break the law when it suits us. The most striking element of this daily event is not the length of the illegal queue in the bus lane but, since this problem began, I have only ever seen a few cars stay out of the bus lane completely to face the displeasure of their fellow commuters.

I must admit to being no better than everyone else. There was an occasion just the other day when I decided the illegal queue was just too long for me and I decided to place myself at the mercy of drivers nearer the traffic lights. As soon as the bus lane had finished I slowed down and indicated left to let others know what I hoped to achieve. Thankfully, a kind soul let me move into the left lane ahead of them but I still had to slow to a crawl for a few moments while the decision was being made and this was clearly unacceptable to an angry woman, driving a BMW behind me in lane two, who’s gestures were both very rude and threatening. How did that make me feel? Well, I can say it stopped me feeling smug that I hadn’t broken the law but I’m not sure I want to repeat it the experience!

It gets even more interesting because just a few months ago an object which looked a bit like a camera appeared one morning fitted to a lamp post near the end of the bus lane. I don’t know if it was an enforcement camera or not, but everyone presumably thought it was because the queue disappeared almost immediately. A week later the object was removed and the queue has returned.

What does all this say about the typical motorist? I want to be a law abiding motorist and the camera proved we can do it, but we don’t. I think I am typical of most motorists and I feel aggrieved. I blame the local authority for placing me in the position where I must choose between breaking the law, cause others around me to be obstructed, or accuse me of queue jumping.