It can take more than a decade for a city to develop a good bus and bike network. And it can all be destroyed in a matter of days by a petrolhead Mayor.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has decided to scrap all 24 of that city’s bus lanes on a “trial” basis. The decision came with hardly any debate or data. His reasons for doing so:
We have a commitment to reduce congestion and the harmful emissions associated with this and to keep the city moving, for the benefit of residents, commuters, visitors and businesses. Ultimately, the evidence we have indicates that bus lanes are not benefiting city as planned – either for buses or cars. This trial is about investigating this further so we can make an informed decision over whether the permanent removal of bus lanes will bring benefits to the city.
Bus lanes are one of the biggest sources of complaints for our highways team. We receive a huge number of objections from motorists who stray by mistake into bus lanes and are hit with a fine of at least £30. We know they are a source of frustration for many people in the city. We have listened – and we are taking action.
The decision will cost the city £700,000 annually in lost revenue. It comes at a time when the Mayor is threatening to close all parks and libraries due to ongoing budget problems.
Liverpool is the most unlikely of places to conduct this “trial”. It has a compact layout where one-third of people walk to work. There is a low rate of car ownership, and parking is expensive. There is an extensive public transit network, with 80 million annual bus passengers. The bus lanes double as bike lanes, so their removal will be devastating for bicyclists as well.