It’s all your own fault, says Manchester City Council
IT’s a dismal response to a reasonable request: ‘unfortunately we're not able to offer an interview at the moment’.
So after thousands of reads for our article about dubious traffic fines on Oxford Street/Road and the millions of pounds the council has raked in, we asked for an interview.
We were refused.
As to why nobody from Manchester City Council was available for an interview is unclear. Perhaps it's because the fines are potentially illegal, or because fining people - many of whom have travelled from out of town - for simply trying to get to the hospital is morally reprehensible.
So instead we asked some questions and received the below replies.
(By the way, Paul Hope, who raised concerns about the legality of the fines and the new traffic regulations in the article, is still waiting for an outcome to his appeal. It’s now getting on for seven months and counting.)
Did the city not think it illogical to put twelve (at least) different stages with fines for infringements along one mile and a half stretch of relatively straight road? Was a precedent used from other cities perhaps?
Council: 'The scheme split the road into restricted and unrestricted zones to allow for essential access to the local businesses, universities and hospitals along the Oxford Road corridor (for example, so that deliveries can be made to retailers).
'The Oxford Road bus gates were introduced as part of a £1bn investment in city centre infrastructure improvements, to make sure that buses - the most widely used form of public transport across the city - can move efficiently and more quickly along one of Europe's busiest bus routes. The scheme is helping to create a greatly improved, safer, cleaner environment for people walking, cycling and travelling into Manchester city centre by bus.'
Did the city predict the sheer number of infringements of, according to one report in August 2018, 1,000 a day?
C: 'We predicted that the vast majority of motorists would observe the signs and follow the alternative routes provided, with millions of car journeys being avoided along Oxford Road.
'The bus gates are clearly signed to make motorists aware of the alternative routes in place and the vast majority of drivers are complying with the change. The number of motorists driving into the prohibited zone is low compared to the volume of traffic which used this road prior to the introduction of bus gates
'Additionally, we are now seeing more than double the number of cyclists on this route, with around 5,000 two-way cycle journeys being made every day. By May 2018, 1.5 million cycle journeys had already been clocked up on the Wilmslow Road and Oxford Road Cycleway – a scheme which won a 2018 National Transport Award in the category of Excellence in Cycling and Walking. 1.5 million cycle journeys equates to potential savings of 2.8 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide and 1,310 tonnes of carbon dioxide.'
Doesn't the huge number of infringements on Oxford Street/Road indicate that people find the changes illogical and confusing?
C: 'The number of infringements needs to be seen within the wider context of the amount of car journeys which are being avoided along this route. The bus gates are clearly signed to make motorists aware of the alternative routes in place and the vast majority of drivers are complying with the change.'
Does the council think it equitable to have caught so many people with fines when they are simply trying to access hospitals?
C: 'Central Manchester Hospitals, local employers and road user groups were closely involved throughout the development of this scheme, which was designed to ensure that every address on Oxford Road is accessible. Proper access to the hospital is assured through the design of the scheme.
'Anyone who receives a Fixed Penalty Notice has the right to appeal and extenuating circumstances will always be taken into consideration.'
Is the council considering any changes to the current Oxford Street/Road scheme in light of all the complaints and all the challenges from drivers who have been caught out?
C: 'We have received confirmation from the Department for Transport that extra signage would not be appropriate for this scheme. The signage is clear and we are confident that any reasonably diligent motorist will be capable of observing it and following the diversions in place.'
In addition to the answers, a Manchester City Council spokesperson said:
"We are confident that the Oxford Road bus gates are legally valid and that sufficiently clear signs are provided for motorists, in line with all relevant regulations. Indeed, after consulting with the Department for Transport, we have been informed that additional signage would not be appropriate for this scheme.
"The vast majority of drivers have correctly followed alternative routes avoiding Oxford Road since the bus gates became operational in September 2017. They are significantly reducing journey times for bus users and improving the experience of cyclists and pedestrians. This huge reduction in traffic makes a big contribution to improving air quality along the Oxford Road corridor.
“These improvements were why the scheme was introduced, with significant support having been demonstrated beforehand via public consultation. There is no intention to catch people out. The signage is clear and we have worked hard with local businesses and organisations to ensure that the restrictions in place are communicated as widely as possible."
So that’s what the council says. Give us your thoughts, because we will be following up the original article as soon as we have the results of Paul Hope’s appeal.
Below are just a few comments from readers following the last article...