Council slammed over bus lane “fake facts”

This is a press release from June 2017. As is so often the case, the press took no interest at all. But if the council had wanted to introduce one right turn ban in the interests of traffic flow and safety, they would have been all over it. Additional note as this is re-posted in 2021 – unlike LTN’s, there was no consultation on this, whatsoever. Why would there have been? 

Press Release:

Freedom of Information Request shows research into bus lane scrappage is completely compromised by lack of reliable evidence.

City transport campaigner James Avery has lambasted Coventry City Council over what he is describing as “fake facts” in terms of the way in which the council is going about abolishing bus lanes in the city.

Following a Freedom of Information request to Coventry City Council and a parallel request to Liverpool City Council, the latter which remains unanswered, the following details have been unearthed about the way in which the council is going about what it calls a “trial”of bus lane removal in the city, when in reality, just one councillor already has full authority to axe every single publicly funded bus lane in the city:

The council was specifically asked about the legality of discussions concerning bus lanes, what information they took from their “study tour” to Liverpool, and which other cities they looked at in order to consider the best ways of managing bus lanes.

The freedom of information request found that:

  • The council is conducting the bus lane trial without any kind of consultation – no public meetings took place at all before the decision was made, and one year after the council first considered the bus lane axe, no public meeting has taken place to date.
  • The “fact-finding” trip to Liverpool only considered information from the Labour-controlled city council, and no other sources. Despite the taxpayer funded trip sending no less than 5 representatives from Coventry City Council, not a single person from that group took even one bus ride in the city, there was no attempt to look at the main bus routes during the peak times, and nobody hired a bike in the city to look at the impact of bus lane removal on cycling.
  • Throughout the process, no other city apart from Liverpool has been looked at.
  • The council hasn’t looked at a single academic study of bus lane removal.
  • The impact on cycling isn’t included in any of the assessments.
  • No assessment whatsoever has been taken of the very severe additional risks which are being imposed on cyclists by being forced to mix with general traffic.
  • There is no study at all on the air quality impacts of bus lane removal.
  • Traffic lights are being modified to give buses priority – but this measure is only being implemented on routes which are in the bus lane trial, instead of being implemented citywide, skewing the results.
  • The council hasn’t taken any legal advice on the impact of bus lane removal in terms of the Equality Act, and in particular on vulnerable road users.

Mr Avery said:

We need to call this bus lane axe out for exactly what it is – a completely politically motivated plan to take Coventry back to the 1970s by removing measures which can actually help make the city move more freely by providing real transport choice, not just in terms of making buses run more smoothly and more reliably, but also because bus lanes provide a relatively safe environment for cyclists when compared with having to mix with other  traffic.

I’m in absolutely no doubt that the first set of information is going to show an improvement, because it has been quite deliberately set up to do so.

Bus lane removal might look good at first, but in the long run, it just makes buses slower, so more and more people drive. This impact may occur over a period of several years, yet 2 1/2 years after their bus lane decision, Liverpool still refuse to release any data, despite being legally required to do so[1]. The Labour controlled council in Coventry complains of “austerity” as they rip up a £40m scheme which was only recently installed.

Mr Avery continued:

All we have ever heard from the council is that they view empty spaces between buses as a problem, but they’ve never considered just how much empty space there is in each car, usually at least 3 seats of empty space. During peak times, buses are incredibly efficient users of road space, with one bus carrying as many as 70 or 80 people, but only using the same amount of road space as 2-3 cars.

Nobody would object to a reassessment of bus lane space if there was a particular shift in bus service pattern from one road to the next, or if there was already a reduction in general traffic, but in terms of road space management, the council is just giving up on anything but the private car.

The local plan, which was supposed to encourage transport choice, is just get weaker and weaker, and the council has continuously failed to bring in measures which actually make it easier to walk, cycle or use public transport.

This completely skewed bus lane trial is therefore absolutely an example of Trump style “fake facts”, and it can only make matters worse. As the US pulls out of the Paris climate deal, the actions of Coventry City Councillors who criticise that move are totally hypocritical.


[1] FOI Request to Liverpool City Council, July 2016. Complaint now with ICO.