The room was quiet as the various meeting attendees shuffled in their seats. This was like billions of other meetings in a generic meeting room.
The lead for the agenda item cleared their throat.
“OK, everyone! So the next item will focus on Scott Hall Road. We have a frequent bus service and the proposal from a local councillor is a tidal bus lane located in the middle of the road.”
The plans were laid out and it had great potential. The wide central reservation would feature a bi directional bus lane with the capability to enter and exit the bus lane every 300-500 metres. This would enable buses to avoid any obstructions in the bus lane and by staggering them, it would avoid issues where vehicles drift across to the opposite carriageway or U turning vehicles blocking the bus lane. It was effective, saving space for other features such as a segregated cycle lane.
The proposer cleared their throat “I am confused, why do the segregated cycle lanes disappear at the bus stops?”
The lead engineer grimaced
“At bus stops, you will need four bus shelters, two in each direction. One will need to face the bus lane when that is active in that direction. Then a bus stop will also need to be placed on the pavement of the main carriageway when the bus lane isn’t active in that direction. All of this takes up space.”
“Why don’t you stagger the bus stops?”
“We can stagger the bus stops but we would need to double the number of pedestrian crossings so that everyone can access bus stops. It puts people off as they have to walk further to get their bus.”
“Why not return the buses to the side of the road at bus stops”
“That would delay all journeys as they cross the carriageway”
The line of questioning stopped letting the engineer highlight some of the further risks and issues.
- Vehicle Collisions (usually head on with vehicles prohibited from bus lane)
- Pedestrian collisions caused by people not expecting two way bus use
- Delays as traffic would need to be halted to let the bus join or leave the bus lane at beginning and end.
- Cycles/Hackney Carriages would be prohibited and blue light vehicles discouraged from using the lane to prevent head on collisions with buses
- Possible service perception issues as buses switch between different bus stops and travel past passengers waiting at other bus stops
- Buses unable to overtake other buses at bus stops in the bus lane
- Three crossings instead of two to cross the road
- Additional congestion because roundabouts have to be removed or buses merged back into general traffic. U Turns are more difficult to achieve as a result and bus stops at roundabout junctions need to be set back further making interchanges between routes more difficult.
The atmosphere was uneasy.
Here we pause the meeting, considering what we have learned. Tidal bus lanes in the centre of the road create inefficient uses of space. It creates risks and issues.
The best option to resolve this is segregated bus priority in permanent operation in each direction preferably at the side of the road. It makes it easier, providing space more appropriately rather than duplicating key infrastructure such as bus shelters and crossings. The space can also be shared with other modes of transport. It is easier to narrow the central reservation if additional capacity is required for other modes of transport.