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“Tory proposals to reduce bus lanes are absurd” say Green Councillors

Green Councillors have slammed proposals made by Conservative councillors to reduce Bristol’s bus lanes. Tory councillors have put forward a motion to Full Council which will be debated on Tuesday 19th January, to ask for money to be spent reviewing whether cars should be allowed to use bus lanes in off peak hours.

Councillor Deb Joffe, who will speak against the motion on Tuesday said:

“The Tory’s attempt to reduce bus lanes ignores scientific evidence and economic principles [1]. In addition, this favours people who can afford to run cars at the expense of those who have no choice but to take buses. It is absurd and unjust, and I strongly hope that the Labour councillors oppose it along with the Greens.”

“The implication is that increasing road capacity for cars will make travelling around the city easier. This is wrong on several counts. It completely ignores the basic facts of traffic flow, bus network management and economic principles. Reducing bus lanes would actually make the overall problems of traffic in the city worse as well as negatively impacting on those mobility problems.”

Councillor Charlie Bolton, who chairs the Place Scrutiny Commission added:

“Increased road capacity for private cars ultimately leads to more traffic congestion and more air pollution, the very things the Tories are purporting to reduce [2]. More traffic also increases carbon emissions which, at the recent global climate change negotiations, even the Conservatives finally agreed need to be drastically reduced.”

“We need more buses, not fewer to encourage people to get out of their cars. Opening bus lanes to cars makes bus reliability more challenging, and late buses in turn attract more people into using cars. This reduces demand for buses and makes them less viable for operators. It is a downward spiral.”

“We have just seen bus usage rates start to rise significantly in Bristol, and it would be ridiculous to start reversing this process. Our priority must be to continue to improve bus services to make buses an attractive, convenient way to get around Bristol.’”


(1)Figures from the Department of Transport show that almost all households with above average income own a car but half of low income households do not. In addition 40% of women do not have independent access to a car compared to 25% of men:

(2)The principle, which at first seems counter-intuitive, has been repeatedly demonstrated over many years now (e.g the government –commissioned Eddington Transport Study, 2006). Building a by-pass or an extra lane on the motorway initially eases traffic flow, but this ease of travel then encourages more people to drive and the congestion increases once more, but this time with more actual car traffic on the road. The same is true of allowing cars onto bus lanes in off-peak hours. If it becomes easier to drive your car at these times, then more people will do it and the end result is just as much congestion and a higher absolute number of cars on the road. The reverse is also true – reducing road capacity leads to people finding more sustainable ways of getting around, a phenomenon called ‘disappearing traffic’ (

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