H&F Council rejects allowing electric cars to use bus lanes

A Nissan Leaf

A Nissan Leaf

I wrote last week about the urgent priority to encourage motorists to switch to electric cars. At present air pollution kills 72 borough residents a year – as well as diminishing the quality of life for the rest of us. A big switch to electric cars would be transformational. A significant incentive could be allowing electric cars to use bus lanes. So it is disappointing that Hammersmith and Fulham Council has rejected the idea.

Edward Stubbing, a Transport Planner for the Council’s Transport and Highways Department writes to me to say:

“Modelling suggest that there is a eight fold increase in fully electric vehicle ownership year on year, as such the bus lanes are likely to quickly become congested with electric vehicles over time as the level of ownership quickly rises. Bus lanes are currently used by both buses and Taxi’s in recognition of the shared mode of transport they represent. Introducing other vehicles into these priority lanes would likely damage the effectiveness and advantage of these modes of travel.”

He concludes:

“As such at present it is the view of officers that the benefits of allowing electric vehicles into bus lanes, does not outway the disadvantages it would cause other road users.”

Now there can be a more general argument about whether bus lanes are an overall benefit in terms of traffic congestion and passenger journey times. In Liverpool most bus lanes have been abolished to ease traffic congestion for motorists. The length of time for bus journeys only increased fractionally and the number of bus passengers actually increased. At Holborn tube station passengers were asked to stand on both sides of the escalators – instead of walking on the left and standing on the right. This meant congestion was eased as capacity increased. One can see the same logic provides a case for getting rid of bus lanes.

On the other hand perhaps Mr Stubbing is correct and that allowing electric cars to use bus lanes would increase overall journey times. I think he’s wrong – but let us suppose he is right. What is more serious? That a bus journey takes a minute or two longer or that air pollution continues to cause us to die an year earlier than we otherwise would and means we are wheezing and spluttering before it finally finishes us off?

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