105 drivers fined for being in bus lane

JON WELCH Police have been accused of heavy-handedness and focusing on soft targets after stopping and fining hundreds of motorists for driving down a bus lane at rush hour.

JON WELCH

Police have been accused of heavy-handedness and focusing on soft targets after stopping and fining hundreds of motorists for driving down a bus lane at rush hour.

Officers mounted the operation in Norwich yesterday , handing out 105 fixed penalty notices at £30 each to drivers entering Brazen Gate from Grove Road.

On two previous days they issued a further 242 fines, bringing the total fines to £10,410.

Cars are banned from this stretch of the road between 7.30am and 9.30am each weekday, when access is restricted to buses, taxis and bicycles.

Although there are warning signs on the approach to the restricted section, there are no bus lane markings on the road itself.

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An onlooker reported seeing nine regular police officers and five community support officers, along with several police cars, taking part in yesterday's operation.

Among the motorists stopped and fined was Dean Critchfield, of Sprowston.

Mr Critchfield, who had just dropped his son Matthew off at Norwich City College, said: “A police officer signalled me to pull over. He said, 'We're stopping people today for driving in a bus lane.' He pulled out a photograph of the sign that is somewhere along that road - it's not obvious.

“Wouldn't it have been more helpful to warn people and stress to them that it's a bus lane? I think this was a revenue-generating exercise.

“It's amazing that they can spare so much resource for this. Aren't there more important priorities for the police?”

Darren Groom, who runs The Little Red Roaster coffee shop on Grove Road, said: “I'd say half the people who get caught live locally and know they shouldn't go down there but chance it, and the other half genuinely don't know.

“The signs are large but they are definitely easy to miss. If you don't see the first warning sign, by the time you get to the 'no entry' sign there is nowhere to turn round. You often see people doing U-turns in the street.”

Mr Groom said he sympathised with drivers caught in the crackdown, and is offering cut-price coffee at £1 a cup to any who bring in a relevant fixed penalty notice.

Police spokesman Kristina Fox said the operation was carried out by the Lakenham and Tuckswood Safer Neighbourhood Team in response to requests made by local people at a public meeting last month.

They are also targeting motorists who speed, use their mobile phone while driving, do not wear a seatbelt or do not have a valid tax disc.

Mrs Fox said yesterday was the fifth occasion that the team had carried out operations in the area. “The first two days saw officers stopping motorists and giving verbal warnings only. On the remaining three days non-endorsable fixed penalty notices for £30 were issued.”

Sgt Graham Dalton said: “The restrictions are there to ease congestion, encourage people to consider using other forms of transport and to provide cyclists with a safer route.

“Drivers who routinely ignore the restrictions do so at their peril. We will continue to monitor Brazen Gate and anyone caught flouting the restrictions will be stopped.

“We have received messages of thanks already from local people who have found that the flouting of the rules has been annoying and dangerous. They have told us that after our recent operations the area has been much safer.”

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