The trial started on December 14, 2020 and could run for 18 months as Cambridgeshire Country Council is considering renewal of scheme
Cambridge has become one of the first locations in the UK to allow electric vehicles to use bus and cycle paths in a trial that – if deemed successful – could be expanded across the city.
The plan is currently operating on the Elizabeth Way bridge using an existing bus lane that travels only north.
Motorcyclists have also been given access to the lane, as have zero-emission vehicles.
The idea is part of broader plans to boost electric car ownership, which in turn would improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions in the area.
However, the plan – dubbed ‘Tesla lanes’ by critics – has been criticized by auto organizations and bike campaign groups.
The Cambridgeshire Country Council gave the trial green light from December 14, 2020 after drafting an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) – a legal document that imposes traffic and parking restrictions so that local authorities can determine whether regulations work in practice.
An ETRO can remain in effect for up to 18 months while its securities are monitored and assessed.
In this case, the ETRO has granted an extension for the use of the bus lane on the bridge, which was previously only accessible to buses, cyclists and taxis.
The municipality said: ‘This is a trial and is intended to test the effect of allowing these additional vehicles on the bus lane. If successful, it could be expanded to other Cambridge bus lanes.
“We will consider in due course whether the provisions of the Experimental Order should be made permanent.”
The statement also clarifies that any objections or comments to the order becoming final must be received by the local government by June 13, 2021.
The plan is currently operating on the Elizabeth Way bridge using an existing bus lane that travels only north
A local bike campaign group has dubbed the scheme ‘Tesla-lane’ and says it will only be used by those with the expensive American cars. It said the trial will “ deteriorate bus service and intimidate people on bicycles ”
The municipality says the scheme is being enforced by pole-mounted CCTV cameras that record vehicles entering the bus lane.
If non-EVs are caught on the bus lane, drivers will be fined £ 60.
The scheme started just a few weeks after the introduction of special green license plates for electric cars.
Grant Shapps, the transportation secretary who owns a Tesla Model 3, led the way in having zero-emission vehicles display the special plates, which have a light green flash on the left. He was the first to show one on his expensive electric car when they were legalized on December 8, 2020.
The purpose of the license plates is to easily identify EVs, allowing future incentives to promote ownership, including free or cheaper parking in city centers and the possible use of bus and cycle paths.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps (pictured) implemented plans to have electric cars display special number plates with green flashes
‘Telsa lanes’ criticized by RAC and local cycling campaign group
Auto organizations and cycling campaign groups have spoken out during the trial.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said that – while the concept was ‘well-intentioned’ – it could ’cause confusion for drivers and undermine the purpose of a bus and bike path’.
He said, “Plus, the incentive is likely to be short-lived as more and more pure electric vehicles hit our roads.
‘And once the sale of electric cars really takes off, the municipality has no choice but to spend more money to get everything back to the way it was.’
Mr. Dennis added that the initiative runs counter to national efforts to encourage motorists to cycle and walk more.
“Moreover, it does not seem that logical for cyclists, because they are allowed to drive on bus lanes and now have to deal with more and more electric cars,” he continues.
This is a terrible precedent to set that will destroy the priority of public transport and further exacerbate the already bad conditions for cycling
The concerns of the RAC are echoed by a local cycling group.
CamCycle, the Cambridge cycling campaign charity, said allowing electric vehicles on the bus lane should be “extremely alarming to anyone who cares about bicycle safety and public transport.”
In a statement on its website, the group said, “Electric cars are still cars. They take up a lot of space on the road, can endanger cyclists and will certainly overload a facility designed to make public transport run more smoothly.
“This is a terrible precedent that will destroy the priority of public transport and exacerbate the already bad conditions for cycling.”
It added: “Electric cars are still relatively expensive, so this ETRO gives owners of high-end cars, such as the Tesla, the privilege for now to cut bus service and intimidate people on bicycles.
“As electric cars become widespread, bus lanes will soon become clogged, just like any other car lane.”
There is also a scheme in place in Nottingham that allows electric and some hybrid cars to use a bus lane on a busy road in and out of the city
A ULEV – Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle – includes all 100% electric cars and hybrids emitting less than 75 g / km CO2
Nottingham has already introduced its own trial in which low-emission cars can access bus lanes.
Anyone driving a battery electric car or hybrid car producing less than 75g / km of CO2 can access the ‘Daleside Road bus and ULEV lane’ on the A612, a major route in and out of the city.
More plans are expected to be announced in the years leading to the proposed ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stamped for 2030.
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