The Bedford Road Bus Gate

There has been ongoing controversy over a section of road in Aberdeen which, in 2016, was fitted with a 'bus gate'

TThe advised through route which would attract a fine if you take it.he intention of this is that only buses should be allowed to use the road as a through route. On the face of it that might seem like a straightforward town planning decision, that the road should either be available to the public or it should not. However, confusing signage and the collection of a staggering amount of money (over £1m to date) for road users who seemingly didn't understand the signage, have led to heated dispute over this.

Firstly, you would expect that any road which is not available for public use should be unambiguously indicated as such. By the conventions of the Highway Code, and of course of EU standardised road signs, a prohibition of this kind should be indicated by a red sign. An example of such being the well-known 'No Entry' sign. Not here though.

The 'bus gate' prohibition of driving is indicated by a blue sign. Blue signs normally indicate compulsion to carry out an action, as in 'You must turn right.' A blue sign would normally apply to the types of vehicle indicated on it, so if the blue sign carries a bus logo, then under normal conventions it would imply that buses must do whatever the sign commands.

The signs are qualified by the word 'Only'.. but that could be interpreted two ways, as implying that only buses must pass, or that the 'you must do' instruction on the sign only applies to buses.

It seems that this 'Bus gate' signage is officially approved, but hey it goes against the conventions of road signage, and therefore is bound to cause confusion. 

So clear they need an additional sign (also the wrong color)  Photo: P&J.Anyway, a second issue has been noted, in that Bedford Road carries the B991 designation. Two considerations apply here. firstly that a B road is by definition a road open to public use. Secondly, that the road is an advisory through-route. In other words, the motorist passing through this area (as opposed to driving to a local destination) is advised to use this road in preference to other lower-classified or unclassified routes in the vicinity.

I have rechecked the various mapping agencies to see if,  over a year after the 'bus gate' installation, effectively closing the road to public use, Bedford Road had been declassified as an advisory through route. It seems the answer is no. It is still an advised route. Ordnance Survey data still gives it the designation of B991. So does Google Maps don't seem to list B roads, so the status there is uncertain. Two out of three seems enough though, especially as OS is the official word on all things mapping-related.  This is bad. The public are being misled by incorrect route information, and even a year on, there doesn't even seem to be any intention to correct this.

So, what this amounts to is that drivers are being fined for taking an advised through route, and at that, an advised through route which carries no red sign indicating a prohibition of driving. To me, that seems like a very weak legal case.

The right way to do this.Exactly why a conventional 'No Entry' sigh was not used, is anyone's guess. At least if it had followed the accepted principles of signage then there could be little excuse for ignoring it. Even if the road is still marked on official maps as an advisory through route.

There are, after all, numerous existing places where only buses are allowed to turn into a street, such as the one shown in Charlotte St. They are signposted conventionally with a No Entry sign, and an exclusion notice beneath. Hard to see why this strange and, indeed, confusing  'bus gate' construction is needed. It does nothing that the conventional sign cannot do.

The reader will note that I'm steering clear of the question of whether Bedford Road should be closed. I don't want to go there. OK, terrible pun but in the literal sense I seldom have any reason to. The real issue is whether confusing nonsense of this kind is acceptable. If it proliferates, that will be a bad day for all.

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