London motorists face crackdown for parking in bike boxes

Changing offence from criminal to civil would mean greater enforcement

Unwary London drivers who park in bike boxes (advance stop lines) at traffic lights could be more easily fined if a change to the law goes ahead.

According to the Evening Standard, London's cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan said Transport for London (TfL) is close to securing a law change that will mean parking in a bike box is decriminalised and so can be enforced by civil authorities. 

The bike boxes - known as advance stop lines or ASLs – allow cyclists to get ahead of traffic at junctions. Currently only police can enforce the law with penalties of up to a £60 fine and three licence points. They rarely do so because of a lack of manpower, however. 

TfL would enforce the rules by CCTV cameras and number plate recognition technology.

Gilligan said: “We know how many cars go into advance stop boxes — probably more than fifty per cent of the time. Maybe they don’t know they are meant to stay out of them.

“At present, you have to have a police officer standing at the junction or in a police car. What we can do is stick a camera up and do automatic enforcement. That will sort out the problem.”

Paul Watters, head of road policy for the motorists’ organisation the AA said rule enforcement by camera could mean motorists are unfairly punished when there are mitigating factors.  

“This is the problem we had with box junctions," Watters told BikeRadar. Sometimes you do get stuck there. I know it says don’t enter unless your exit’s clear, but if you’re in a light flow of traffic across a junction and all of a sudden it stops you can be lulled into it.”

However he added that as long as potential TfL enforcement was combined with an awareness campaign and better signage he didn’t anticipate a problem with the rule change.  

“I don’t think we would have a big problem with TfL enforcing it as long as there was a campaign that went with it and there were signs [warning drivers],” said Watters.  

Cycling charity Sustrans’s London director German Dector-Vega also welcomed the development. He said: “Fining drivers who stop in bicycle boxes will help change behaviour so that in the future this issue will need very little policing and our roads will be safer and more harmonious.

“Until then, any revenue raised should be invested in other road safety initiatives, such as training for drivers and cyclists,” he added.   

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