FIREFIGHTERS have condemned a Scots council for fining a motorist who drove in a bus lane to let emergency vehicles get past.
Dr Catherine Berry, a Glasgow University lecturer, was astonished when she received a £30 fine after moving into a bus lane to let two speeding fire engines past.
The 38-year-old mum of three eventually faced a £90 penalty after she became locked in an eight-month battle with Glasgow City Council to overturn its decision.
Glasgow Council yesterday agreed to waive the fine “on this occasion” but warned drivers to use “common sense” when using bus lanes.
Scotland’s Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had hit out at the council’s initial decision to fine Dr Berry, describing it as “crazy”.
Dr Berry was driving home from a play centre with her three children, Rachel, seven, Alasdair, five and Roddy, three, in July when she noticed two fire engines appearing from a fire station on Maryhill Road.
She said: “I moved straight out of the way. It’s just automatic: slow down, move to the left, and let them by.
“The car in front of me moved out of the way as well. It was seconds and then we moved straight back again.”
Dr Berry said a month later she was issued with a £30 fine.
“I wrote to them, and said ‘Oh look, this must be a mistake, there was an emergency vehicle coming and I moved out of the way,’ and they said ‘no you’re still in the wrong, you can appeal if you want’ they took the stance that it was a point in law, you aren’t allowed to do that, you have to stay in your lane,” she explained.
After lodging her appeal in September, Dr Berry was ordered to an appeals hearing in February.
“The case I presented was firstly, it is your natural reaction to shift out of the way when you see an emergency vehicle coming. Secondly, the car in front of me moved, so if I’d stayed there both lanes would have been blocked by the fire engines.
“And thirdly, looking at London and their transport website, it says you can use a bus lane if there is an emergency vehicle coming,” she added.
She said the whole process had been draining.
She said: “I must have spent hours on this thing now. With all the preparation it’s taken, it has just been a complete farce. Everybody at work was laughing saying ‘typical council’ It’s just ridiculous.
“What is more important, not going in an empty bus lane or getting out of the way? It is far more important from my point of view to move out of the way for emergency vehicles rather then to have them held up.”
Dr Berry, reacting to Glasgow Council’s climbdown, said: “I am pleased but I don’t like the grudging tone of it either.
“It was obvious all the way – that’s what annoys me. The stills from the camera show the fire engines behind me. There is video that shows us pulling in and then pulling out again.”
Roddy Robertson, executive council member of Scotland’s FBU said the council’s decision to fine Dr Berry was “crazy”.
He said: “If it was simply moving out of the way for an emergency vehicle and then moving back, then it was rather crazy to fine someone like that.
“We would encourage all road users to move out of the way when it’s safe to do so and clearly moving into a bus lane would be the safe thing to do if there is an emergency vehicle coming.
“I find it quite incredible the council has taken this position.”
Mr Robertson said the Highway Code should exempt drivers from breaking the law to help emergency services.
He added: “If it’s law that you must make way for emergency vehicles, then it puts the onus a wee bit back on to getting out of the way rather than prosecuting people who go into bus lanes.”
Paul Watters, the AA’s head of public affairs, said: These things should ideally be sorted out before the penalty notice is sent.
“They are supposed to look at the pictures and view them in context. Hopefully this appeal should be worn. It is absolutely wrong to penalise someone who moves out of the way for an emergency service vehicle on blue lights.”
A spokesman from the RAC added: “We understand people shouldn’t be driving in bus lanes but if you are getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle then getting a ticket seems unfair. It seems like common sense should prevail here.”
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “In general, we will waive a fine if a driver moves into a bus lane to let an emergency vehicle past. However, that is not a licence to drive in a bus lane.
“By pulling into a bus lane, and continuing to drive along it despite emergency vehicles approaching behind them, drivers could potentially create an obstacle.
“We are cancelling the fine on this occasion but remind drivers to use common sense and observe the laws of the road.”
The current bus lane controversy is not the first to hit Scottish councils.
Last year a driver who transports disabled children was hit with 27 fines for driving in bus lanes – despite police telling him he was allowed to.
Thomas Renwick uses his nine-seater minibus to transport severely disabled youngsters to school in Edinburgh.
Despite police advising him that vehicles with more than seven passengers could use the city’s bus lanes, the 53-year-old was been slapped with a £1620 bill by the council.
Edinburgh driver Janice Warnes was also fined for driving in a bus lane – three seconds before restrictions came into place in the city.
In Aberdeen, council chiefs came under fire in 2012 for spending £300,000 of taxpayers money upgrading bus lane cameras across the city to fine motorists £80 a time.