Del Manak (left)

Police warn drivers tickets will be issued if caught in priority lanes

Victoria police will be handing out tickets to drivers caught using the priority bus and bikes lanes on Douglas Street next week.

Victoria police will be stepping up enforcement, handing out tickets to drivers caught using the priority bus and bikes lanes on Douglas Street next week.

Earlier this week, B.C. Transit, in partnership with Victoria police and the City of Victoria, launched an education and enforcement campaign to remind drivers of the rules in the bus and bike priority lanes along Douglas Street.

Police began the week by patrolling the priority lanes along the busy corridor, providing educational information about lanes and a free bus ticket. However, next week, police will be stepping up enforcement and slapping drivers with a $109 fine if they’re caught using the lanes.

“There are virtually markings and signs in every block. There’s no reason that any driver should not know that they’re in a priority lane during the time that they’re not supposed to be there,” said acting Victoria police chief Del Manak, adding they’ll specifically be looking for drivers who are choosing to ignore the signs.

“Our enforcement will be strategic and we’ll only be ticketing drivers who are knowingly disobeying the signage.”

The bus and bike priority lanes, which are slightly wider than the other lanes, operate weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. southbound from Hillside Avenue to Fisgard Street, and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. northbound from Fisgard to Tolmie.

Vehicles are still allowed to enter the lane if making a right hand turn within the current block.

In 2014, B.C. Transit rolled out the bus lanes. Phase one included expanding the lane, north and southbound along Hillside Avenue and phase two included expansion along Hillside and Tolmie north. Within the next four to six weeks, construction will begin on the southbound lane from Tolmie to Hillside.

In February, the province announced it would inject $6.45 million to extend the northbound bus lane along Douglas Street between Tolmie Avenue and Saanich Road as well.

Manuel Achadinha, B.C. Transit chief executive officer and president, said over the past few months, drivers have been gravitating back into the priority lanes. The campaign is being used to re-educate drivers to keep the priority lanes free in order to keep transit running smoothly in and out of the downtown core.

“If the lanes get congested it’ll just be like another lane in traffic. What we’re trying to do is create a reliable corridor for people who choose to take transit so they can get from home to downtown and back home again,” he said, adding Douglas is the busiest transit corridor, with 88 buses travelling along the route during peak hours.

“The highest level of demand that we have is on this corridor, so it’s important it remains efficient, effective and reliable for our customers.”

In the future, once all priority bus and cycling lanes have been completed, there are plans to have them open to cyclists and transit 24 hours a day instead of only during select hours.