MOTORISTS will be allowed to drive in some Sheffield bus lanes if they have at least one passenger as part of a trial to be launched next year.
At the same time, some other lanes could be opened to delivery vehicles - all in an attempt to make more efficient use of road space.
The initiative is being prepared by the council in expectation that roads in the city will become more congested during the huge highways repair programme, which will get fully into gear next year.
The council is trying to strike a balance between encouraging car-sharing and helping local businesses - without undermining the principle of bus lanes.
Highways officers and councillors have visited a ‘high occupancy lane’ scheme in Leeds and one that allows goods vehicles to share lanes with buses and some other vehicles in Tyne and Wear, and concluded that there is potential for an experiment in Sheffield.
Councillors have approved an £80,000 budget.
Labour cabinet member for environment and transport, Coun Leigh Bramall, said the driving force behind the experiment was the £2 billion Streets Ahead resurfacing scheme, which is expected to produce a significant amount of extra congestion.
He said: “We hope that by introducing car sharing in some of the city’s bus lanes we can reduce congestion on Sheffield’s roads and make life easier for motorists.
“We are looking to make the maximum use of existing capacity.
“The trial will give us an opportunity to see if it works. We are not committed to the project indefinitely, but we are going to see if it makes a difference. It may be one scheme has some merits and the other doesn’t.”
Coun Bramall added: “The bus companies have been reasonably supportive. When I have mentioned it, they have said they are willing to have a look.”
Roads for the High Occupancy Lane trial have yet be confirmed, but they will be major routes and it is thought the likes of Western Bank, next to the University of Sheffield, Savile Street, near the Wicker, are candidates.
A new lane could also be created on Mosborough Parkway, which does not have any bus lanes.
Enforcement will be key, whether it be by council officers or the police, with offenders facing the same fines as those who currently ignore bus lane rules. A strategy will have to be agreed.