Community magistrate claims loophole in signage as excuse to drive in bus lane

Motorcyclists are permitted to use the marked lanes

Google Maps/provided

Motorcyclists are allowed to use the lanes marked “bus lane”, but they are not allowed to use the “bus only” lanes. The Esmonde Rd bus lane, leading to the motorway on-ramp, has signs for both.

A dispute over a sign painted on a freeway ramp has led to a heated lawsuit against a former police chief sergeant.

Community Magistrate Terence Bourke was arrested for riding his motorcycle in the same stretch of bus lane three times.

According to the police, the lane is clearly reserved for buses and emergency vehicles. Bourke told the North Shore District Court that the signage was “ambiguous” and he was allowed to use the lane, which bypasses traffic lights on the Esmonde Rd freeway on-ramp.

Bourke is a former senior sergeant and chief of police prosecutions at North Shore District Court. He represented himself at the hearing.

READ MORE:
* Buses get a ticket to use the shoulder lane on Auckland’s busiest freeway
* Cars parked on yellow lines interfere with buses; a car was swept aside at a busy train station

Motorcyclists are allowed to use the lanes marked “bus lane”, but they are not allowed to use the “bus only” lanes.

The words

Google Maps/provided

The words ‘bus lane only’ are written on this Auckland motorway ramp. This wording is now at the center of a legal dispute.

Bourke pointed to a section of the bus-only lane that had the words “bus-only lane” written on the road – a merger of the two types of lanes that failed to meet rules governing road markings.

Due to Bourke’s stance, Crown Attorney Fiona Culliney, a partner at law firm Meredith Connell, was brought in to pursue the case.

She said that to see this section, Bourke had to skim the words “buses only” painted in large letters on the road surface and pass several signs that included a picture of a bus and the word “only.”

“There was a lot of signage everywhere. That they are fully compliant with the timetable, they clearly indicate a reserved lane for buses.

Community Magistrate Terence Bourke in North Shore District Court.

Jason Dorday / Stuff

Community Magistrate Terence Bourke in North Shore District Court.

Culliney said Bourke, as a former traffic cop, senior sergeant and police prosecutor, was aware of the rules and had “deliberately and continuously driven in this direction.”

Culliney called a witness, Constable Christopher Chambers. He told the court he caught Bourke driving in the bus lane on the Esmonde Rd on-ramp, shortly before he entered the northern highway, three times between 2019 and just two weeks ago.

He said the first time he arrested Bourke, in 2019 or 2020, Bourke was “pretty vocal” about his legal authority to use the tracks.

But Chambers said road signs made it clear.

Crown Attorney Fiona Culliney has been assigned to prosecute the case.  (File photo)

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Crown Attorney Fiona Culliney has been assigned to prosecute the case. (File photo)

“Its intended use was restricted to buses and emergency vehicles with an exemption.”

Chambers said Bourke was released with a warning. “We had hoped that common sense would prevail.”

About a year later, Chambers arrested Bourke for the second time.

Asked by Culliney if he recognized Bourke, Chambers replied “unfortunately, yes”.

Things

The number of fines imposed on Christchurch motorists caught parking or driving in bus lanes has doubled since 2018. (Video first posted January 2020)

He said Bourke had “challenged” him and said he would complain about Chambers’ behavior to his supervisors and the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

“It was inappropriate and unprofessional, in my opinion.”

Chambers issued him a $150 violation notice.

On August 2, 2022, Chambers caught Bourke driving in the bus lane at the same location for the third time and issued him another ticket. This time, Chambers said the conversation was brief.

Chambers said after the intersection with Barry’s Point Rd the bus lane is clearly marked as bus only. He said the words painted on the pavement made it clear, as did the street signs.

He acknowledged that the words “reserved bus lane” did not comply with the regulations.

Bourke said the rules for bus lane road markings give road authorities two options. They could either use the words “bus lane” which allowed motorcyclists to use them, or “bus only” which did not.

But Bourke said they couldn’t use a fusion of the two.

“These signs are mixed and confusing all along Esmonde Road.”

Justices of the Peace Ian Gibson and Carly Gunn reserved their decision.

About Todd Wurtsbach

Check Also

A man who rode a motorbike against traffic, without a helmet, was arrested for threatening cops in Kulai

Tok said background checks showed the suspect had no criminal or drug history. ― Photo …