A baffled motorist has been fined for driving on a city centre bus lane — even though he insists he was using a diversion route.
Wayne Smith, 53, received a £60 penalty notice for heading along the Baldwin Street bus lane at around 5.15pm on April 3, when a Kill the Bill demonstration was taking place.
Mr Smith, who works with wood, was driving from his Bower Ashton workshop to his Stapleton home, when he says his progress was blocked by road closures for the demonstration against the proposed Police and Crime Bill.
He says he followed the diversion along Baldwin Street, put in place by police between 4pm and 7pm.
But then he received a £60 fine in the post from Bristol City Council — now set to rise to £120 due to non-payment.
A council spokesperson has now urged Mr Smith to appeal the fine, and said they will contact him to discuss his individual case.
Mr Smith said: “[The council] told me I can appeal, but I can’t appeal until they send out another fine on June 27, which will bring it up to £120.
“They’re saying I can’t appeal until I get that letter. This is ridiculous. They keep adding more and more. They’re just unbelievable.”
A spokesman for the council said it understands “the frustration this has caused the drivers affected” and it would encourage them to make an appeal.
Mr Smith says he was not aware of the protest against the Bill — which would curb people’s rights to peacefully protest — when he arrived in the city centre.
He added: “I still didn’t even know until later when a friend of mine said it was closed off for Kill the Bill. I didn’t see any crowds. To be honest I thought there’d been an accident.
“It turned out a protest was happening on Bridewell Street and all the traffic had to go down Baldwin Street. The road ahead was coned off with a sign saying ‘diversion’ and an arrow pointing right.
“There was no other way to go than Baldwin Street. There had been no forewarning anywhere else before I got to the city centre, and you can’t do a u-ey in the middle of the road.
“By the time I got there it was all jammed up, and all the traffic was going that way. They would have got hundreds of cars in three hours. I wonder how many of these people would panic and pay the fine.”
Mr Smith contacted police and spoke to a sergeant based at Bridewell station. Bristol Live has seen an email sent to Mr Smith by the sergeant. It confirms traffic was diverted into Baldwin Street between 4pm and 7pm on April 3.
The wood worker said: “The sarge was absolutely brilliant. She was like, ‘I can’t believe the council is going through with this.’
“When I got the penalty notice, I sent back a covering letter explaining about the Kill the Bill protest, but the council said it never got that.
“Instead they sent me another fine bringing it up from £60 to £90. A guy called me from customer service and he was absolutely useless. It was like talking to an automaton, saying ‘I can’t help you, I’m customer service.’
“You’re thinking, ‘Well if customer service can’t help me, who can? What are you ringing me for?’
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“It’s so frustrating. It’s like they’re giving generic answers rather than realising they’re making a rod for their own back. If this gets highlighted, how many other people are going to say, ‘Oh, I got done that day.’?
Bristol Live asked the council if Mr Smith’s fine would be cancelled, how many other fines were issued for use of the diversion route, and whether all would be rescinded.
A council spokesman said: “We understand the frustration this has caused the drivers affected and we would encourage them to submit an appeal in writing to the address detailed on the penalty charge notice itself.
“Where fines have already been paid in relation to penalty charge notices for entering the Baldwin Street bus lane between 4pm and 7pm on April 3, 2021, our statutory appeals process will ensure that these appeals are reviewed on a case by case basis.
“Where it is evident that the vehicle took the route through the bus lane because of the diversion we would refund the PCN. We will also be in contact with Mr Smith shortly to discuss his individual case.”