Belfast motorists say confusing traffic signs are driving them round the bend
Controversy over Belfast's bus lanes continues to motor on - with claims that city centre commuters are being driven to distraction by confusing signs.
Complaints have been flooding in from people caught out by the new system, says one MLA.
Fearghal McKinney said the multitude of signs and instructions is adding to drivers' bewilderment.
He cited Great Victoria Street, which passes in front of the Europa Hotel.
There, motorists are met by a plethora of warnings and instructions.
A blue sign, telling drivers to stay out of the bus lane between 7am and 7pm, is placed above a yellow urban clearway sign.
It warns that cars cannot pull up during the morning and evening rush-hours.
There are also double yellow lines and markings for the bus lane itself.
Some feel it could be too much information for drivers to take in while navigating one of the city centre's busiest routes.
Mr McKinney, an SDLP MLA for South Belfast, claimed the times were unclear.
He said many motorists have been hit by fines they can't afford.
"This is a serious concern especially as, in some cases, the specific times when the bus lane applies are unclear," he said.
"In Great Victoria Street in Belfast, one signpost contains two signs which have led to confusion, but motorists are still being fined.
"Bus lanes were introduced to help manage traffic, to reduce journey times and to improve our public transport network, and motorists accept they should drive in a responsible and respectful manner.
"But in return they expect authorities to treat them in the same way and not to be slapped with a fine, especially when the situation is confusing.
"The motoring public needs clarity and certainty over when it is permissible to enter bus lanes.
"Unclear signs do not help. In this environment I would ask the authorities to reconsider and take action to address the sources of confusion."
The apparent confusion has been hotly debated online.
One road user said: "The urban clearway sign doesn't need to be there if the bus lane sign is.
"People wouldn't be able to park there anyway, because they aren't allowed into the bus lanes between 7am and 7pm. The other sign is in effect during those hours, so is completely irrelevant.
"In my opinion the bus lanes and cameras should be done away with. It has only been put into place because they need to make the money back they are losing during the Stormont stalemate."
However, others say the signs are perfectly clear.
One motorist said he wasn't confused at all, adding: "It's not rocket science is it? I guess the drivers that are flooding his office need to spend more time with their Highway Code or need to re-sit their driving test."
Another wrote: "Where is the confusion? Both signs are very clear and refer to very different restrictions.
"Those complaining are clearly idiots and shouldn't be on the road at any time."
A spokesman for Transport NI said: "In general, bus lanes are intermittent along a route, whilst urban clearways address traffic management issues on a whole-route basis.
"Bus lanes are clearly marked on the ground. Motorists should only drive in them outside their periods of operation, which are clearly marked on the large blue bus lane signs."
Bus lanes were introduced in Belfast in October 2012.
Earlier this year legislation was passed allowing the DRD to monitor and fine motorists using the lanes.
More than 1,200 drivers were caught in the first week after fines were introduced.