Motorcyclists are allowed to use lanes marked “bus lane”, but they are not allowed to use “bus only” lanes. The Esmonde Rd bus lane, leading up to the motorway onramp, has signs that point to both.
A dispute over a painted sign on a motorway onramp has led to a heated court case against a former senior police sergeant.
Community Magistrate Terence Bourke has been pulled over for riding his motorbike in the same stretch of bus lane on three separate occasions.
Police say the lane is clearly for buses and emergency vehicles only. Bourke told the North Shore District Court the signage was “ambiguous” and he was allowed to use the lane, which bypasses traffic lights on the Esmonde Rd motorway onramp.
Bourke is a former senior sergeant and head of police prosecutions at North Shore District Court. He represented himself during the hearing.
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Motorcyclists are allowed to use lanes marked “bus lane”, but they are not allowed to use “bus only” lanes.
Bourke pointed to a section of the bus lane that had the words “bus lane only” written on the road – an amalgamation of both types of lanes that did not adhere to the rules governing road markings.
Because of Bourke’s position, Crown prosecutor Fiona Culliney, a partner at law firm Meredith Connell, was brought in to prosecute the case.
She said in order to see that section, Bourke had to travel over the words “bus 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 ample signage throughout. Whether they are wholly compliant with the schedule, they clearly state a bus-only lane.”
Culliney said Bourke, as a former traffic officer, senior sergeant and police prosecutor, was aware of the rules and had “deliberately and continually driven in that lane”.
Culliney called one witness, Constable Christopher Chambers. He told the court he caught Bourke driving in the bus lane on the Esmonde Rd onramp, shortly before it enters the northern motorway, on three occasions between 2019 and as recently as two weeks ago.
He said the first time he pulled Bourke over, in 2019 or 2020, Bourke was “quite vocal” about his legal authority to use the busway.
But Chambers said the road signs made it clear.
“Its intended use was for buses only and emergency vehicles that have an exemption.”
Chambers said Bourke was let off with a warning. “We had hoped that common sense would prevail.”
About a year later, Chambers pulled Bourke over for the second time.
Asked by Culliney if he recognised Bourke, Chambers said “unfortunately, yes”.
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He said Bourke “challenged” him and said he was going to complain about Chambers’ behaviour to his supervisors and the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
“It was uncalled-for and unprofessional, in my opinion.”
Chambers issued him a $150 infringement notice.
On August 2, 2022, Chambers caught Bourke riding in the bus lane at the same place for a third time and issued him another ticket. This time Chambers said the conversation was brief.
Chambers said following the intersection with Barry’s Point Rd, the bus lane is clearly marked as bus only. He said the words painted on the roadway made it clear, as did road signs.
He acknowledged the words “bus lane only” did not conform to regulations.
Bourke said rules around bus lane road markings gave roading 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 could not use an amalgamation of both.
“Those signs are mixed and confusing the whole way down Esmonde Rd.”
Justices of the Peace Ian Gibson and Carly Gunn reserved their decision.