Driving on the pavement

26 Sep

Driving on the pavement is banned by the same law that bans cyclists from riding on it. Needless to say, every car that is parked on the pavement was driven on it first, but that is another story. This post is about people to consider the pavement as a valid alternative to the carriageway when the road is blocked by a bin lorry, traffic or other obstructions.

Many cars evidently do this to get past bin lorries on the Isle of White. Good to see the Hampshire Police at least highlighting the issue.

It not just a Hampshire issue though. Here is video taken by a cyclist of a motorist doing the same thing to get past another bin lorry

And a whole line of vehicles using the pavement to get past roadworks in Swindon.

And trying to escape the traffic chaos outside a school in Folkstone

And in Bristol where a car is seen being driven along the pavement towards a pedestrian.

In this one the driver of a car in this one decides accelerates past a cyclist, with two wheels up on the pavement.

Even the Royal Mail are at it. Here is a van being driven some long distance along the pavement (and no, the hazard warning lights don’t make it OK!)

Also report here of motorists driving on the pavement outside a primary school in Bolton and to get pass roadworks in West London. All of the above have been chosen to show what appear to be ordinary people driving on the pavement in ordinary circumstances, not whilst in a rage, drunk or when speeding or being chased by the police (which also happens).

Is this issue a nationally significant one? Have you experienced it yourself? Do let us know in the comments field below.

Reclaiming the term ‘road user’ from the motoring lobby

22 Sep

These banners, which were proudly displayed at a fringe event at the Labour Conference, give a clear impression that ‘Driver=Road User’ and ‘Road User=Driver’. This is totally unacceptable and marginalises all other road users.

This is not an isolated instance, and we need to be challenge it. Following the success of the ipayroadtax.org campaign, I suggest we complain whenever we see the term being used in this way.

Here are the banners in question.

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‘Strengthing’ maximum parking standards by weakening them??

20 Sep

I have just been alerted to the fact that the government is consulting on a change that would require local authorities to allow developers to provide as much parking within their developments as they wish ‘to meet market demand‘ with a suggestion that this would ‘tackle the on-street parking problem’. Consultation responses need to be in by the 26th September. Please ensure relevant organisations are aware of this one which needs a clear response.

The offending text is hidden away towards the end of this long consultation document. In this excellent article “Pickles and jam jars” in Local Transport Today (subscription) John Dales wrote:

“Nowhere in the introduction to the consultation (page five), or in the scope of the relevant section two (page 18) is there the slightest indication that there’s anything important about parking anywhere in the document. Nevertheless, under the section heading Reducing planning regulations to support housing, high streets and growth, under the sub-heading Supporting a mixed and vibrant high street, and last of all the matters listed under Proposal H: Expanded facilities for existing retailers are buried paragraphs 2.77 and 2.78 (under the sub-sub-sub-heading Maximum parking standards).

Paragraph 2.77 begins with the superfluous statement that “the Government supports the motorist” and ends by stating that “Parking standards are now a matter for local authorities”. Paragraph 2.78 reveals at once that this a lie, issuing the thinly-veiled threat that “the Government wants to understand whether local authorities are stopping builders from providing sufficient parking space to meet market demand”. In this way, smuggled in as being something that will somehow help retailers, we find a proposal that plainly has the potential to undermine both local democracy and sensible planning as they apply to all land uses, not just shops. We also see, in the phrase “meet market demand”, just how doctrinaire the secretary of state is when it comes to the use of private cars”

Here is the offending section in full (highlights are my own):

Maximum parking standards
2.77 The Government supports the motorist and wants to see adequate parking provision for them. For this reason, we removed the previous administration’s restrictions on the number of parking spaces for new developments. And in March
this year we published new planning guidance, which encourages local authorities to improve the quality of parking in town centres and, where it is necessary to ensure their vitality, the quantity too. Parking standards are now matters for local authorities.

2.78 We are aware that some local authorities appear to have adopted a more flexible approach, and this is to be welcomed, but the Government now wishes to understand whether more action is needed to tackle on-street parking problems. We want to understand whether local authorities are stopping builders from providing sufficient parking space to meet market demand. We also want to ensure that local authorities in their Local Plans have properly reviewed their parking policies and brought them up to date.

Question 2.16: Do you agree that parking policy should be strengthened to tackle on-street parking problems by restricting powers to set maximum parking standards?

Is it not a good idea to provide more on-property parking I hear some people ask? Well not really. When an area has a lot of cars then there will be a lot of commuting. When there is a lot of commuting the roads get full, public transport gets slower, cycling and walking get less attractive and even the motorists complain. When motorists finally get to the where they are going they find the car park is full and complain. In addition the density of housing reduces and commutes get longer making all forms of transport more expensive and commutes longer (LA is a good example of where this all ends). Planners have known for years that this is what happens, and the last conservative government accepted this in 1994 after the big road protests. Since then they have obviously forgotten. Let’s remind them! The alternative is denser building where places are closer together and within reach by public transport, bicycle or on foot.

Again – do please make sure that all the relevant organisation are aware of this consultation and the need to rebut it by the 26th September.

Incidentally I am also planning to look at the separate consultation as detailed in the ‘The right to challenge parking policies: a discussion paper‘ which has a closing date of 10 October 2014. More later.

Could we redesign vehicle scrappage to meet the needs of all road users?

16 Sep

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London has recently suggested that drivers of older diesel cars would be charged an additional £10 per day to drive in London and given a rebate of £1000 or £2000 if that scrap a dirty diesel and replace it with a new clean mode as part of a new scrappage scheme. Strangely, on becoming mayor in 2008 he cancelled Ken Livingston’s proposed £25 per day congestion charge for the most polluting vehicles  saying “I am delighted that we have been able to scrap the £25 charge, which would have hit families and small businesses hardest”, but anyway, Boris will always be Boris and will always be unpredictable and will always play to the camera! There are too many things wrong with this scheme for it to be worth detailing them, suffice to say the main winners would be car manufacturers and retailers.

This  carrot/stick proposal did however leave me wondering if the scrappage concept could be reworked to meet the needs of all road users, to reduce the number of cars on GB roads and in particular to reduce the number of cars parked on our streets.

First – the stick. An annual fee of £36 (10p a day) would be charged for people who wish to leave their car regularly on the street overnight, where safe and legal, to be paid to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (VDSA, formerly VOSA) annually as part Vehicle Excise Duty. The term ‘Regularly’ used above could be defined to mean that the vehicle was stored over-night on more than five occasions on more that three separate weeks, thereby excluding someone who leaves their car on the street over night once in a blue moon. Assuming that some 50% of 34 million vehicles owners pay the fee, it would raise £600 million per year.

Now for the carrot. This £600 million would be used to incentivise people to scrap a vehicle they own, paying out a modest £150 – £200 per vehicle to the first 3 to 4 million people who scrap a car each year. Dead cars are actually worth some £150-200 for scrap anyway, making £300-£500 in total – so would be a useful sum to many people. Needless to say the £36 per year over-night parking permit would irritate some people to get rid of their car or move it onto private property and would ensure that no one who parked on the street overnight would be able to pay £0 VED.

My guess is that this would work on many levels, resulting in:

  • people moving their vehicle onto private property to avoid the fee
  • people selling their vehicle to avoid the fee
  • people scrapping old cars both to get the refund and to avoid the fee
  • a less congested road network
  • a huge debate about whether this is good policy or an outrageous liberty
  • bringing many parties together who wish to see a reduction in parking pressure on our roads
  • a way out for provide politicians who have allowed this mess to build up over the years
  • the creation of an economic lever that prices this ‘externality’ which until now been un-costed
  • demand for additional some new vehicle sales as well?

How would it be enforced? Authorities would drive along urban streets at night a few times a month with a CCTV vehicle and record number plates. They would then filter out those who have paid and send the resulting details to VDSA who would correlate this with other sightings and issue fines to keepers of vehicles that have parked on-street for more than the allowed number of occasions. It is likely that the enforcement process would do more that cover its costs from fine income with the surplus being available to increase the incentive to scrap vehicles.

Would it be popular? It would certain generate howls of protest and reams of coverage in the papers, however a charge 10p per night for parking on public property is hardly a ripoff and street parking is widely recognised as being a serious issue with the majority of the population supports action on this. Up to 3 million people a year would befit directly from the scheme when they scrap vehicles, including many who would have scrapped them anyway.

As such I think there could well be more people for it than against it. As a reference point, I have calculate that some 1.5 million are scrapped per year on average, so with a target of 3 million per year would result in a doubling of vehicles being scrapped. If sufficient people were not incentivised to scrap vehicles by the offered refund, it could be increased until it was.

There would of course be unintended consequences which would need to be considered, including people who convert their front gardens into parking to avoid the fee and increased surveillance of the population by the state to name but two. I believe that these should be identified and managed rather than being used as a reason not to do anything.

Thoughts??

Interesting transport trends

16 Jul

Here are a bunch of recent motoring and transport trends based on published government data that build up a picture that despite having to cope with more and more vehicles cluttering up our lives, they are being used less and less and younger adults turning away from cars in very significant numbers.

Notice how the slope of this first graph reduces after 2005. Even with this reduction the number of vehicles on our roads has increased by a remarkable 8 million units between 1994 and 2013. No wonder it is hurting!

Registered vehicles on GB roads

The population has of course also been rising fast and this graph shows the ratio of cars to population which leveled off at 45-46% in 2005. This is one of the indicators that lead an increasing number of academics to suggest that something significant is changing in our relationship to car ownership who are now looking carefully to see if this as a ‘pause’ to be followed by renewed growth, a ‘saturation’ which will now be maintained, or a peak that will  be followed by a decline.

registered cars per head of GB population

This next chart shows the number of cars registered for the first time each year, most of then new vehicles coming into the fleet. This peaked in 2002 and 2003 with 2.5 million vehicles added in each of those years, with a low in 2011 of about 1.7 million before renewed growth recently with 2 million units sold in 2013.

New car registrations by year for GB

Needless to say, the size of the fleet is also linked to the number of cars scrapped or otherwise removed from use each year. This next chart shows the change in the number of cars on GB roads having accounted for these scrapped vehicles. This also shows the reduction in the rate of growth since 2006 but the number of vehicles has increased in each year including the 418,000 added last year. Ouch!

Change in number of registered cars on GB roads

It is also worth looking at the age of the fleet given that the above graph indicates that people are not scrapping cars at the same rate as they are buying new ones. This next chart below is my estimate of how old the oldest cars would be if car were all kept for a uniform time before being scrapped. Although this not hugely accurate it is probably good enough for our purposes. What is shows is that we now appear to be keeping our vehicles for four years longer than we did until 2005. This does fits with my experience. We have a pretty old car and it still looks very shiny and hasn’t let us down. No sign of the rust that used to finish off earlier models.

average age of GB car fleet

Even with all these cars, we are actually driving less miles each year, with average vehicle utilisation falling by 20% since 1994 from a bit over 10,000 miles per year per car in 1994 to 8,000.

Miles driven per car per year on GB roads

Another trend over the past 10 years has been the growing number of vehicles that pay next to nothing in car tax from virtually none in 2001 to 4 million last year. This low tax band has encouraged people to buy cars with low emissions for sure, but has also created a significant fleet of cars which cost less to tax for a year than to fill up with fuel!

Growth in number of vehicles with very low car tax

Finally, here is evidence that young adults are just not getting into the driving habit in the way that they did only recently. The number of 17 year olds who learn to drive has dropped 24%, (or 46,000 people) over the past six year. The only group where there is a noticeable increase has been women between 30 and 35, but that is no where  near enough to compensate for the earlier reductions. Academics are now watching carefully to see if this is simply that 17-20 yer olds are delaying for a few years and will learn to drive a few years later, or if a significant number will lead their lives without ever gaining a driving license.

Change in number of driving test passes 2013 v 2007

Zipcar did this interesting research into young adults attitudes to motoring. Parliament published a briefing paper in 2013 looking at the possibility of Peak Car use in Britain and Professor Phil Goodwin has produced this very approachable introduction on these changes. In the mean time I will leave you with a spokesman from the Society of Motor Manufacturers saying how delighted the industry is with all the new cars that they are selling at the moment, many of which will end up on our pavements!

 

Proposed CCTV ban to get rocky ride in Lords?

12 Jul

The government introduced a clause to ban CCTV parking enforcement into the Deregulation Bill at a very late stage, allowing only the most superficial debate in the Commons before passing it to the House of Lords, who appear to have little enthusiasm for the proposal with not a single statement being made in support of a ban. The Lords indicating that they will be scrutinising the bill in considerable detail over the coming months.

Why is this important? Because it is up legislators to take the lead on this issue. They need to create and support clear fair and enforceable laws to protect pedestrians. Without appropriate laws, or with laws that are in practice or by design unenforceable then they are useless.

The government has failed to do this for the past 30 years, but the mood is changing. The number of vehicles on our streets increases every year and selfish motorists getting ever bolder and more audacious in the choices of parking locations.

In response to this there is a powerful coalition of diverse interests forming that is pushing for effective regulation that includes the Local Government Association, the British Parking Association in addition to the RNIB, Age UK, Guide Dogs and Living Streets.

This latest move appears to be taking the government into a pretty uncomfortable place. I will watch with interest to see how this pans out!

Verbatim transcription

Rather than summarise the debate, I have included all relevant content from the 2nd reading in the Lords, markingwhat I consider to be the key remarks using bold.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): … Clauses 35 to 40 remove some of the outdated burdens relating to transport legislation, bringing legislation into line with practice; for example, removing the requirement on local authorities to seek permission from the Secretary of State to establish, alter or remove zebra crossings. This section also includes measures limiting the use of CCTV when issuing parking fines by post and removes the automatic reopening of formal investigations of marine accidents when new evidence, however trivial, comes to light.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): I thank the Minister for introducing the Deregulation Bill today and look forward to the many speeches to come. With more than 30 noble Lords listed to speak, I am sure that every clause and schedule will get some attention as we start what I suspect will be a long job, stretching out, perhaps, until the end of the year. We intend to scrutinise very carefully this rather mixed bag that the Government have put before us. I am joined on the Front Bench for the majority of the Bill by my noble friends Lady Hayter and Lord Tunnicliffe, but others will have to come in with their expertise on areas of the Bill. …

The Bill contains a controversial blanket ban on the use of CCTV for parking offences, something that the LGA, the British Parking Association, cycling groups, head teachers and charities representing blind and disabled people have argued against, while businesses and motoring groups offered mixed responses, with some motoring groups calling the ban a retrograde step and some businesses stressing that CCTV could remain beneficial at particular times and on particular occasions. …

Lord Rooker: In my last two minutes, I turn to two clauses that concern me: Clause 38 on parking and Clause 43 and Schedule 11 on waste collection. Anyone who has been a councillor for any length of time knows that the two subjects you never, ever touch within a year of an election are parking and waste collection. Why on earth are the Government interfering in these matters within a year of a general election? Despite that foolishness, I have to ask again about those two core activities—the core business of local authorities. Minister after Minister in all parties will say that it is local people who know best and that one size does not fit all. Why are the Government now trying to interfere and to regulate — never mind within a year of a general election—in these matters that are essential to local government?

My 40 years as a local councillor were spent representing a controlled parking zone in a town centre area vital to the local economy. We all know that one size does not fit all. That was in the London Borough of Sutton. It has a different regime from the Royal Borough of Kingston next door, or the London Borough of Croydon next door or indeed the London Borough of Wandsworth, which I know the Minister knows particularly well. Why are the Government interfering? What is the justification for this? We will go into it in very much more detail in Committee. However, as I think has been mentioned, the consultation from the Department for Transport on parking received a lot of responses, almost all of them hostile. On the issue of the CCTV ban, which this clause covers, six of the eight organisations responding—from the British Parking Association to cycling and disability groups—were strongly opposed to the Government’s proposed ban. Only two had a mixed reaction, one of which was from the motoring organisations, so even they were not unanimously agreed on the ban. We still do not know exactly what the exemptions are. It is difficult in this area to distinguish between what are actually government proposals and what has come from the Friday afternoon press release from the Secretary of State, preparatory presumably to his Friday evening in the pub, where most of these utterings seem rather better fitted than to legislation.

Waste collection again is causing considerable concern to local authorities, not least the likely increased cost and complexity of introducing these additional regulations. As has been said, this is a big deregulation Bill. I thought that the clue might be in the name. In fact we are proposing to introduce more regulation, which will make carrying out the essential task of waste collection more complex and more expensive. I know that my noble friend the Minister is, if anything, an even stronger localist than I am. I look forward in his closing speech to his justification for why these measures meet the test of proportionality and necessity.

Baroness Eaton (Con): I understand that many councils have raised concerns about the Government’s proposals to ban the use of CCTV for parking enforcement. At this point, I must declare an interest as I am a member of an advisory board for the Marston Group Ltd. I know that councils are concerned about these proposals as they could prevent them from using CCTV for parking enforcement, particularly outside schools, at bus stops, and on clearways. In particular, we must ensure that children are protected from irresponsible parking outside schools. As I understand it, the Bill allows the Secretary of State to exempt certain places from a ban but if the Bill takes effect before the guidance is in force, it may be impossible to enforce parking restrictions which will be referred to within the guidance. It would be helpful if the Minister could agree to meet with the LGA on this very important issue. …

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): … The second area we are concerned about is the banning of CCTV for parking enforcement. I have great sympathy with the Government in seeking to tackle a problem whereby the citizen receives a fine through the post, not having been aware that a charge has been laid, to which they have to make immediate return. We do not seem to have tackled this issue thoroughly or properly. On 10 June, the Government said that they had not reached a decision; on 17 June an amendment was made to the Bill in other place and was immediately translated into the Bill by a government majority.

There are real risks to road safety. There are risks at schools. There are risks in bus lanes, where drivers will chance it if they think they will not be surveyed. There are risks at bus stops. There are risks at yellow boxes on junctions. They are a good idea and have eased congestion, but a good idea is destroyed if one driver chances it and sits in that box and blocks the traffic. If the Government are open to persuasion that there should be exemptions to ending closed circuit TV prosecutions in these areas, those exemptions should be in the Bill and we will seek to achieve that. …

Lord Whitty (Lab): … I follow my noble friend Lord Davies in relation to the transport provisions and, in particular, CCTV. This is populism gone mad. If we cannot enforce parking restrictions, we not only endanger the safety of road users and pedestrians but also provide no parking space for motorists. If people can continue to park in restricted areas with impunity, there will be no parking space for the vast majority. By adopting the Jeremy Clarkson interpretation of the motorists’ interests, the Government have gone down exactly the wrong road. Just as the taxi provisions are not in the interests of the users of taxis, these parking provisions are not in the interests of the vast majority of motorists; our towns will get clogged up and there will be more accidents.

Lord Low of Dalston (CB): … Clause 38 amends the Road Traffic Act to prevent local authorities from issuing penalty charge notices through the post and using CCTV for parking enforcement in particular circumstances. I was glad to see that the Opposition have some reservations about this. The clause was inserted following a government consultation on local authority parking strategies. The Government acknowledged that a common theme in responses to the consultation was the need for a uniform approach to pavement parking, but this has not been followed up in the Bill. That is a major omission. Pavement parking is dangerous for pedestrians, especially parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people, including blind and partially sighted people, who may be forced out into the road where they cannot see oncoming traffic. Pavements are not designed to take the weight of vehicles and they cause pavements to crack and the tarmac surface to subside. This is also a hazard to pedestrians, who may trip on broken pavements, and particularly to blind and partially sighted people, who cannot observe the damage. It is also expensive. Local authorities paid more than £1 billion on repairing kerbs, pavements and walkways between 2006 and 2010; £106 million was also paid in compensation claims to people tripping and falling on broken pavements during the same five-year period.

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, with the support of at least a dozen other organisations, is calling for laws across the UK prohibiting pavement parking unless specifically permitted, such as have been in place in Greater London since 1974. Local authorities report that existing measures are insufficient. In a recent YouGov survey, 78% of councillors supported a national law with flexibility for local authorities to make exemptions. The Transport Select Committee described the current system as unduly complex and difficult for motorists to understand. A Private Member’s Bill with cross-party support has been presented in the other place by Martin Horwood MP. There is considerable support for a law of this type, and I very much hope that the Government will give it serious consideration.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab):As for banning CCTV for parking, this comes from the same Government who brought in the Localism Act but now decide to dictate to local authorities how they can enforce, or not enforce, parking as they think best, and despite six of the eight consultation responses opposing a CCTV ban. As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, it is, after all, local government that knows its area best. In my own borough of Camden, more than 85% of CCTV enforcements cover major junctions, bus stops, pedestrian crossings and no-waiting areas. In a busy urban area these are key to keeping traffic moving and for safety, as the noble Lord, Lord Low, the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, and my noble friends Lord Davies of Oldham and Lord Whitty said. …

Lord Wallace of Saltaire:Parking has also raised a lot of issues for many noble Lords, with the question of CCTV and parking fines. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that we have not considered the risks of removing the use of CCTV as we are not talking about doing that. There were a number of questions about how CCTV is used at a local level, on which all of us have slightly different and ambivalent views. Again, we will come back to that in detail in Committee.

School’s video shame ‘naughty parents’ who park illegally outside schools

9 Jul

A few days after Eric Pickles failed to get CCTV enforcement vehicles banned outside schools Cambridgeshire County Council launched a road safety video featuring hundreds of primary school children that encourages parents not to flout parking laws outside schools. A road safety spokesman for the council said that parking issues outside schools were one of the most common issues they dealt with and police officers urged antisocial parents to “shape up and stop wasting police time”. Earlier in the year the police had a crackdown on the “nightmare” illegal parking outside Cambridge schools following reported fights between parents with some success!

And here is a photo I took a few days ago outside a local primary school shortly before children started arriving. The caretaker puts cones out on the zig-zags every day because they are ignored otherwise by some parents, and even when they do put them out I have seen parents squeezing into the spaces at the end of them! When will our politicians ‘brave up’ and realise that they should be supporting our schools, kids, councils and the police instead of listening to a minority of drivers who cause so many difficulties for the rest of us?

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