Puddles and splashes – poll

26 Nov

A quick poll. Do please response in the comments section below if you have either been splashed or nearly splashed by passing vehicles when walking. If you were splashed then did you think it was carelessness on the part of the motorist or possibly deliberate? I was very nearly caught recently when a motorist chose to keep going even though to do so would mean that he would drive straight through a puddle right where I was standing.

Also if you have experienced puddles that make it hard or inconvenient to cross the road? The first photo below shows a problem that it would be so easy for our council to avoid. Why on earth does the road have to dip down just at the point where people are expected to cross? Why was this not tested with the dropped kerb was installed? Why was it not fixed with the road was resurfaced? Grrrr

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And then this one. Here a large puddle (and a stupidly parked car to make matters worse) creating significant risk of a major soaking for pedestrians including the two who are approaching.

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Ok, so the questions again:

  • Have you been splashed or nearly splashed by passing cars when walking?
  • Do you think it was deliberate or carelessness?
  • Also.. are there places where standing water on roads and the pavement makes it difficult for you to walk in wet weather?

Please respond below in the comments field:

Think ahead, think Streets Ahead – Campaign video from Guide Dogs

22 Oct

Check out ‘Think ahead, think Streets Ahead‘, an awareness raising video from Guide Dogs made by young NCS graduates in King’s Lynn. NCS describes itself as  ‘a way for 15 to 17 year olds living in England and Northern Ireland to make extraordinary friendships, learn the skills they don’t teach you in class and create unforgettable memories.’ Well done and thank you, a great job. Do please keep at it!

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!

 

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