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Institutional ‘motoristism’?

14 Jul

(or should it be ‘institutional motorism’ – see update at the bottom of this post)

Coming home recently I have notice police cars parked in illegal and/or antisocial ways on a number of occasions. In this first incident they had parked a marked police-car with two wheels up on the pavement on a double yellow line and probably within less than 10 meters from a junction. So was it a big emergency? Ok, not an emergency at all, just a routine traffic speed patrol. I politely asked them if they could re-park legally which they were fine about it, but why don’t they do it as a matter of course?

Police car up on pavement on double yellow within 10 meters of a junction


OK, so it is not an emergency, just a routing speed patrol

And then there was the time a few weeks back when I noticed this police car parked with its bonnet slicking out blocking the entire pavement. OK, so it might have been an emergency, but actually when to looked at the back of the vehicle there was loads of space into which the driver could have reversed.

Badly parked police car blocks pavement

Plenty of room for the driver to have reversed into the bay properly

Why does this matter, I hear many motorists thinking? It matters because it shows that there is a culture in the police that pedestrians and the pavements they rely on are less important than motorists and their needs for convenient places to park. One could possibly call it ‘institutional motoristism’ and then look at how society has dealt with other ‘isms’, such as racism and sexism (and homophobia)? All of these other ‘isms’ were endemic in both the police and also society but needed to be dug out of the police force before the wider societal issues could be addressed effectively.

Institutional motoristism (or possibly just ‘motorism’) has a more nasty side when the police side with aggressive motorists who threaten or assault pedestrians or cyclists. Check out ‘The Cycling Lawyer‘ blog for a cyclist/barrister’s view on the bias in favour of motorists as demonstrated by both the police and the judiciary.

Update

A comment has just be left below noting that Chris Hutt, the late author of the ‘Green Bristol Blog’ proposed the term ‘institutional motorism’ back in 2010 which he defined as being ‘a deep rooted prejudice in favour of motorised traffic at the expense even of the safety, let alone the convenience, of those that dare to travel on foot or bicycle‘. That is certainly what I was referring to and is easier to say that motoristism! Neither have quite the same root as racism or sexism – to follow those it would have to be ‘transport-modeism’ which doesn’t really work or ‘modeism’ which doesn’t mean anything useful at all. As such motorism seems to be the one to use.

What is encouraging is that the term seems to be picking up gentle traction. ‘At War With the Motorist’ used the term in July 2011 saying “In the 1950s the future was the car and road transport, and for five decades TfL could get away with their assumptions and their institutional motorism. The times are a changin’. We need to show TfL that they can’t get away with this in 2011“. Apparently they picked up the term from ‘People’s Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire’ in their ‘Institutionalised Motorism near UWE‘ post from July 2011. The term is also turning up in comments on blogs around the web.

Police with teeth – at least in Nottinghamshire

20 Jan

Nottinghamshire Police in the Broughton Astley & Walton area have put out a warning that they are going to get tough on pavement parking. here as a screen-grab from their website. I just wish other police forces would take such a clear stand in support of vulnerable road users!

Notts police get tough

Notts police get tough

To quote:

There are rules in parking which are,

1. Drivers must leave enough room for a double buggy pushchair or mobility cart to get through

2. Must NOT park on dropped kerbs for wheel chair access!

3. Must not park blocking driveways!

Localism, or mob rule supported by the police?

10 Dec

Localism, the new coalition policy, is about allowing local people more say on what happens in their local area. The government’s plain English guide to Localism explains that “Instead of local people being told what to do, the Government thinks that local communities should have genuine opportunities to influence the future of the places where they live” (page 11). By contrast, mob rule (or, it give it it’s official name Ochlocracy) is a form of government where a vocal and intimidating group impose their will on a community. The Wikipedia article on Ochlocracy defines it as “government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities“. I note this recent article in the Financial Times on the risks of mob rule titled “Risk on the rise as political leaders give in to mob rule” showing how the current banking mess could descend into something very scary.

So.. when the police explained to me that they were not giving the owner of these vehicles pictured below a ticket because a number of people in the area didn’t want them to were they acting in the spirit of localism, were they being intimidated into not performing their legal duties or were they just being pragmatic? Is it the police’s job choose where to apply the law and where not? Before deciding not to put a ticket on the vehicles did the police do diligent door to door inquiries to see if there were any disabled people or old people who would like to get out safely, or children, or parents who walk to school but find the parking in the area just too difficult? I am sure they didn’t. The police do however have a newspaper cutting of the April 1 event we staged on the same street highlighting the difficulties that parents with young children have using the pavement  on their noticeboard which they take round schools. It seems hard to square that with allowing 100% blockage of the pavement because a few neighbours want it.

Fyi, these vehicles are breaking numerous very clear laws – in particular parking against the flow of traffic at night and parking at night without sidelights (a special rule for commercial vehicles over 1525kg curb weight) – and these streets are unlit between midnight and 5am. There are also the harder to prove offenses of ‘driving on the pavement’ and ‘causing an obstruction’.

R+J Windows and Debbage and Tubby (uPVC windows etc)

Total blockage

Everest Windows, same spot and I understand also the same driver

Another older view of R+J Windows

Archie wants to walk to school

30 Aug

In 2009 a father phoned to police to say that because the country road between his house and his child’s school was dangerous, and because his son wanted to walk to school that he was going to drive slowly behind him to protect him from approaching drivers on the 60mph country lane. He was then intercepted before he had got to school by police to who drove the boy to school over “fears for his safety” and warned the father that he could be arrested for ‘a willful obstruction’ of the highway if he did it again. The father has subsequently written an article titled “Why do drivers have more rights than the rest?” (paywall). A good question which I will explore below.

Archie wants to walk to school (copyright image)

Let’s analyse this in some detail.

Firstly, I assume that the police were referring to section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (“If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence”) or to section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (“Wilfully causing an obstruction to any public footpath or public thoroughfare“). Unfortunately “it has been held that to constitute an offence there must be proof of an unreasonable user of the highway” (Parliamentary briefing 2010)

It is worth mentioning at this point that all roads in the UK are ‘all purpose roads’ and should therefore be available for all road users with the sole exception of ‘special roads’ (better known as motorways) which were created by the Special roads Act 1949 on which no pedestrians are allowed. There is no suggestion in the highway code that pedestrians should not be able to walk in the carriageway where there is not a pavement. (rule 2)

It is also worth mentioning that the highway code reminds drivers to at all times “Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear“.(rule 126) According to the Crown Prosecution Service, driving too fast is reason for prosecution for dangerous driving for which the penalty is disqualification and up to two years in prison. (Careless driving, a lesser offense is not use in cases of driving too fast it seems). However a 25 year old found guilty of drivng at 103mph avoided a conviction for dangerous driving and was banned for only 90 days. A policeman who was ‘familiarising himself with his new police car’ who was recorded driving a 159mph, (and also at 120mph in a 60mph area and at 60mph in a 30 mph area) was found not guilty of both dangerous driving and of speeding! The Crown Prosecution Service overturned the ruling and he was subsequently found guilty but given an absolute discharge; before having his conviction overturned following an appeal by West Mercia Police Federation.

So, was the father acting ‘reasonably’? He appeared to be protecting a walker who wished to assert their right to walk along an ‘all purpose road’. Motorists appear to have been only inconvenienced to a minor degree. The police seemed to agree that motorists were traveling too fast to slow down safely for a slow vehicle. As such should they not have prosecuted the drivers for dangerous driving, rather than opting for the a simpler but rather implausible route of using wilful obstruction for the person protecting the pedestrian?

I am reminded of Duncan Cameron’s submission to parliament on pedestrian issues who noted that “If pedestrians placed a chair on the carriageway it would be removed immediately, even though it would obstruct a smaller proportion of the road than when a car parks on the pavement. Cars could slow down and take care to avoid the chair, as pedestrians have to with parked cars. The Highways Act applies equally to the road and the footway. Pedestrians are being discriminated against“. In this case the same police who normally avoid using obstruction legislation against parking obstructions at almost any cost leapt into action to use it against someone protecting a pedestrian. Remarkable!

There are some parallels in this story with that of the blind man who was arrested and locked up within minutes of phoning the police to say that he was going to let down the tires of cars that were persistently blocking the pavement.

Yes, pedestrians do face discrimination and this blog’s primary aim seems to be to help expose how this particular discrimination operates.

Police officers arrest and fight each other in parking rows

23 Aug

Back in October 2010 a PC Roderick Lund was awarded £5,000 in damages after suing his own force for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and using unreasonable force in relation to a parking incident! It seems that Lund’s next-door neighbour, who was himself a retired police superintendent reported Lund to the police saying that his car was causing an obstruction. Duty officers arrived, agreed and asked Lund to move it which he refused to do saying that he had had a drink. The conversation became more heated with Lund challenging the duty officers motives; Lund was arrested, led away in handcuffs and detained for 10 hours. I wonder if these officers might like to return and deal with the cars and bins that seem to be regularly left obstructing the pavement of the same street.

police offices arrest each other (copyright image)

Of course, this is all pretty tame compared to South Africa where the police traded blows and drew guns on each other when traffic officers attempted to tow a police car belonging to another force.

SA cops trade blows (copyright image)

At least the people involved in the above incidents lived to tell the tale which was not the case for one off-duty policeman in Baltimore who was killed in a dispute over a parking place in which he was hit on the head by a rock in 2010.

Police apparently reasssures motorist that persistent illegal parking is OK

12 Aug

I have reported this Jaguar car to the police on a number of occasions for parking in a raised crossing outside a local primary school over the past 9 months – the car even takes pride of place at the the top of our ‘Rogues gallery‘. I saw the owner in his car today for the first time. He told me that the police has visited him about 3 months ago and said that it was OK for him to continue parking as he was. I am very surprised to hear that because I have personally reminded the local sergeant about the Traffic Management Act 2004 (section 86) which says that it is illegal to block a raised crossing. Possibly the police were confused because there is also a single yellow line which doesn’t apply after 6pm. Whatever the truth is, it is clear that the guy didn’t stop parking illegally so the police can’t have done much to enforce the law.

The guy told me that he was moving today, so as a send-off here are some of the photos taken over the past 9 months including one taken today of the van he is using to move house parked up on the raised crossing as well! I will send a copy of this post to my local sergeant in a few days to remind him to respond to my last two letters on the subject. I will include any (polite) messages that are left at the end of this post over the next few days.

Jaguar still on the crossing in August 2011


Jaguar on the raised crossing outside the school in June 2011

Our friend the Jaguar driver again, back in May 2011)

Jaguar on a raised platform with a single yellow line in November 2010)


His removal van up on the raised crossing today!

Avon and Somerset Police: policies, strategies and powers

23 May

Avon and Somerset police have just responded to a fine freedom of information request about their policies, instructions, strategies and powers in relation to pavement parking in Bristol (and in particular within the BS7 and BS8 postcodes). Their response is more informative by what it omits than for what it says.

Here is my summary of the questions and their answers. Refer to the FOI request for exactly what the questions were and the responses.:

Q: Details of any parking enforcement policy (or part of any policy), strategy or instruction (informal or informal) provided to officers/staff.
A: They have no particular policies, strategies or formal/informal advice and officers are expected to use their discretion taking all the circumstances into account at the time.  I know that the police in my area are hazy about all the complex and ever changing legislation even thought they have a leaflet (which is incomplete and contains errors). Judging by the rest of their response Avon and Somerset Police are also ‘hazy’ on the legislation and on at least one occasion they have concluded that parking completely across the pavement on a blind residential street is not obstruction. Also… of course there will always be informal advice/practice on  an inflammatory issue as parking where there is an absence of formal guidance.

Q: Your organisation’s responsibility and powers in relation to enforcement against pavement parking.
A: To act where they have powers, but not in response to yellow lines etc as responsibility for these has been transferred to the council. See below for details of the list of powers they identify and the apparent gaps in their knowledge.

Q: Have you undertaken an Equalities Impact Assessment in relation to the above?
A. No response provided.

In detailing their powers in relation to pavement parking they identify the following (all of which are valid as far as I know):

  • Highways Act 1980 (section 137.1) Wilful obstruction of a highway by a motor vehicle £30 non endorsable)
  • Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986 (regulation 103) Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 non endorsable
  • Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (section 52) Powers to issue a fixed penalty notice
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 19.1) Park an HGV partly/wholly on a footway/verge £60 non endorsable
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 22) Cause vehicle to be left in a dangerous position. £60 endorsable
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (34.1b) Drive vehicle on a footpath/bridleway etc. non endorsable. £30 offence
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 42) Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 non endorsable
  • Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (schedule 2) Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 offence

They do, however, fail to mention the following additional powers which I believe are relevant:

  • Highways Act 1980 ( Section 148 and Section 149) it is an offense if ‘a person deposits any thing whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway without lawful authority or excuse‘
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 Act (Section 21). An immediate offense to park ‘wholly or partly’ on a share-use path
  • Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997 (Section 18 and schedule 4). Pedestrian crossing (including the area marked by the zig-zag lines. Enforceable by police even in civil enforcement areas (The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 – Section 7.1).
  • Traffic Management Act 2004 (section 86). Dropped kerbs for pedestrians to cross road (including places where the carriageway has been raised to meet the level of the pavement).
  • Highway Code (rule 238) prohibition of parking, waiting, stopping or setting down/picking up on School zone (identified by the yellow zig-zag lines).

Causing alarm distress or annoyance

18 May

A couple of evenings ago I had a knock on the door and found two police officers on my doorstep who explained that they had had a complaint from a local resident about someone matching my description who had ‘banged on their door’, told them to move their car and had also said that ‘the police were sh**’. I confirmed that I had indeed ‘rang their door bell’ to explain that their parking had resulted in a wheelchair user having to go into the road. I explained that I was about to report the neighbour’s Jaguar to the police (again) for also making it impossible for the wheelchair user to get past and would report her if she didn’t move it. I did also explain that the police had very little power to stop pavement parking. You will note that my ‘ringing the doorbell’ is her ‘banging on the door’ and that my ‘the police don’t have powers to act’ was turned into her ‘the police a sh**’. The neighbour’s Jaguar is incidentally already in the rogues galley.

The policeman, who I knew, told me that it was illegal to ring people’s door which was news to me! I assume that he was referring to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which introduced an offense of ‘causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress’ (section 154). I hardly think that politely raising an issue with a neighbour on their doorstep once is what the Act was intended to cover.

He also reassured me that if there was a parking problem locally then I should leave it to them! Unfortunately for them and us that is plain wrong and they can’t. He didn’t seem that interested in hearing about the meeting I had just earlier the same day with his sergeant where we had agreed that in many cases it was too much work for the police to make it worthwhile to prosecute even where there was good evidence. Interestingly, in researching this post I did come across a useful piece of related legislation in the Police Reform Act 2002 which gave the police power to seize vehicles ‘used in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance’ (section 59). It was clearly the opinion of this particular officer that I was causing intentional alarm and distress by raising the tricky issue of this driver’s parking on the doorstep but that the vehicle owner was not causing ‘distress or annoyance’ by leaving the car across the pavement. But hey, ho, that is how it normally works at present whenever pedestrian and motorist issues conflict.

Anyone campaigning on this issue does need to be careful not to stray into ‘using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting‘ which could result in a day in the magistrates court for harassment!

If the local police do wish to have a go at sorting out pavement parking in the town then here are some challenges for them. All these drivers have parked vehicles completely across the pavement or across and raised crossing in the past 48 hours and most have also blocked a dropped kerb, and… one of these vehicles is the very same Jaguar that I mentioned earlier and which was back blocking the raised crossing the day after I had reported it to the police in almost precisely the same stop as it was when I took the picture in the rogues’ gallery.

Large van completely blocking pavement and dropped kerb while driver popped into the corner shop


Making a deliveryto the university while fully on the pavement and blocking a dropped kerb


Removal van needlessly block busy footway on approach to the college campus


Our friend the Jaguar driver again

‘without favour or affection, malice or ill will’

30 Apr

I have just been reading this impressive memorandum to a Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs into ‘Walking in towns and cities’ back in 2000 which included the following observation:

If pedestrians placed a chair on the carriageway it would be removed immediately, even though it would obstruct a smaller proportion of the road than when a car parks on the pavement. Cars could slow down and take care to avoid the chair, as pedestrians have to with parked cars. The Highways Act applies equally to the road and the footway. Pedestrians are being discriminated against.

He went on to suggest that the police were breaking the law by treating motorists and pedestrians differently quoting from the 1964 Police Act which requires every police officer to declare that they will discharge their duties ‘without favour or affection, malice or ill-will‘. (Police Act 1964 Schedule 2) The flowery wording he quotes has incidentally been updated subsequently by the Police Act 1996 (as amended by the Police Reform Act 2002) and now reads ‘with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality.‘ (section 29 and schedule 4)

He suggested that it would be illegal for the police to respond to the chair in the road but not the car on the pavement: ‘[ie prosecuting a pedestrian for obstructing vehicles by illegally leaving their possessions on the road but not prosecuting vehicle owners for illegally leaving their possessions (cars) on the footway.]‘

So what happened? Well, the committee subsequently reported, and I quote, that: ‘walking has been made ever more unpleasant. Pedestrians have been treated with contempt’. That’s what I love about these cross-party select committees, they don’t hold back with their views! ‘Contempt’, that is a strong word but I suggest that it is accurate.

So… back to the police. Would it be fair and impartial for the police to allow motorists to leave their property (ie cars) on the pavement and to then prosecute a pedestrian for leaving objects of their choice on the carriageway? I am tempted to find out! What if there was an outbreak of chairs, sheds, planters and other interesting but unauthorised objects left on the carriageway for the convenience of their owners, to slow traffic or to beautify the area? Personally I favour planters or other useful objects.

What would happen if one responded to the inevitable approach from the police or from the council by politely reminding the police of their pledge to fairness and impartiality and the council of their duty to remove all ‘things’ left on the highway which constitute a danger to users of the highway (including a danger caused by obstructing the view) and and to stop being blind to vehicles which are also ‘things’ in the eyes of the law (Highways Act 1980 Sections 148-149)

If they attempt to say that cars are different then one can challenge them and also start muttering about why bins left permanently on the pavement are so different. If they start talking about these new objects being a danger to traffic one would mutter about the requirement for drivers to drive appropriately for the conditions (including conditions where there are objects clearly visible in the carriageway) and to question the implied assumption that it is more safe for motorists to avoid pedestrians who are forced onto the carriageway that for drivers to avoid chairs/planters etc that don’t even move!

My only reservation is that I have great respect for my local police who are pulling their hair out over pavement parking and who are also offering me very visible support for this campaign. It is possible, of course, that they would understand the irony of the action and may even quietly be in support of it.

I will sign off with another observation by a parliamentary select committee from 2006 where they said: ‘We accept that the problem of vehicles obstructing footpaths country-wide is a large one and a major effort would be required to enforce the law. But the ‘do- nothing’ response of the Department is no longer a credible option’. Select Committee on Transport Seventh Report – Parking: para 261) and then that ‘The Government must grip the problem of pavement parking once and for all and ensure that it is outlawed throughout the country, and not just in London’ (para 262)

Drivers under instruction

28 Mar

Driving instructors are there to show people how to drive. For one driving instructor this unfortunately included a demonstration of how to drive up onto the pavement to avoid walking anywhere; for another it was a demonstration of how to take the police to task about their own illegal parking and winning a public apology!

Back to the first story. This is about a driving instructor for the Bill Plant Driving school who drove up onto the pavement outside his pupil’s house to avoid the inconvenience of parking further away legally and walking. He then demonstrated to his pupil how to tell a pedestrian (me) that it was OK because he ‘had only been there for a few minutes’. Here are a couple of pictures, the first is of the vehicle as the instructor dismounted the pavement with the pupil as a passenger. The second was taken after I have spoken with the driver.

The Bill Plant Driving School vehicle close up

The second story is more inspiring. It is about a determined driving instructor who challenged the police about their parking and eventually got an apology. The police had parked their van illegally on yellow lines alongside ‘police no parking’ bollards outside a patisserie thereby totally obscuring the view for anyone, including this instructor’s 17yo pupil, who was trying to exit from a narrow side street. Rather than accept that they were in the wrong the police unfortunately tried to turn the attention onto the instructor by saying that he had committed an offense by leaving a learner alone in charge of a vehicle! Not to be discouraged the instructor had his photo of the incident published in the local paper alongside an article about the incident and got a public apology from the police.

This is important stuff. Culture is passed on by example and in particular by teachers. These examples show the difference between good teaching and sloppy teaching. I am now going to email the Bill Plant Driving School.

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