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Eric Pickles is not even supported by the motoring lobby!

26 Aug

A few months ago Eric Pickles suggested that motorists should be allowed to park on double yellow lines for 10 minutes (later raised to 15 minutes or longer) to help the local economy. Today we learn that he wants councils to end their “draconian” parking policies, “over-zealous traffic wardens” and end their “anti-car dogma”. Needless to say, this sort of thing results in loads of hostility from the left which I guess he enjoys. I find it more interesting that the police and the core motoring organisations also object. If he doesn’t have the support of these people, then who is it who is being dogmatic I wonder?

By way of example:

The West Midlands Crime Commissioner wrote “I do find Eric Pickles’ proposal for people to be able to park on yellow lines an ill thought out and potentially dangerous proposal… It will also be immensely difficult to take effective action against anyone exceeding a 15 minute stay and would require officers checking vehicles approximately every 20 minutes.  To achieve this, you would probably need to treble the number of parking enforcement officers… This policy is damaging to safety, smooth flow of traffic and to the attractiveness of shopping centres themselves”

The RAC Foundation, the AA and the British Chambers of Commerce all suggested that yellow lines regulations were fine as they were, The RAC Foundation explaining “allowing people to stop for longer periods of time on double yellow lines would add to rather than diminish local congestion and parking problems.”

Personally, I can’t express it better than the British Parking Association who wrote an open letter to him to express their “immense frustration” at his “irresponsible” suggestions and his “wholly unacceptable attack on civil enforcement officers”. They also noted that 60% of drivers think parking enforcement is about right and that another 20% think that it is not tough enough!

Here is their letter in full:

The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London
SW1E 5DU
19th March 2013

Dear Mr Pickles

Parking Enforcement

I am writing to express the immense frustration felt by local authorities by your comments about parking enforcement at the Spring Forum at the weekend.

Your central argument seems to be that local authorities should allow motorists “10 minutes” to visit local shops. You must know that many local authorities already provide short term parking for shoppers in smaller town centres and invest heavily in off street parking in large towns where the demand for on street parking is high.

It is irresponsible to encourage motorists to park on waiting restrictions which are designed to manage congestion and reduce road safety hazards as well as, in some cases, help buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

With reference to the way Councils manage their enforcement contracts, your comments have encouraged a wholly unacceptable attack on civil enforcement officers who are providing an important public service to protect the interests of the silent majority of motorists who benefit from their actions and who recognise the impractical proposition of everyone being able to park exactly where they want.

The parking profession recognises its role in promoting and sustaining the High Street during these difficult times and you will know through your Town Teams initiative that there are many good examples of how Councils use their parking policy to make towns more accessible and their car parks more attractive, convenient and safe. However, recent reports by both the Association of Town and City Management and London Councils shows that there is only a tenuous link between parking and the sustainability of our High Streets. Additionally a recent RAC Foundation report found that 6o% of drivers felt there was the right amount of enforcement on Britain’s High Streets with 20% feeling there should be more and 20% arguing there should be less. It is no coincidence I suggest that only around 20% of motorists receive parking tickets.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these points further but perhaps more importantly to assess how we can help in assuaging your concerns about parking policy particularly as new technology provides new opportunities to better manage traffic and parking in our towns and cities.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Troy
Chief Executive

Pavement hogs

16 Aug

The government has just introduced £100 fines for people who “needlessly hog the middle or outside lane” of a motorway or dual-carriageway.

I find this curious, because the rule 264 of the Highway code reads: “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking. You MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, HA traffic officers in uniform or by signs.

The word ‘should‘ in the Highway Code is code for ‘this is antisocial but not illegal’. ‘MUST NOT‘ means that it is illegal. Conclusion — lane hogging is not illegal, but is antisocial.

Curiously Rule 244 of the highway code says: “You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.” Forget London (unless you live there). For most of the rest of use this would read: “You should not park partially or wholly on the pavement unless signs permit it.” Conclusion — pavement parking parking is antisocial, but not illegal (unless you live in London).

However, in addition Rule 145 of the Highway Code says “You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property, or in the case of an emergency.” Conclusion —- in order to park on a pavement a driver has to break this law twice, once to drives onto the pavement, and again to get off.

In summary:

  • Pavement hogging involving breaking the law at least twice (but is largely ignored by the police and politicians).
  • Lane hogging appear not to be illegal, but the politicians have determined that the police should fine people £100 for doing so.

To add insult to injury, Rule 145 (which is ignored for motorists), is vigorously enforced when people cycle on the pavement!

So.. the big question is what are we going to have to do to get the politicians to wake up to this issue.

The problem is that every year there are more cars, every year more people discover that they can park on pavement without getting into trouble, and park more audaciously. Every year more people get more confident of their ‘right’ to park on pavements. Every year it gets tougher for pedestrians.

To illustrate the point, here are a few incidents I have noticed locally over the past few weeks. Driver appear to be totally confident that the police won’t do anything even if they block the entire pavement.

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The good news is that the politicians have demonstrated that they can act even if they want to. Now we just have to make them want to!

Update

Carlton Reid has just commented that the paving outside the shop in the first two photos is very cracked. He also noted that pedestrians do not crack paving slabs when they walk across them, but that vehicles often do! Here is a photo of the same area taken when it was free of cars. Needless to say, in this case motorists are breaking loads of additional laws, including parking on the pavement next to a double yellow line, parking in a ‘no loading’ place and parking within 10 meters of a junction. Any more? Anyone care to estimate how much this paving would cost to fix?

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Update 2

I have just found another really classy bit of parking outside the side the same shop. Notice all the road-signs and bins on the pavement the other side of the vehicle.

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Yet again, pedestrians and cyclists don’t actually exist!

15 Dec

My local Labour party have just put a leaflet through our door promoting the idea that Suffolk County Council (the transport authority) should ‘re-open Rope Walk’, which is a local street recently blocked to motorised traffic, rather than install traffic calming in the neighbouring streets which is what the County are proposing.

The silly thing of course is that it is still ‘open’. Well… it is certainly ‘open’ to the numerous pedestrians, mainly students, going between the newly rebuilt Suffolk College which fronts onto Rope Walk and Ipswich town centre. It is also ‘open’ to many cyclists using local cycle route 4/national cycle route 1 to get from the east of the town in to the town or the railway station. Needless to say, the only form of transport to which this road is not ‘open’ is the type of metal box that people sit in that we call a motorcar. This is what it looks like now currently:

Rope walk, an attractive pedestrian approach to the college

Rope walk, an attractive pedestrian approach to the college

Curiously, in their leaflet they suggest that opening Rope Walk to motorised traffic again would ‘reduce rat-running through Kings Avenue, Oxford Road and Milner Street‘ and would end ‘the farce of traffic jams on St Helen’s Street‘ (which is the main arterial road into town).

However… back in 2009 the Borough Council explained that Rope Walk was being closed to motorised trafiic in order to ‘significantly improve pedestrian and cycle access along Rope Walk, and to reduce rat running in Rope Walk and the surrounding roads‘ (my emphasis).

The Borough and County Councils are also grappling with illegal levels of air pollution from motorised traffic on Grimwade Street, which is next to Rope Walk and which falls within an ‘Air Quality Management Area’.

As it happens the Borough council is also engaged in the implementation of major £21m current transport scheme to make Ipswich more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists, of which the changes to Rope Walk made in 2009 form a important part. To quotehigh quality paving materials to link in with previous improvements and provide a continuous shared off-street cycle and pedestrian route between Rope Walk and University Campus Suffolk‘.

Here is their leaflet. Notice the invitation to email them with your thoughts at: You can contact them using contact@ipswich-labour.org.uk.

Image

'Open' Rope Walk, back

Are the @racfoundation being a bit silly again?

26 Jul

I notice that the RAC Foundation have again been using the ‘surplus’ word in relation to parking, this time it is in an article titled ‘Councils make half a billion pounds surplus from #parking each year‘ in which they express irritation and surprise that Westminster Council made a ‘surplus’ of £38 million from parking fees last year. Needless to say, their definition of ‘surplus’ ignores all capital costs as usual. This may sound like a lot, but this is a place where a single 5 bedroom flat can cost £30 million and office rental can run to £100K per week! Indeed, a single parking space, (at 320 sq ft) would cost £32,000 per year if rented out at £100 per sq ft, which is about right for Westminster.

It isn’t just the RAC Foundation who seem to be a bit blinkered in relation to parking in Westminster. Go back only a few months and we find a shop-keeper and a bishop both complaining about the terrible problems that would be caused if Westminster Council charged for parking on Sundays. The shop-keeper, Philip Green, explained that “people who come to London know they have got to find a place to park. Charging people on a Sunday is just outrageous behaviour” and the Bishop of London explained that “detrimental to the parishioners who have met Sunday by Sunday in our parish churches for hundreds of years“.

So.. not only do we have an organisation whch is no-doubt populated by very intelligent people calling the whole market economy into question, we also have a very rich shop-keeper suggesting that the city would grind to a halt unless people are allowed to park for free in the most expensive part of London and a bishop who seems to believe that parishioners have been driving to church for hundreds of years. Most remarkable! Personally I would suggest that charging motorists for parking on the highway in Westminster (and also in Kensington/Chelsea and other expensive areas) makes a huge amount of sense.

RAC Foundation – failing to see the obvious?

18 Jul

The RAC Foundation has just published one of their weighty tomes, which this time looks at parking. As always, their reports seem to contain both useful new information and analysis which they then interpret from a ‘motorism‘ viewpoint.

This report confirms that private cars are only actually used for an astonishingly low 3% of the time(p.24), that one-third of front gardens have already been turned into hardstanding,(p.10) with 25% of vehicles being left on the highway over night, rising to 60% in high density areas.(p.vi) Motorists pay an average of only £42 in parking fees annual, excluding residents charges(p.vii) with local authorities make an average of only £60 per vehicle in fees/fines.(p.102)

The report studiously fails to mention the huge role that car clubs play in reducing parking pressures mentioning car clubs only twice noting rather unhelpfully, that “all cars take up kerb space and cause congestion“(p.55) in a section which confuses car club cars with private vehicles powered by alternative fuels. This is despite evidence that each car club car typically replaces between 6 and 20 private cars!

It also repeats the commonly held view that ‘inadequate’ parking inevitable means that cars will litter the pavements: “Inadequate provision of parking results in parking on pavements and verges,blocking roads for other vehicles. It can cause disputes between neighbours and reduces the opportunity for children to play outside.” Personally I don’t believe that this is inevitable; support for alternatives combined with effective policing works well in many thriving and prosperous cities. People own less cars, keep them further from where they live and/or make alternative transport arrangements. If you really want child-friendly cities then look to Freiburg and other places which largely reject the private car, not to larger car-parks.

The words ‘adequate’ and ‘inadequate’ appear a total or 25 times through the document and seem to being used to imply that it is practical to provide sufficient parking in our cities and that the lack of this parking is a failing of the authorities and has nothing to do with the size of private cars or the fact that they are unused for an average of 97% of the time! Yes, we should ensure that children receive ‘adequate’ clothing and food and that the elderly receive ‘adequate’ heating and care, but most adults should be able to provide for their transport needs within their own means. I suggest that ‘limited’ would be a more suitable, and less loaded term to use in future.

The report does suggest that “there is an argument in principle that space should be charged for as a scarce resource“.(p.102) but then warns that “paying for parking is an emotive subject, as motorists feel that they should not pay for parking on the street, it being seen as common property for which they have already paid through taxation“. In this case there is a note of reasonableness around charging, which is then neutered by a warning not to try it!

The RAC Foundation blog post is, as usual, more opinionated and rehearses the injustices metered out to motorists. Here are a few examples:

There is a strong suggestion that is it unreasonable for motorists to pay more for parking than the cost of collection: “Together, councils in the rest of England made a surplus of £310 million in 2009/10 from parking activities“. Two things are interesting about this, firstly that the ‘surplus’ is so small, working out at about same amount that Barclay’s Bank have just been fined for being very naughty; it is also the use of the word ‘surplus’ which neatly forgets the value of the land, the cost of maintaining the facility or the pricing of scarce resources.

The blog reiterates that planning authorities should provide enough suitable parking at ‘the right price’ and again uses the word ‘adequate’. To quote: “providing adequate parking in the right place at the right price is a big challenge for planning authorities.” How are they meant to do that? Should we should knock down one house in twenty and turn it into a multi-story car-park made available for only the cost of cleaning it so people can continue to own more private cars without paying the full economic cost? If not, then what exactly do they suggest?

Again, apparently being intentionally thick (sorry, and this is my personal view, not a statement of fact), the author goes on to again imply that authorities should provide ‘adequate’ parking for private cars as part of their general responsibility to society: “Unlike their legal obligation to keep traffic moving there is no law that makes them provide adequate space for stationary cars, though the two topics as inextricably linked“. This of course neatly avoids remembering that car clubs remove many of the parking pressures, and that bicycles, motorbikes and public transport require limited or no space, so these issues are not ‘inextricably linked’ except in the mind of a Motorist (the ones with a capital ‘M’).

Finally, it is worth noting that the blog post is littered with emotional language, including the following phrases: “there is a fear that councils regard parking provision as an afterthought“, “it is a hugely emotive topic“, “the suspicion amongst many…“. The use of emotional language is not generally helpful and tends to result in less intelligent and more primitive responses. Please keep the emotional language out of it so that we have a better chance of thinking effectively and rationally about this.

Inspiration from Bogotá, Columbia

11 May

Policy makers around the world have been paying a lot of attention to the transport changes that have taken place in Bogotá, Columbia over the past decade or so, many of which were initiated by their remarkable Mayor from 1998-2001, Enrique Peñalosa who managed to reorient the city away from the car and towards public transport, cycling and walking. Here are some my favorite quotes from the man:

  • “Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
  • “We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.”
  • “A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen on a $30,000 car.”
  • “If we’re going to talk about transport, I would say that the great city is not the one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go safely everywhere.”
  • “One symbol of lack of democracy is to have cars parked on the sidewalk.”

And here he is explaining what he did and why:

This Streetfilm documentary explains how the bike free days work:

And this piece from the New York Times explains their clever bus rapid transit system work:

Simple really, almost child’s play, but it seems to be far out of reach for ‘developed’ countries. What exactly do we mean by the word ‘developed’ I wonder? I am reminded of how Gandhi  responded when asked what he though about ‘Western Civilisation’, saying that he thought that ‘it would be a good idea’.

Injustice to motorists, my foot!

20 Mar

The RAC Foundation complained today that motorists pay £32 billion in taxation each year but only get a ‘paltry’ £10 billion spent on road-building.

OK, so what if they had remembered to include the £8 billion ‘cost’ per year for road fatalities (Audit Commission, 2008), the £8-20 billion ‘cost’ of  the 50,000 early deaths caused by air pollution, much of it caused by road traffic (Commons Environmental Audit Committee, 2010 ) and the £7 billion negative effects of the emission of 90 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year (DfT National Transport Model Road Forecasts 2011, page 52, at an estimated cost of £70 per tonne (Social cost of carbon OECD)? Include those and the direct measurable costs of motoring have reached £33 – 45 billion comfortably exceeds what motorists pay, even without considering of noise pollution, loss of amenity and military campaigns aimed at protecting access to fossil fuels!

Also, why does one have to keep on reminding these organisations that taxation is expected to cover more than the direct consequences of the activity? Not doing so is like a gambler complaining that it is unfair that taxation from gambling brings in more money that is spent on the negative social to families and communities of gambling addiction, or a drinker/ smoker complaining that taxation exceeds the negative effects to society and family of their activity. Check out the great campaign, iPaxRoadTax for a history lesson in how motorists have been pleading for special tax treatment since Winston Churchill ended the Road Fund in 1937!

British Parking Award winners

10 Mar

The British Parking Awards event was interesting. It was big, there were 520 people sitting down diner with the prize-giving compered by Alexander Armstrong (who is more commonly seen on over on the BBC). Clearly there is money in parking, with many people representing the companies that build and operate the car parks, provide the technology were there; and also importantly, the people who enforce the regulations.

During the event there were a number of references to the fact that the sector gets a pretty bad press and grief from many motorists. The enforcement award went to Shropshire Council with Essex winning the Parking Partnership award; I have previously posted about Essex’s excellent ‘considerate parking initiative‘. I was disappointing not to hear any reference to bicycles or bicycle parking, or to any campaign that was about raising awareness of the consequences if selfish parking – may be next year. By way of background the event is organised each year by Landor-LINKs, who publish Local Transport Today and New Transit in addition to ‘Parking review‘.

The event did however leave me musing on why it is that free car parking is considered to be a ‘right’ (more about that later). Of course motorists, even in America, have established that roads should be provided for free by the state (which all sounds a bit socialist for the US really)! This right seems to then be extended to parking; For most normal motorists the not-availability of free parking ends up being directed at traffic wardens, the car park operators (who require people to pay a market rate for parking) and in the common ritual of driving for an extra 10 minutes to avoid paying for parking ‘out of principle’.

Foreign embassies in London evidently have a much more direct approach; Fines issued to 60% of embassy owned cars operating in London do not get paid; one Kazakhstan diplomat owed £53,820 for 471 tickets, two Sudanese diplomats owe almost £56,320 between and the US embassy owes Londoners £5m in congestion and parking fines. Kazakhstan and Nigeria have incidentally recently paid their fines; the USA and Sudan are apparently still holding out!

To sign off, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of what must be a very expensive car parking with 2 wheels up across a dropped-kerb within feet of the entrance to the award event. No apparent reason for doing so except probably habit. Would it help if the yellow line was painted a little wider or in a brighter colour I wonder?

Possibly the yellow line needs to be clearer?

On excursion – pavement parking Ha Noi style

9 Mar

This blog is very much about highlighting the need for action on pavement parking issues in the UK, however the Google alert I have set up for ‘pavement parking’ has been throwing up various article about a saga playing out in Ha Noi, Vietnam at present.

The current situation was summed up by one recent visitor who said: ‘Hanoi has great pavements, but they are useless as they are full of motorbikes‘ and the newspaper article announcing the ban this February explains: ‘The ban was brought in to try and ease traffic chaos and create more rooms for pedestrians, who are forced to climb over vehicles or walk on the roads to avoid parked vehicles‘.

When reading the article it becomes clear that there is also a well developed system of charging people to use these pavement ‘parking lots’: ‘One worker named Huong at a parking lot run by Hanh Ly Trading and Service Co Ltd in Nguyen Xi Street told the Viet Nam News she knew about the ban, but the local authority had issued no notices. Le Ngoc Anh, a resident in the Old Quarter’s Hang Chieu Street, said the ban should be carried out immediately as parking lots in the Old Quarters usually occupied all the pavements and encroached on the roads.

I like the way the article goes on to talk about people driving ‘huge slow cars’ with one occupant: ‘Ha Noi is home to about 3.8 millions of motorbikes and almost 400,000 huge, slow moving cars that often carried a single passenger. Among them, about 184,000 cars and 2.3 millions motorbikes are operating in inner city.‘ The population of the Metropolitan Area is 6.5 million so over half of the population appear to have a motorbike and under 10% have a car.

However…. there was clearly been a bit of a political backlash, and Vietnam News reported today that the ban is to be ‘eased’ stating that ‘Ha Noi has approved a Transport Department proposal to lift the ban on parking by all vehicles on the pavements of some streets in the inner city to meet the overwhelming demand for parking spaces‘. The article then explains that any parking: ‘would have to meet requirements including leaving at least 1.5 metres for pedestrians and not blocking the entire pavement‘. The 1.5 m bit sounds sensible, however if that is the case then why the need to say ‘not blocking the entire pavement‘ in the same sentence? Is there already an acceptance that the 1.5 meters is not going to be met?

In other parts of the city, however. there are moves to impose a ban on parking: ‘The HCM City People’s Committee has asked authorities in districts to take drastic measures to stop pavements being used for parking as well as for commercial purposes. Nguyen Trung Tin, deputy chairman of the city’s People’s Committee, said that districts should strictly impose fines so that pavements could remain clear. He asked that the city to revoke the licences of shops that used pavements for parking vehicles. “Each district had to impose a deadline for pavement clearance and ensure that deadlines were met,” Tin said.’

Finally, here are a couple of youtube clips of traffic in the city, not for the faint-hearted, but it seems to function in a crazy sort of way! You can see how the pavements are completely blocked by motorbikes at one point in the first video.

A happy Mr Toad!

21 Jan

Mr Toad will be delighted that he can continue to park for free in Westminster. Colin Barrow, the councilor leader (Conservative) said he would step down in March after announcing that the council’s controversial plans to actually charge people to park cars in one of the richest places in the country during evenings and on Sundays was to be scrapped. Paul Dimolden, Westminster’s Labour group leader said that he had paid the “ultiminate price for his poor judgement”. Don’t you just love party politics! I find it curious that this is the second place where Conservatives have been pressing for tougher parking restrictions and where the local Labour group has been opposing it.

A very happy toad! (copyright image)

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