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A double decker bus up on the pavement?!

12 Jul

Can you believe it; we now have a 20 tonne double-decker public service operating a school service being parked up on the pavement. Did the driver apologise and move the vehicle when requested to move by a reader of this blog? Err… no, in fact he evidently got pretty agitated about having the photograph being taken and has kept on doing it. What do the local enforcement guys and the DfT say? Well, err, only that there is nothing that they can do because is it a PSV, not an HGV you see. What I do know, is that the council will be paying for this school-bus service twice. Once to run the service and then again to repair the damage to the pavement caused by such a heavy vehicle. Possibly the council should just suggest that the company either behaves or loses their schools’ contract.

Umm. double decker up on the pavement!

Here is another view of the vehicle. Large isn’t it! We have disguised the operator’s name on the photos, and would request that if any bus expert reading this is able to identify the operator that they keep that information to themselves as we are trying a direct route to the management which should work based on what I know about the company. They will then hopefully have a quiet word with the driver and I think the problem will be fixed. If not then the vehicle will be back when school restarts in the Autumn and we will have to try something else.

Big isn’t it. Not doing a lot of good to the pavement either.

‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph?

5 Sep

Rural roads without pavements and 60mph speed limits are apparently officially considered ‘safe’ for children to walk to and from school on as long as the section without a footway is less than 3 miles long (2 miles long for under 8s). To quote the guardian todaySchool transport spending cuts mean that from this week many pupils will be walking to school along unlit 60mph roads without pavements … The current guidelines presume children will be accompanied by a responsible adult, meaning councils can declare routes up to three miles long (or two miles for under eights) safe even if they are unlit, have 60mph speed limits, no pavements or step-offs, and are used by heavy commercial traffic“. I believe that this is the road illustrated in the article as shown on Google Streetview.

Walking to school along 60mph roads with no pavements

Of course if drivers were to travel at a speed where they could stop within the distance they could see and ensured that pedestrians could walk safely along the edge of the carriageway then this might be sort of OK, but in current conditions where pedestrians are frequently forced to climb onto the verge for their own safety then it is not. Do check out my recent post about what happened to the father who wanted to ensure the safety of his child walking to school along a road that is probably very similar to the ones being discussed in this article who was threatened with arrest if he ‘willfully obstructed’ the traffic again.

Incidentally, in 2009 the Department for Transport proposed dropping the speed limit on many rural roads to 50mph estimating that this would cuts deaths by 250 per year but the idea was soon dropped. Rospa noted in 2010 thatAround one third of pedestrian fatalities occur on rural roads and the other two thirds on urban. Pedestrian injuries in rural areas are more likely to be fatal however, and the figures from table 2 show that 5% of all recorded pedestrian injuries resulting in a fatality, compared with urban areas where fatal casualties are 1.5%” and proposed lowering speed limits to 50 mph on some rural roads. Brake proposed it again earlier this year after commissioning a survey which found that one in eight drivers admitted overtaking on single carriageway roads when they could not see if it was clear.

RIP school travel mode statistics – burying bad news?

1 Sep

Ministers have just announced that there will be no ‘travel mode’ question in the next school census. I find this curious because the school run is a hugely challenging and emotive subject for parents and for other car commuters. Here are a couple of charts showing who how things have changed over the past 15 years during which time this information has been collected. Notice that more primary age kids will be traveling to school by car than on foot soon if current trends continue, also that the car and local bus is gaining with secondary school age kids at the expense of waking. Cycling is lost in the noise at the bottom.  I wonder if the parents at these Brentwood schools parents will start chucking rocks at traffic wardens again? Was it relevant, per-chance that these statics were first collected in 1995 just after the previous conservative government abandoned the ‘great car economy’ following an epidemic of road protests in the 1990s? (walking is dark blue and is highest for both groups, cars are in yellow and are next highest for primary school kids and have similar percentage as for local buses for secondary school kids. Local buses are in dark purple).

Travel to school by mode of transport (1995-2010)

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 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!

Two good pranks in the bag – Norwich and Ipswich

1 Apr

No pedestrian/wheelchairs/buggies’ signs were put up in a street in Norwich and in Ipswich this morning together with ‘inconsiderate parking‘ notices on some cars. In Ipswich we also chalked the space left for pedestrians in mm onto the pavement. Parents and children on their way to school enjoyed the joke and supported our aims. The local papers turn up in both towns and people were happy to have their pictures taken and to do interviews. The local police sergeant in Ipswich was very supportive as it is an issue they find particularly intractable. Some signs were ripped down and one motorist tried to remove the chalk mark from the pavement. All in all it was a great success, lets see if the articles get printed now.

This first photo is of parents with the photographer outside a primary school in Ipswich next to the signs.

Parents and children beside a 'No buggies' sign talking to a photographer from the paper

This next one is of a ‘no pedestrians’ sign in Norwich where the driver has left a 25mm gap for pedestrians! More photos were taken by the local paper and people were interviewed for the Norwich paper.

'No pedestrians' sign in Norwich - April 1st 2011

Here is an example of the width remaining being chalked onto the pavement. This needs proper ‘pavement chalk’, the thinner chalk I used was not up to the job really

Chalking the space remaining onto the pavement - 600mm in this case

And finally, here is someones attempt to rub out the news that they had left only 700mm for pedestrians! In some places signs were also ripped down – note for next year, use screws and create use aluminum-backed signs.

700mm chalk marking scuffed out

All round a success and one we can repeat in the future. Hopefully we will also get a good response from the papers. Just to reinforce the importance of what we are doing, there was an article in a local Blackpool paper yesterday alerting people to the dangers of pavement parking. Carole Holmes, a local campaigner for the visually impaired explained: “This is a growing concern for all visually impaired people because it is getting worse, we can’t drive so we have to use the pavements to get to the bus stops we use and should be able to get there safely.”

How was school today?

11 Feb

A quick internet news search turns up numerous stories about dangerous parking and conflict outside the school gates over the past few weeks. And… also stories of youngsters challenging this selfish behaviour and of local newspapers getting in on the campaign.

Cambridge: “A headteacher has apologised over continuing tensions between parents and residents over parking outside a Cambridge school. Parents have been hurling “abuse” at residents and police have launched a crackdown on the anti-social behaviour involving parents of children at the Shirley School, in East Chesterton.

Crewe: “Five schools on the Wistaston Green and St Mary’s wards expressed their concern regarding the parking of vehicles outside their premises. A key concern for all of us is safety for all road users. The schools, police, local councillors and Cheshire East Council are working to find a long term solution, but in the meantime a uniformed presence is in place to deter bad parking around the schools in Wistaston Green and St Mary’s area.

Pupils on the case!

Cumnor, Oxfordshire: “Children in Cumnor took to the streets to urge parents to park safely on the school run. Pupils at Cumnor Primary School have been investigating the issue after a survey found one in four of them had experienced a near-miss in the road outside the school. And they decided that parents parking on pavements and zig-zag lines were causing the safety problems in Oxford Road. To hammer their message home, they made special banners and staged a protest at school closing time, backed up by a letter that was sent home to their parents.

Maidenhead: “Mums on the school-run in Maidenhead are endangering their own kids by ignoring parking restrictions – which they asked for. According to Jenny Stephen, the headteacher of Boyne Hill Infant and Nursery School in Rutland Road, the surrounding roads are being clogged through ‘inconsiderate parking’ by a minority of parents. Cllr Mike Holness (Lib Dem, Boyn Hill) is also concerned about the danger to the school’s 200 young students while neighbours are fed-up of being blocked in their driveways.

Peterborough: “The Evening Telegraph is backing calls for parents to park safely to prevent the school run motoring mayhem that is putting children’s safety at risk. Scenes of traffic chaos surrounding a number of city schools have been pictured by our photographers showing cars blocking roads and pavements, heavy congestion and parking on double-yellow lines.

Reading: “An irate licensee has banned school-run parents from using her pub’s car park and been forced to issue parking permits to her regulars. She introduced the system after finding the exterior of the pub had been damaged and customers were being blocked in. Tracy said: “90 per cent of those using my car park had never even been into the pub – if they’re not going to patronise my establishment then why should they be allowed to damage my property?”

Sheffield: “Pupils who became concerned about the levels of traffic congestion outside their school have designed their own posters in a bid to discourage parents from parking directly outside the school gates. Youngsters at Westbourne School, in the Broomhill area of Sheffield, decided to take action after a parent contacted Sheffield Council to ask for help in improving the situation. School spokesman Angela Bywater said: “These posters are so colourful and have such a direct message that we have already been approached by other schools who all have a similar problem. “It would be great if we could see the campaign spread throughout the city.”

Wolverhampton: Plea over Wolverhampton school parking – “Neighbours have filed a petition calling for the plans to amended to include more parking spaces. They say private driveways and public footpaths are being blocked during the school run, leading to angry exchanges.

And then of course there is a repeat of the tired old ‘unfair traffic wardens and councils’ story as printed recently in a Hampshire paper. Yawn.

Farnborough: Parking CCTV to target school run mums. TRAFFIC wardens will be using CCTV spy cameras to catch people parking illegally in Aldershot and Farnborough town centres.

Government gets in a muddle over school crossing patrols

9 Feb

Goverenment, both central and local, are in a big muddle over school crossing patrols. Central government claimed that local authorities would be able to make the required savings without loosing ‘front line services’ and Eric Pickles is still sticking to that line saying ‘It just goes to show that cutting front line jobs and hitting front line services isn’t inevitable– it doesn’t have to be an option at all.’

There are 93 school crossing patrol sites in Suffolk of which 62 are currently in operation and these are used by an estimated 8,000 children daily. Each crossing patrol officer is paid £6.38 per hour for 7.2 hours a week. The annual cost to the council is £174,000. Suffolk County council is about to decide the fate of these patrols and many if not all will go. So much for front line services not being hit.

In order to find out where these crossing patrols are sited I made a Freedom of Information request asking for the information. The response was patchy and much of the information which would be required for a proper assessment was missing. They promised to collect the missing information by the end of January but have not responded to my request for them to publicise it where I can download it when it is available. I have converted the patrol sites information that they did give me into a Google map from which one can easily jump to Streetview images like this one in Ipswich where the streetview car just happened to capture the crossing patrol officers as they were completing their shift.

Foxhall Road crossing - click for Google Streetview

St Edmundsbury District Council has voted to pay for the crossing patrols in their area, Ipswich Borough Council refuses to take on an services that SCC dumps At one school a head teacher was manning one crossing herself and a local estate agent has offered to sponsor another. Crossing patrol officers in Lowestoft have collected over 6,000 signatures against the cuts.

Will ‘Big Society’ help us us out with this one? Personally I am fully in support of people doing more for themselves and believe that information technology can help people do just that, however… not all jobs can or should be done by volunteers. There are big problems with used volunteers to do school crossing patrols as the authorities are now finding out to their cost.

Can the job be done by volunteers? Well, no, or possibly or.. not sure…..  According to a newspaper article crossing patrol officers needs to be employed by the council or the police authority as it is only these organisations that have the right to stop traffic.  The SCC web site is however less clear on the matter, saying “it may be possible for a school or another authority to take on a volunteer to perform the duties of a patrol. However, currently the Law is very strict on how a patrol must operate and a school or another authority would need to fulfil all the supervisory responsibilities”.

The above newspaper article also reports that the new conservative MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, has taken up the regulations with the Department of Transport and he is hoping to have a meeting with junior minister Mike Penning will allow the change.

The portfolio holder for transport for Suffolk says he hopes that the MP is successful. I can understand why, because in the mean time a crossing patrol officer has been injured in Lowestoft. The officer suffered cuts to the head and shock and a driver has been reported to the Crown Prosecution Service for careless driving. The crossing patrol, across the Yarmouth Road (A12) is one of those that will potentially go. A 6yo child was killed at the same crossing in 2007.

In summary it is a mess and both front line services and children will be at risk. A huge amounts of time is being spent trying to invent a new operational and management model against looming cuts.

Do we really want the school heads (who are paid a lot more than £6.38 per hour) operating the patrol or worrying if the supervision is adequate. Who will deal with the situation when a volunteer crossing patrol officer isn’t able to to come in to work? Will it up to the school to sort out a replacement or the estate agency who sponsor’s the patrol or another volunteer? So much for ‘no loss of front line services’.

Delivery van driver reverses over cyclist outside secondary school

26 Jan

A delivery van driver reversed over a teenage cyclist outside secondary school in Shrewsbury at 4:15pm on Monday 23 Jan 2011. The driver was unaware of what was happening until the girl banged on the van who was fortunate not to have fallen under the wheels. The police are trying to trace the driver who failed to report the incident as is required after an injury accident.

There is no evidence in the report that there were any restrictions on parking at the location, but it does emphasis the dangers created by vehicles backing into parking places in the vicinity of schools at busy times.

‘Spy cars’ to catch school run parents

14 Jan

Several councils in the West Midlands are may join a scheme which uses special  vehicles fixed with number-plate reading equipment to identify vehicle parking dangerously or illegally outside schools at pick-up time. Sandwell Council intends to lease a vehicle equipped with video cameras and automatic number plate technology. Wolverhampton City Council said the authority is prepared to look at all options for controlling illegal and inconsiderate parking including looking into the spy car scheme to assess its viability. Needless to say the Taxpayers’ Alliance didn’t like it, saying that it was an “elaborate scheme’ which may not solve the problem and would probably turn out to be a cash cow for the council”. Personally I think this, together with many other schemes across the country will indeed have a big effect.

Bedford is running a similar scheme. The campaign group Big Brother Watch seemed to be more concerned about mum’s getting wet and how unreasonable it was to expect parents to walk to school in the rain. They told The Mirror who ran the story “This camera will be used to target mums dropping off their kids on a rainy day”! As far as I knew, kids like the rain.

Mud Puddle Sam - Photo by PittCaleb

And then Southend Council are also considering using a parking enforcement car in Basildon following a successful trial in Southend. A spokesman said: “No method of parking enforcement is popular and I understand people are going to be upset if our car catches them out… However, we get a lot of complaints from residents saying we are not cracking down enough on irresponsible drivers and this will help improve the situation… Residents want us to use it for things which are traditionally difficult to enforce, like stopping parking on grass verges or outside schools.”

Notice that it is called a ‘parking enforcement car’ by those who are proposing it and as a ‘spy car’ that will ‘catch’ people by those who don’t or who need to sell newspapers! Do remember that the majority of primary age children walk to school and that it is only a minority of parents who do drive who park illegally and dangerously outside the school. In other words the parking issues are being caused by a small minority of parents to the detriment of everyone else.

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