Archive | December, 2010

Arras Square – the sequel

17 Dec

I blogged recently about Arras Square which is in the heart of Ipswich and is named in memory of the 150,000 British soldiers who died near Arras in WW1. It has recently become a car and lorry park for much of the day. The borough Council said that it was ‘complicated’ but that they would get back when they had time.

On investigation it seems to be reasonably simple. The following people, who park here on a regular basis, should possibly review their decision. Either that or their employers should do so for them and in one case is the Borough Council!

Tourist Information Office

The tourist information office which is run by Ipswich Borough Council operates from the 15th Century St Stephen’s church which is to one side of the square. It turns out that the manager has been parking her car just by the front entrance to the centre for over a decade without a ticket or any special permit! I will ask the council if they might like to review this policy and ask their staff to park elsewhere, because there is no shortage of parking available at modest prices in the town. I will be emailing IBC about this very soon.

Old car outside older church

British Home stores

Both the manager and the regional manager for the Ipswich branch of BHS use the square as a convenient place to park. The manager is at the store nearly every day, the regional manager comes less often, but was there today. BHS claim to offer ‘Modern Living Made Easy’, well life is certainly simple for their management. Tom, who is one of their managers at the store explained how it worked and said he understood my position. Isn’t to great to see how the perks mount up. Most staff can’t afford fancy cars and even have to ‘walk’ to the store, imagine that! The manager can afford a small fast car and can park right outside the door and the regional manager not only gets a bigger shiny car but also gets to park it in a setting just like in the advertisements! Needless to say I will be emailing BHS and will let you know what happens.

The manager’s car

The regional manager’s car

An independent clothes shop

Merc, is a smaller clothes retailer with four outlets in the UK. The local manager said that he would stop parking in the square if everyone else stops and that he would much prefer the square to be available for a market or something. Of course today his car was one of the only ones in the square for much of the time! Again I will be emailing the company to see if we can make his vision into a reality!

Car belonging to the manager of Merc (a clothes shop)

Deliveries

It turns out that the main shopping street only allows deliveries during restricted hours, however big vans and trucks can use this square at any time. As so when ‘Memorable Cheeses’ need an urgent delivery of chocolate as they did today then the big van parks here and heads into the main pedestrian area. I have to say that Memorable Cheeses are very memorable and we have bought a lot of cheese from them over the years and judging by the size of the van they must now have a huge supply of chocolate! There seems to be some interest locally in restricting the hours of delivery in this square and there is certainly significant disruption caused by these large vehicles will appear every 10 mins or so.

dp express ‘versatile logistics’ delivering urgent supplies of chocolate!

A memorable cheese shop!

TNT delivering to DHS

Selling cars

And it gets worse. As well as littering the square outside the Buttermarket these little blighters even turn up inside! Here are a couple of charming little cars on display inside.

Buy a new car today!

But don’t worry, the company does support ‘Motability’!

Supporting motability

Cycle parking

It is good to know however that the Borough also provides high quality modern secure storage for bicycles. Not sure what happened to their plans to upgrade these where the local cycle group were consulted on the matter a few years ago, but hey ho, we can’t have everything.

High quality modern facilities for bicycles!

Needless to say I will be writing to the Borough Council and to BHS and will keep people posted on what happens.

Where does the highway end…

16 Dec

It is sometimes hard to see where the highway ends and where private property starts. This example was brought to my attention by a comment left on an earlier post by someone living nearby. On investigation it turns out that the shopkeeper owns the land right up to the service road and has therefore done what he wanted with it, which in this case was to install car parking even though it is a cycle shop! Children duck into the carriageway, but who knows what a blind person would make of it. The second photo shows that what is presumably the official footway is blocked by an advertising sign although no one would use that narrow path given that there is a perfectly good footway outside all of the rest of the shops.

Cycle Revolution 1

Cycle Revolution

And then there is my local electrical shop. The owner isn’t doing anything illegal by leaving his car on his land but it does create an odd impression – hardly welcoming and very difficult for someone with poor sight.

Owners car blocking entrance

The final picture of Arras Square in Ipswich which has a sign at the entrance which reads ‘No Vehicles’ but which is always full of parked cars about which I posted about a week ago. I have finally got an initial response back from the Borough Council which reads: “Thank you for your email. The position in Arras Square is very complex with several owners and leases involved and only part of the area being highway”. So here we go again! However… in all cases I think the shopkeepers can be encouraged to keep the area clear, especially if they are chain stores with a brand to maintain.

Nice bench, shame about the parking!

Car 1, pensioner 0

16 Dec

Parent in Bristol blocks private lock-up garage with his car and heads for the primary school with young child. 83 year old man opens the garage and pushes the blocking car into the road. Crowd gathers, the man tries to drive off picking a man taking his number plate on his bonnet, child runs for safety. For this and a similar incident 2 weeks later the 83yo is banned for dangerous driving, receives £1,100 in fines and costs, and is made to give £620.59 for damage to the parent’s car and £200 for the man who was picked up on the bonnet.

Clearly this is a mess but is it not part of the bigger mess outside every school? The parent who parked anti-socially appears to have been fully compensated and got significantly more than the guy who was taking down the number plate who was rammed. The driver seen stopping in the yellow school zone box didn’t even raise a comment in the news reports because it just isn’t news! New regulations will soon ban the use wheel clamps on private property, such as the land outside the garages, to stop such anti-social parking. There is incidentally a newish law against blocking a dropped kerb with a parked car, but this driver was, I believe, parked on private property so that probably doesn’t apply.

In general this gives permission for this mess to continue regardless of who is inconvenienced. He had rented the garage for 20 years and had previously tried to get Bristol City Council to do something. The recorder said “No doubt you were severely irritated with the long-existing parking problem… but … you can’t go taking the law into your own hands.” If he can’t and the council won’t and the law provides no basis for the police to act then what? It seems that users of these garages will probably just have to realise that they will not be able to access their cars at pick up and drop-off times! I notice that this video was been watched nearly 460,000 times and that most of the comments on the Daily Mail article support the older driver.

Are we winning?

15 Dec

In one way everything seems to be getting worse. A huge problem and one that is getting worse as the number of vehicles increases. However…. there are also some interesting positive signs. Here are a few of them.

We now have a prime minister and a mayor of London who are keen cyclists. William Ford (Henry Ford’s grandson) who is executive chairman of the Ford Motor company recently said “The day will come when the notion of car ownership becomes antiquated. If you live in a city, you don’t need to own a car”. I think it is interesting when someone in that position says that. Simon Kuper commented in the Financial Times “Cars are going out of fashion.. Once cars lose speed and power, they become unglamorous everyday tools, like washing machines, and nobody, presumably, derives status from their washing machine”. Thanks to ‘Life outside the box‘ for bringing my attention to that one.

Here is some evidence:

This is a video I put together of people and traffic crossing London Bridge (not Waterloo Bridge as I call it in the video). Notice that there are virtually no private cars and that the vast majority of people are on foot.

Then there here is one I make of a a street in centre of my home town of Ipswich. For sure most of the space is again allocated to car drivers but most of the people are on foot.

In relation to that comment, here is a video I took during a recent trip to Detroit showing a virtually completely empty freeway outside their world headquarters near Detroit. Detroit is a great place to cycle btw and they spending a lot of money making it better.

Finally, a couple of images from my company showing the decline in vehicles in London in the past 10 years and the increasing numbers of bicycles.

Declining numbers of cars in London shown as red

Increasing use of bicycles in London shown as blue

Major motorcar manufacturers have needed to be bailed out and the British Motorshow has been canceled again (both the 2010 and 2012 shows have now been cancelled) and may in reality never return.

All this is not a reason not to keep pushing for change, it is just a reason not to give up!

60,000 exciting new electric vehicles to get in the way!

14 Dec

The government is subsidising the purchase of 60,000 electric vehicles by private individuals in the UK between now and 2015 at a cost to the general taxpayer of £300m. It is also spending £20m installing charging sockets in a number of cities so that these new vehicles can be recharged.

The Secretary of State for Transport said that it was an ‘exciting green revolution’ and that ‘the british public has in the past shown it’s ready to embrace new technology and take practical steps to adopt a lifestyle kinder to the environment’.

The cynic in me things that this will just change the power source of the vehicle that is blocking the pavement. The production and disposal of the vehicles will continue to push huge pressure on resources and the environment. In addition the government and businesses will continue to have to build new roads and parking places for these vehicles which currently pay no vehicle excise duty or fuel duty. The whole car based transport system of which this is just the latest twist has humorously been described as a massive Ponzie scheme.

As far as I can see a much more profound change is the one from ‘ownership’ to ‘access’. This is what the information age is about and it is what car club operators are responding to. If you own a vehicle then there is a big temptation to use it for trips like the school run. If a potential driver has to pay the full cost for each trip then they will be much less likely to use it and walk to school! The car club model uses vehicles far more efficiently and results is far fewer being parked at any one time and this is what the car manufacturers are so scared of.

As such it is a battle between these:

EV parking bay

And these:

Car club bay

Local newpaper champions “Park safe be safe” campaign

13 Dec

Back in 2006 the Northants Evening Telegraph launched a ‘Park Safe Be Safe‘ campaign focused on anti-social and dangerous parking the county and have encouraged action by parents, children and authorities. All very impressive and very necessary. Consider the issue has it has unfolded in the past few years:

Three children were knocked to the ground outside a school in Kettering by a car which had been parked on a pavement during the school run in February 2009. A few months later a mother appealed to drivers outside the same school to behave more sensibly. One mother reported that ‘she has had to step in to prevent her children being hit by vehicles on at least three occasions’.

In October parents were continuing to park dangerously and illegally outside a primary school in Kettering despite pupils previously issuing their own parking tickets. One parent reported that their nine-year-old daughter and a friend had almost be hit by a reversing car and then in November 2009 a two year old girl had to be pulled out of danger from a reversing car in Corby. The mother explained “I was picking my little boy up from school. We were walking on that side and a driver started backing up. She was about to be squashed but we managed to pull her out of the way”.

In February 2010 three children were knocked down while crossing a zebra crossing outside another Kettering school. In April 2010 a father was rammed by a car after he had knocked on a car window to ask a driver to move. In May 2010 parents were again urged to park sensibly. In June 2010 a new scheme based on ‘school drop off’ points was trialed at some school where volunteers walking the children from the drop-off point to the actual school and then pupils were handing out special tickets on cars parked dangerously or illegally near their school and a neighbouring infants school. PCSO Thomas said that the tickets which looked like parking tickets but were specially-made cards from Northamptonshire Casualty Reduction Partnership has been well received by parents and local residents.

In September 2010 the paper relaunched their campaign with the slogan ‘When you dropped your child off at school this morning, where did you park’. Also in September 2010 they reported that illegal parking had reduced significantly outside the school where the 3 children had been knocked down in February after police had handed out 23 tickets in 3 months. The police commented that ‘police officers have put parking tickets on vehicles committing offences… this has not proved popular with the drivers of the offending vehicles, but we have explained why we are at the school and why a penalty ticket has been issued’.

In December 2010 a total of 26 schools that participate in the ‘Junior Road Safety Officer‘ scheme received banners to display outside their school to highlight the risks of thoughtless parking.

Well done to the Northants Evening Telegraph for championing this important cause. But isn’t it amazing that drivers are sill complain about this and that a small number of drivers ignore regulations and then complain when the regulations are enforced or worse and actually drive into people who try to ensure that regulations are enforced!

Is Northants uniquely bad or have they just been better than most places at documenting the issue? I suspect that it is just that they have been better at documenting the issue, indeed I have been told by a parent at my local primary school that she also had a scare when a driver reversed a vehicle onto the pavement and nearly knocked her kid over.

Update

A three year old girl was in hospital with a broken leg after being knocked down by a reversing car outside a school in Burnley in November 2010. The police said: “Enquiries are ongoing but clearly both the family of the girl and the driver of the car have been left devastated by what has happened”. The canon of the local church said “The legal parking is much further down Church Street but you can’t stop parents getting as close to the school as they can”.

A Manchester mother started blocking the road to her child’s primary school after her 9yo son was smacked in the face by the door of a vehicle parked on the pavement in October 2010.

Risk assessment relating to removing school crossing patrols

10 Dec

Following suggestions that all of the 72 school crossing patrols in Suffolk may be axed to save £230K per year I have just submitted a Freedom of Information request to the County Council requesting the sort of information that will be required assess the risk associated with removing the school crossing patrols at each of these locations. Look East highlighted the fact that this amount of money was almost exactly as the annual  salary of the chief executive at the council. Incidentally, a total of four pedestrian have been killed in the last 10 years close to one of the crossing patrols under review close to where I live.

Elf and safety is an amazing thing. A few years ago a profusion of ‘cyclist dismount’ signs were installed at great expense in Ravenswood near Ipswich along a new cycle path which no one in their right mind would follow. Now I get the impression that parents will be left to fend for themselves crossing fast 30 mph roads when the chance of death is about 50% for a pedestrian  hit by a car at that speed. If the same logic was used for car drivers as it is in Ravenswood for cyclists then car drivers would be expected to get out and push their vehicles along section of road where pedestrians were likely to cross the road! You can also get the context for the signage from Google Streetview.

Dismount again and again and again