Archive | December, 2010

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

Follow the money

10 Dec

During the initial investigation of the Watergate scandal the ‘deep throat’ told reporters at the Washington Post to ‘follow the money’. It is certainly interesting to follow the money from parking fines.

Fines given out by the police appear to go into general Treasury funds, ie the money is treated just like most other taxation. Given that police funding is being cut and that for every police officer dealing with parking offenses there is one less police officer dealing with other crimes I suggest that the level of enforcement we will see will decrease over time as they concentrate on more urgent issues.

Fines handed out by the councils using civil enforcement powers on the other hand are retained by the council. In most councils this is ring-fenced and can only be used for enforcement purposes with any surplus available for highway or environmental schemes. Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (Section 55) The AA do say that it would be a breech of the Secretary of State’s guidelines if a council viewed civil parking enforcement as a way of raising revenue, however others have argued that the level of fines should be raised to ensure that fines need to be higher to act as a sufficient deterrent in areas where official parking charges are high.

A total of 328m was paid out by motorists in parking fines in 2008-2009 which works out at £6.14 per head. Westminster Council raised a whopping £42m. If the number of registered vehicles in the UK continues its relentless climb the temptation to park illegally will only increase and fine incomes will probably also climb.

What this means is that as long as the cost of collection is lower than the amount of income raise then there should be no risk of parking enforcement for civil offenses (such as yellow lines) falling due to reduced council revenue. As such I suggest that we press councils on enforcement for which they are responsible, for example in Arras Square that I reported on a few days ago. Check the map in The Law section to see if your areas has opted for civil enforcement.

DHL’s ‘cost-effective delivery solutions’

8 Dec

DHL claims to offer ‘rapid, reliable and cost-effective delivery solutions’. Certainly no additional costs were incurred today when delivering to a house opposite a primary school at pick-up time. The unmarked car was parked diagonally across a raised school crossing in a ‘school zone’ on a single yellow line within its active period right across the pavement. The driver was wearing a DHL tabard and as is usually the case explained that ‘he had only been there a few minutes’. He was however relaxed and wasn’t aggressive at all which makes a nice change.

An unmarked car delivering for DHL

The driver was wearing a DHL tabard

I guess that it is more cost effective to park across the pavement than to park a little way down the street and walk. As always an email is winging its way to their marketing department and I will provide an update in due course.

The same crossing takes poll position in our Rogues’ gallery where a Jaguar and a Mercedes shared it nose to nose, very sweet! I also commented on the way that even when there isn’t a car completely blocking the pavement that the 88% of the people who walk to the school have only 18% of the space. Also that the school crossing patrol at the end of the street is likely to be lost when the person doing it retires in the spring. So much for the ‘war on the motorist!‘.

It has been suggested – see comments – that they get their inspiration for this dynamic and never-say-never approach to ‘on-time’ delivery from Lieutenant Frank Drebin in Police Squad, played by the recently departed Leslie Nielsen.

Update

We are in communication and DHL are puzzled. Their staff do not used unmarked cars, however they did sell their local delivery business to HomeLink recently and that company was evidently allowed to use DHL branding for a period of time which is not up yet. They are checking with HomeLink.

After making two phone calls to DHL where they promised to look into the issue I have heard nothing. Not very impressive really. I will keep my eyes open for the next occurrence.

No vehicles at any time. Well… except for these vehicles

8 Dec

The signage at the bottom of St Stephens Lane leading to Arras Sq in Ipswich could not be clearer. ‘No vehicles at any time except for loading’

I have been keeping an eye on the place for a few months because there seems to be no enforcement and I noticed that many of the same cars parked there every day all day. Yesterday I was there in mid morning when all the usual cars were joined by people actually delivering which were causing a serious problem:

Almost impassable

Arras Sq 2

Arras Sq 3

Arras Sq 5

Some of the vehicles are genuinely ‘loading/unloading’ however many are not. One owner who came out of his shop and asked me why I had taken a photo of his car was good enough to say that he would support me in clearing the square of his and other people’s cars so that ‘they could have a market of something’. He explained that other shop keepers had told him it was fine to park there!

Incidentally the square is named in memory of the 150,000 British soldiers who died near Arras in WW1 including men from four Suffolk battalions. At one time 25,000 soliders were billeted right under the noses of the Germans in caves under the city virtually under the German lines. The caves opened the public in 2008 and are well worth visiting.

Just to show that this isn’t a one-off. Here is the same red car using the same spot back in March 2010. And… if it you look carefully it was also there when the Google streetview car passed the end of the street!

The same car using the same spot nine months ago in March 2010

Nice bench, shame that no one can use it.

Nice bench, shame about the car

Ironically, one of the worst offenders, was the manager at ‘Black Sheep’ which has subsequently closed I am please to say. I have some video of hundreds of people having to negotiate her car one day when she parked it in an even worse position. It is amazing that owners of shops put their own convenience about that of their customers.

A black sheep?

As always I will press my local authority to do something about this.

Update

After a week without any response I sent a reminder email and got this reponse by return: “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. I have passed your enquiry to my colleague [name removed] who will answer you as soon as he is able to do so”. The ‘as soon as he is able to’ bit doesn’t sound too promising reallly.

Mini police officers penalise parents

6 Dec

A nice post by Living Streets.

“In partnership with Bradford’s road safety team and the West Yorkshire Police, primary school pupils donned police uniforms and handed out parking tickets to parents, in a successfully ‘lighthearted’ bid to highlight road safety. The event intended to warn parents and their children of the dangers of the ‘school drop’ and prevent daily offences such as pavement parking, using mobile phones whilst driving and stopping/dropping off in non-designated zones”.

I love the way this reworks the power balance between the children, who tend to suffer more than others from such behaviour and the minority of adults who are trying to get away with it. Do also check out my post about Junior Speed Watch which gets kids to bring speeding adults to task. What is powerful about this is how the authorities are working directly with the young people.

See the original ‘mini police officers’ article here:
‘Just the ticket for parents’