Archive | January, 2011

Labour continues opposition to pavement parking ban in Reading

20 Jan

We reported some time back that the local Labour group in Reading were campaigning against a pavement parking ban in the town as promoted by the local Tory and Lib Dem council claiming that it was just a ‘cash cow’. Since then Labour councillor Jan Gavin has been pressing the administration to say “which roads would become impassable to emergency vehicles and bin collection carts if they parked wholly on the road”. Notice the implication in that statement that motorists will ‘have to park on the pavement‘. Is she implying that it is the responsibility of the council to ensure that motorists can store as many vehicles on the highway without charge as they wish and if these vehicles spill onto the pavement then that is just one of those things! Car clubs? no thanks. Cycling? not really. Walking? only if you can find a gap wide enough on the pavement or wish to take your chances on the road.

It got messier when a Freedom of Information request that she submitted was refused as being ‘not in the public interest’. She is now celebrating that the administration appears to be letting the issue slip commenting “Cllr Willis accused Labour Group of obstructing the proposal, me and Labour colleagues of scaremongering and clearly stated that it had never been their intention for there to be a widespread systematic fining of people who were sensibly parked on the kerb”. Are we going to get a definition of ‘sensible pavement parking then?”. Isn’t local politics wonderful.

She also helpfully published this photograph on her blog showing how little pavement is left for pedestrians in the current situation. Could you get down there with a buggy? or with shopping, with a guide dog or in a wheelchair. Well – it would be a challenge. I am passing a link to this blog to her in case she objects to my reuse of the image or feels I have not presented her views fairly.

Local councillor campaigning against pavement parking ban in Reading (copyright image)

E-petition to tackle illegal pavement parking in Brighton

19 Jan

A local e-petition has been launched relating to illegal parking in ‘Baker’s Bottom’ in Brighton. Following a local area meeting with the police, a local Police Community Support Officer organized a letter for all the residents in that area recieved more than 35 responses and formed the basis of the petition which is now available on the Brighton and Hove City Council website.

Being pedantic, the current parking situation is not illegal given that pavement parking is only illegal if it causes an obstruction (which is often hard to prove) or if some other specific regulation applies. If it was already illegal then the requested double yellow lines would not be required! Needless to say, the legal process of putting in yellow lines is time-consuming and expensive and would have to be paid for by all residents of the borough whether they drive or not and whether they park on the pavement or not!

Incidentally, the coalition government required all local councils to enable residents to submit online petitions and have it working by the end of last year.

Baker’s Bottom

Damage to vehicles left on the pavement

19 Jan

Drivers often say that they park across the pavement to protect their cars from damage from other vehicles using the road, however is appears that the pavement isn’t that safe either as was nicely explained to a owner of a vehicle who was mystified about the scratches on the side of his car:

“Before I changed locations, I used to live within 200 yards of a primary school. I remember having a conversation with one of my neighbours about mystery scratches that kept appearing all down one side of his black Astra car. The penny dropped for him when I told him that they almost certainly  caused by his stupidity of parking on the pavement almost blocking it. The scratches were from the various prams and buggies being pushed along by the parents walking their children to school. Why he parked on the pavement, I do not know as there was plenty of room to park at the kerbside. He did get the message in the end.

Be aware that damage to a vehicle is a criminal offense regardless of contrary claims made below as highlighted in the prosecutions section at the end of this post.

Mumsnet

Here was the question which provoked all the suggestions and confessions: “Hello all, I need to rant about this. On the way to nursery every morning we have to circumnavigate the sheer volume of cars parked on the pavement. We haven’t used a buggy for ages but I know people who do and it is damn near impossible to squeeze a buggy through the gap left on the pavement once the cars are in place.

  • “If it happens again after my baby arrives, I will not be pushing the pram out into the road. Instead, I will squeeze/scratch past if possible, and hopefully that will teach the bastards a lesson”
  • “I would need squeeze my buggy through the gap -too dangerous to push it on the road- and wouldn’t it be unfortunate if the cars all got scratched??”
  • “Well, if they just HAVE to leave their car on the pavement, I think you just HAVE to leave a dirty nappy face down on their bonnet. Clearly, that is what is easiest and most convenient for you to do with the nappy, just as it is easiest and most convenient for them to park on the pavement”
  • “Funnily enough was walking to school this morning imagining myself setting up a guerilla group to egg cars that do this unecessarily. “
  • “Scratch the cars and you’ll get done for criminal damage – you can bet someone will ‘see’ you do it. Far better to give DS something nice and gooey to accidentally drag along the sides of the cars as you squeeze past. You can help him if he can’t get the aim right. Ice cream is good, but if it’s early morning a nice peanut butter sandwich should do nicely. Sticky Nutella toddler-handprints would probably be a lovely fashionable addition to the nice cars

Babycentre

And the question on Babycentre. “Okay so I have just had a run in with a guy from my mum’s street. The street is quite narrow so a lot of people park half on the pavement and half on the road but this guy for some reason has 3 people carriers.

  • “This guy sounds like an idiot and I would purposely scratch the car to prove a point or at least knock the wing mirror!!!
  • “Did you know that if you scratch a car with your buggy that is parked on the pavement, the owner has no leg to stand on?!!? Due to the fact he is obstructing a public footpath which is illegal.
  • “Hi, sorry I’m crashing here, but I’m so filled with rage by people who park on the pavement that I had to post!.. so I get really irate when I have to walk on the road with my son.”
  • “it’s so good to hear that if I ‘accidently’ scratch someone’s car (perhaps the repeat offender down the road….) it’s not my problem.

BBC – Ouch, its a disability thing

A reader posted that “a blind man who claimed police were not doing enough about motorists parking illegally on pavements is angry that he was arrested when he decided to take action” (as reported earlier on this blog).

  • He should have let the tires down and never said a word. Don’t threaten, DO! As my Grandad used to say “Never point a loaded gun unless your going to fire it”.
  • Hmm, alternatively, as letting tyres down is difficult and timely and you might be seen, there is always the accidentally squeezing past the obstacles and … oooops my harness handle has scratched the paintwork. Oh and there it goes again! And heavens, my arm got caught on something, was it really your wing mirror? Accidents DO happen
  • My wheelchair has ‘grown’ some very rough and sharp edges. You know, the type that wouldn’t be kind to the bodywork of, let’s say, a car obstructing my path. Add to this the poor control I have of my wheelchair on some terrain; and, crunch shriekkkk…whoops.
  • I knew someone who when he came across a car parked on the pavement he’d rip the wing mirror off! simple as that, no threats, no warning, just did it!!

Prosecutions

Sometimes people completely loose it, and pay the price for criminal damage:

A 64yo ‘grandmother’ found by the owner scratching the side of the vehicle in Watford having already left a not ‘pavements=people’ on the winscreen was fined £2,000 and found her picture all over the Daily Mail..

The 84yo man who ‘lost control’ and scratched two cars in Chiddingford and was fined £2000.

The priest who scratched cars in Middleport, Staffordshire and was fined £200 as reported in the Daily Telegraph.

Some are more lucky. This is London reported that a dog walker had smashed a wing mirror off a car parked on the pavement in broad daylight causing £100 of damage but was never caught. The article explained that the driver had gone to deliver a birthday card to her brother-in-law’s home, which is about a mile up the road from their house, but his driveway was full so she ‘had to park with  two wheels on the kerb’ to avoid blocking main road.

‘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.

‘Ziggy and Zaggy’ scheme

14 Jan

Pupils have been working with neighbourhood police officers in a scheme run by Staffordshire Police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council to hand out warning cards to thoughtless motorists who block footpaths, zig zag yellow lines, block driveways or park opposite or within 10 metres of a junction.

The police explained that the area around the school was dangerous at peak school times and that parents were asking them to try to sort the problem out. Headteacher Dawn Farmer said: “I’m thrilled… in the morning, cars block the whole street and refuse to move, forcing people to reverse down the whole street.. It had got to the point where so many parents were complaining, we had to do something.” One of the 12 year six volunteers explained ‘I just wanted to do something to tell grown-ups off and I thought it would be fun. I’ve already got two people this morning and two this afternoon!”

Handing out warning cards in Staffordshire. Copyright image

APC Overnight and Parcel Force this time

12 Jan

By chance I spotted the same APC Overnight van and driver parking very inconsiderately on Monday outside a school at pick-up time and then again on Wednesday in the pedestrian zone in the retail zone at a time when loading wasn’t allowed. I spoke to him on Monday and he couldn’t see what the problem was. I didn’t bother to ask him today. Here are the photos:

APC Overnight across the pavement outside a primary school at pickup time on Moday

The same van and the same driver in the pedestrian zone outside loading times on Wednesday

Of course it isn’t just them. Here is a Parcel Force van blocking the pavement locally in a very comprehensive way:

ParcelForce van across pavement

And another view of the same Parcel Force van

As always, an email will be winging its way to the companies shortly. I wonder when these delivery companies will get the message?

Update

All emails to their head office PR department seem to bounce. A phone call to head office was diverted to the local branch – they don’t seem to be interested in the actions of local companies even though they have the company name on the side. The local branch was unavailable at the time. Possibly they will pick this up in due course and come back to us using the comment facility below. I may also try the local branch on the phone tomorrow morning on the phone but it is frustrating when companies make it hard to provide feedback and then don’t seem to want it.

Update 2

Just spotted this APC Overnight parked all over the pavement. I asked him to leave the pavement clear next time and park on the companies land which was available, however the driver told me that ‘he couldn’t be bothered to argue about it’.

Another APC Overnight vehicle parked right across the pavement

Learning from Detroit

11 Jan

I had the privilege to find myself in Detroit for 10 days last summer. As someone committed to getting the transport systems in our urban areas working well I was inspired by the BBC documentary ‘Requiem for Detroit’ to see the city which was both the birthplace of mass car ownership and which had been virtually destroyed by the same industry. I was able to see a city that can tell us a lot about what was wrong more generally and which has messages for us back in the Europe.

I found a cycling friendly city with lots of open space, but soon after we got they I started noticing that this bankrupt city was installing dropped-kerbs at every junction including for ones where there were no occupied buildings and no evidence of any foot traffic such as this one.

Brand new dropped kerb – grass gowing out of the pavement

And this one. It is however a complete co-incidence that the unoccupied building in this next photo used to house the ‘State of Michigan, Dept of Management and Budget, Motor Transport Division’ which I guess was in charge of using money wisely! Incidentally, the building is on Rosa Parks Boulevard which is named after Rosa Parks who was later described as “the first lady of civil rights”, and “the mother of the freedom movement” after she refused to go along with the laws in the South that said that a black person had to give up their seat on a bus if a white person wanted to sit down. She lived in Detroit in her later life and is someone who should be an inspiration to everyone who wants the bring about change, including getting cars off pavements!

The ‘Dept of Management and Budget Control’. Closed, but enjoying a brand new dropped-kerb

Why? Well the Disability Discrimination Act in the USA requires urban areas to install dropped kerbs and I was told by a local that the city had been sued for not implementing them. Given that the official boundary of the city was still the same as it had been in the 1930s, the city had to install them everywhere, including places where no one lived anymore. Another person pointed out that the previous mayor was in jail for corruption and perjury having previously been ‘riding around in luxury as city decays‘. I have had no suggestion that these dropped kerbs were part of any corruption though. A combination of well intentioned but unhelpful legislation, poor decision making and cronyism does occur to some degree everywhere however – in the UK we can also spend money on some pretty odd things as has been beautifully highlighted by the Warrington Cycle Campaign’s ‘Facility of the month awards’. Incidentally, Detroit is about to shrink its boundaries as the state halves its road budget due to reducing icome from their ‘gas tax’.

I am pleased to say that we also found a great city though which is full of optimism with younger people coming back with ideas for the future with an impressive Critical Mass ride each month. Both of these Critical Mass videos are worth watching. They present a view of huge empty space in the city, its vibrancy and a glimpse of what is starting to take place in the spaces vacated by all the cars and why creative pioneers are moving back into the city in what has become known as ‘reverse white flight‘.

However… this is still ‘Motown’ and Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show this week with ‘car dealers rejoicing as optimism returns to motown’.

So there you have it – messages for all of us from Detroit where everything is in the melting pot!