Archive | March, 2011

Do vehicles damage pavements. Err… yes they do big time

26 Mar

Some time back I reported about the huge cost of repairing pavements around the country (some £234m per year across the country). Since then I have been spending some time paying attention to the patterns of damage to pavements to see where the damage is and if it can be attributed to vehicles. The answer is very clear, the damage is coming from vehicles, particularly from heavy vehicles. Strangely this is the only class of vehicles which is specifically allowed to park on the pavement to load/unload. Paved pavements are particularly vulnerable.

This first photo shows a totally destroyed pavement on a local industrial estate that I visited recently. Notice the new asphalt pavement on the other side of the road.

Totally destroyed pavement

Here is another view. There are only two intact paving slabs on the entire path and these are around the base of the lamp post. I suggest that vehicles are avoiding that section of pavement.

Another view. The paving slabs next to lamp post are in good condition

And then I spotted this entrance across a pavement that was generally in very good condition. Notice the broken slabs just where a vehicle’s wheels would be putting pressure.

The pavement is only damaged where vehicles cross it

On my way home I spotted this a cement mixer lorry up on a pavement. This is actually completely legal; the 1980 Road Traffic Act gave vehicles over 7.5 tonne dispensation to park on the pavement to load and unload if this ‘could not have been satisfactorily performed if it had not been parked on the footway or verge’. (Section 19 and 20)

A heavy cement lorry up on the pavement

Please find alternative parking…

25 Mar

It is amazing how far pavement parking has permeated British culture. I spotted this sign yesterday which put a smile on my face. Is it saying ‘please get off the pavement that you broke for long enough for us to fix it so that you can carry on parking there‘ or is it saying ‘please don’t park on the road next to the pavement because we need unimpeded access to the pavement‘? Clearly it isn’t doing much good whatever it means as there are still cars all over the pavement.

Please find alternative parking…

Needless to say, the sign is blocking most of the pavement leaving only 950mm for pedestrians so as not to impede the more important vehicular ‘traffic’. I moved it out into the road far enough for wheelchair users and buggies to get past more easily.

A curious passer-by asked what I was doing. When I explained she told me that she worked for highways at the borough council and confirmed that pavement parking was a big, expensive and messy problem for them.

Pedestrians get only 18% of the time at a busy pedestrian crossing

24 Mar

There is a major pedestrian crossing point opposite Suffolk College on the waterfront in Ipswich which has recently become very slow so I spent 15 minutes taking some measurements on what turned out to be a busy open day. I observed the waiting time after each the request was made, the time allowed for people to cross and then the delay until next request (all times in seconds).

  • 80, 17, 1
  • 80, 22, 60
  • 84, 18, 88
  • 76, 14

The average wait time was 80 seconds, the average crossing time was 18 second meaning that in a busy pedestrian town centre/tourist location pedestrians are getting only 18% of the time available. Curiously, I have previously established that pedestrians get only 18% of the road width outside a local primary school once cars have dominated both the carriageway and half of the pavement. Is this a example of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) which proposes that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes?

Here is the crossing – click on it to go to Google Streetview. Notice that the Google Streetview car caught someone waiting and a bunch more people arriving. And on a similar note… a reader of this blog has just commented that there is also a car stopped with its hazard lights just beyond the zigzags on the right blocking the cycle lane and forcing a cyclist behind them into oncoming traffic.

A work colleague tells me that the crossing by his house in a busy town-centre location is also very slow. By contrast, when I used a pedestrian crossing in a less pedestrian-busy location yesterday I noticed that it responded very quickly; I tested the crossing a few times and each time I was free to cross within 9 seconds (compared to 80 seconds at the college)!

I am thinking that it might be interesting to do a more systematic survey of the response times of crossing across the town. Possibly council should publish this information systematically as a matter of course.

Update 2
I reported this on FixMyStreet on the day I made this post however I still haven’t had any response or acknowledgment of my report from the council after more than 5 weeks which I think is very poor.

Update 3

The council appears to be responding to FixMyStreet reports now and has also cut the delay on this crossing by about half it seems (it  is a little hard to determine because the timing is now quite variable, but has been as short as 20 seconds which is great).

Official, nearly no-one drives on the pavement!

7 Mar

A month ago I made a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk Constabulary asking how many drivers had been prosecuted for  driving on the footway (pavement) and separately how many drivers had been prosecuted for ostructing the pavement.

The police came back initially saying they that they were not able to disagregate driving on the footway (pavements) from driving on footpaths/bridleways etc, they also couldn’t disaggregated prosecutions for driving a motorbike on the footway/footpaths from driving 4 wheel vehicles. In relation to obstruction, they said that they could not disaggregated obstructing the pavement from obstructing the carriageway. This is unfortunate as is disguises the underlying issue I was wanting to look at.

Anyway… what were the results. In 2009 there were a total of six prosecutions for ‘driving/riding a vehicle on the footway’ and in 2010 this had risen were eight for the county.  Given that we do have some problems locally with kids taking motorbike and mopeds onto the heaths and common land I would suggest that few if any of these prosecutions are in relation to driving a car onto the pavement for the purpose of parking it there. Probably none?

Prosecutions for obstructing the footway/carriageway were about 800 each year. Given that this is for the whole of Suffolk and covers obstruction of the carriageway as well it doesn’t really tell me very much although 800 isn’t very many across a year and a county is it? That is two a day for a population of 660,000.

In passing I will note that in the case of prosecution for speeding, the police are allowed to demand that the keeper of a vehicle identifies who was driving it at any time. A couple of speeders took the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights’ saying that it was a breach of their rights to have to incriminate themselves. They lost, but not before the industry created forward looking speed cameras that could capture an image of the driver.

I can’t see why they ruling couldn’t be used in the case of people parking on the pavement requesting the keeper of the vehicle by post to identify who drove it onto the pavement. Not knowing who was using your vehicle is itself an offense. The only problem of course is that the it would kick off a huge stick about ‘cash cows‘, victimisation of drivers etc etc. The reality is that the existing regulations are barely enforced such as blocking a dropped kerb as shown below. As such it will continue to be our job to draw attention to the issue and keep up the pressure!

Blocking a dropped kerb


Reporting from the front line

6 Mar

It’s been an interesting few weeks! Motorists have been fighting (sometimes literally) for the right to park their beloved cars somewhere. Police and authorities have been fighting back. People have ended up in hospital, in court and some have almost gone to jail. In one instance the police in South Africa ended up drawing guns on each other over a disputed parking space.

Starting with the good news..

Police in Loughborough will be delivering leaflets to every household in the town warning of a crack-down on pavement parking by the police and the council. In future motorists will risk getting a fine if they leave less than 1 meter of pavement clear for people to get by. The RNIB regional campaigns officer said that they were “ incredibly pleased that we have had such a positive response from all the organisations. .”

In Perthshire the police have warned drivers that they face receiving three penalty points and a £60 fine if they block pavements. The police have told drivers that they should leave at least enough room for a pram or wheelchair to get pass. They have got their work cut out, because traffic wardens locally have been assaulted on numerous occasions over the past few years with one motorist threatening to shoot a warden and another trying to run a traffic warden down.

In Bolton the police have warned drivers that if they force wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs into the road by parking on the pavement they could soon be fined £70. They launched the campaign after ‘a flood of complaints’ and their action has the support of 57% of those who responded to a poll organised by the local paper.

In Reading Labour councilors are objecting to plans by the Conservative-led council to ban pavement parking. Labour think this should only be brought in for roads where all residents have ‘adequate’ off-road parking, which they define as meaning off-road parking for ‘one or two vehicles’. I see… if the motorists ‘need’ the pavement then they get it, if not then the pedestrians can use it. Nice.

In Middlewich a parent claimed that irresponsible drivers were ‘dicing with death‘ after her 5yo son was nearly knocked down by a reversing car outside the school.

Meanwhile a man in Machester only just avoided a jail term after punching a female traffic warden to the ground – he was given a four month prison sentence suspended for a year and 250 hours unpaid work.

In Oxford a 24yo man was also given a suspended prison sentence after punching a 66yo traffic warden and dislocating his shoulder.

A survey of 3,000 motorists in the UK found that 25% of these drivers admitted to ‘verbally assaulting’ other motorists for their parking decisions or worse and in one third of cases the incidents related to parking on pavements.

In New York and woman is in a coma after being punched in the face during an argument over a parking space.

And finally…  in South Africa police from two different forces drew guns on each other when officers from one force attempted to tow away a vehicle belonging to another force from outside their offices. It is reported that the argument escalated with more and more policemen coming out of the building, fighting, and then threatened to shoot each other!

Number crunching

4 Mar

Annual cost of a operating a single school crossing patrol in Suffolk: £2,232. Annual cost of keeping a second-hand car on the road : £4,441 (not including any actual usage – RAC figures)

So… Pass 50 parked cars and the ownership costs are the same as all of the Suffolk Crossing patrols which are to be disbanded in the summer. Pass 250 cars (which doesn’t take long) and the annual ownership costs have hit £1 million which is the same as a very fancy boat.


Down memory lane – 1980s information film

3 Mar

Here is a public information film that was made some time in the mid to late 1980s (the car has a 1981/2 plate on it). So… not a lot has changed in the intervening 25 years then.

I have also just been trying to track down an old public information film made with a young Tony Robinson for the National Institute for the Blind. I am sure it was him but I can’t find anything on the web about it at all now which is a bit strange. Can anyone help?