Archive | April, 2011

‘without favour or affection, malice or ill will’

30 Apr

I have just been reading this impressive memorandum to a Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs into ‘Walking in towns and cities’ back in 2000 which included the following observation:

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.

He went on to suggest that the police were breaking the law by treating motorists and pedestrians differently quoting from the 1964 Police Act which requires every police officer to declare that they will discharge their duties ‘without favour or affection, malice or ill-will‘. (Police Act 1964 Schedule 2) The flowery wording he quotes has incidentally been updated subsequently by the Police Act 1996 (as amended by the Police Reform Act 2002) and now reads ‘with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality.‘ (section 29 and schedule 4)

He suggested that it would be illegal for the police to respond to the chair in the road but not the car on the pavement: ‘[ie prosecuting a pedestrian for obstructing vehicles by illegally leaving their possessions on the road but not prosecuting vehicle owners for illegally leaving their possessions (cars) on the footway.]’

So what happened? Well, the committee subsequently reported, and I quote, that: ‘walking has been made ever more unpleasant. Pedestrians have been treated with contempt’. That’s what I love about these cross-party select committees, they don’t hold back with their views! ‘Contempt’, that is a strong word but I suggest that it is accurate.

So… back to the police. Would it be fair and impartial for the police to allow motorists to leave their property (ie cars) on the pavement and to then prosecute a pedestrian for leaving objects of their choice on the carriageway? I am tempted to find out! What if there was an outbreak of chairs, sheds, planters and other interesting but unauthorised objects left on the carriageway for the convenience of their owners, to slow traffic or to beautify the area? Personally I favour planters or other useful objects.

What would happen if one responded to the inevitable approach from the police or from the council by politely reminding the police of their pledge to fairness and impartiality and the council of their duty to remove all ‘things’ left on the highway which constitute a danger to users of the highway (including a danger caused by obstructing the view) and and to stop being blind to vehicles which are also ‘things’ in the eyes of the law (Highways Act 1980 Sections 148149)

If they attempt to say that cars are different then one can challenge them and also start muttering about why bins left permanently on the pavement are so different. If they start talking about these new objects being a danger to traffic one would mutter about the requirement for drivers to drive appropriately for the conditions (including conditions where there are objects clearly visible in the carriageway) and to question the implied assumption that it is more safe for motorists to avoid pedestrians who are forced onto the carriageway that for drivers to avoid chairs/planters etc that don’t even move!

My only reservation is that I have great respect for my local police who are pulling their hair out over pavement parking and who are also offering me very visible support for this campaign. It is possible, of course, that they would understand the irony of the action and may even quietly be in support of it.

I will sign off with another observation by a parliamentary select committee from 2006 where they said: ‘We accept that the problem of vehicles obstructing footpaths country-wide is a large one and a major effort would be required to enforce the law. But the ‘do- nothing’ response of the Department is no longer a credible option’. Select Committee on Transport Seventh Report – Parking: para 261) and then that ‘The Government must grip the problem of pavement parking once and for all and ensure that it is outlawed throughout the country, and not just in London’ (para 262)

Conservative promise to clamp-down on pavement parking in Reading

26 Apr

The Conservatives in Reading are promising that the council will be empowered to tackle inconsiderate parking on pavements and cycle paths if they retain control after the May elections. Labour previously insisted on a delay to the implementation of the scheme and another round of consultation and for all streets where there isn’t adequate off-street parking to be exempted. They defined ‘adaquate’ as meaning that “all households within the road having off-street parking for one or more vehicles – and the road is not wide enough to allow vehicles to park on either or both sides of the street without obstructing the road“. If that was the case the I guess a pavement parking ban wouldn’t be needed!

I certainly find it strange to see the Conservatives batting on behalf of the pedestrians an Labour opposing. They are also promising to a ‘London-style’ cycle hire scheme, more 20 mph speed zones where there is local support and for the removal of unnecessary traffic lights. Before you assume that removing traffic lights will always be bad for pedestrians, do check out this video. Very surprising results although not everyone was happy. In my town they removed a set of traffic lights with good results as well.

New free car park now ‘open’

26 Apr

Some time back I blogged about an unusual sign which seemed asked drivers to park off the pavement while it was being resurfaced. The sign didn’t seem to question the cars’ right to be there. The good news (for motorists who park on that particular pavement) is that the work is now complete and the pavement is again available for parking. The bad news (for everyone else) is that we all paid for this work through general council tax which was only necessary because the cars had broken the slabs and we still can’t use the pavement easily cos of all the cars parked across it! Incidentally, on this particular street it isn’t practical for wheelchair users to use the road because of all the speed humps.

Here are a couple of photos. The first was taken after the work on this part of the pavement was complete, the second was taken during the works showing cars, signs and bins obstructing the pavement. Why can’t the workmen leave their signs on the road!

Cars back on the new pavement

Cars, signs and bins all causing problems

Ruffling feathers

22 Apr

I went out on patrol today, issuing tickets and in some cases also marking the pavement in chalk indicating the width of pavement remaining for pedestrians. I upset at least one motorist who subsequently commented on this blog that “because of argumentative people like you the world is in the state that it is, if you want a world where people tell other people what to do with their lives and create animosity like you guys are doing right now be my guest and create anarchy. We are meant to live in a tolerant society respecting each other but because the so called pedestrian liberation think that they have special treatments they like forcing themselves on to others.

Interesting stuff and not worth analysing the above too carefully given the total lack of respect offered by the motorists in question to pedestrians (they had all left less than 800mm of pavement for pedestrians). Regarding ‘anarchy’, I want to see an end to the existing ‘anarchy’ where a minority of motorists feel that they have a right to park wherever they feel like and the authorities do nothing about it.

Here are a few choice pieces of parking from today’s outing. This first photo is of another driving instructor (from the ‘Benson school of motoring’ this time) parked on the pavement leaving only 700mm.

Another driving instructor parking on the pavemet

Then there is there this one where an unrepentant motorist left a miniumal 450mm for pedestrians to get by. The owner came out and asked me who I was and why I wasn’t ‘minding my own business’. She suggested that pedestrians could walk on the other side of the road which was thoughtful of her!

The driver said pedestrians could walk on the other pavement

Finally, here is beautiful still life which consists of a wheelie bin and and car which together leave only 400mm for pedestrians. I hope the chalk marking and the leaflets will make people pay a little more attention next time.

Car and bin conspire to close the pavement!

The ‘Road Witch’ trials

9 Apr

Here is a site brimming with ideas of how to challenge the current car-centric mindset in a playfull but powerful way. Highlights have got to be their Halloween Causality car crash from 2002 and the ‘scare-cars’ of 2005. Then there were the delightful human belisha beacons (made of white waste pipe, black tape and yellow balloons) and ‘Christmas dream‘ where they decked out their street with sofas, a TV (broken) piano and fire place and then unexpectedly found themselves being interviewed by Richard Hammond from Top Gear of all people! Here are a few images from the site (click to get to the full story).

All this brain-rewiring and community empowerment then led to the remarkable DIY traffic calming introduced permanently for Beech Croft Road in Oxford in 2010. Here is a description of what they had approved as as reported by the BBC and on the Beech Croft Residents Association website. However… this DIY conversion of a street deserves it’s own blog post which will be coming soon.

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.”