Archive | May, 2011

Avon and Somerset Police: policies, strategies and powers

23 May

Avon and Somerset police have just responded to a fine freedom of information request about their policies, instructions, strategies and powers in relation to pavement parking in Bristol (and in particular within the BS7 and BS8 postcodes). Their response is more informative by what it omits than for what it says.

Here is my summary of the questions and their answers. Refer to the FOI request for exactly what the questions were and the responses.:

Q: Details of any parking enforcement policy (or part of any policy), strategy or instruction (informal or informal) provided to officers/staff.
A: They have no particular policies, strategies or formal/informal advice and officers are expected to use their discretion taking all the circumstances into account at the time.  I know that the police in my area are hazy about all the complex and ever changing legislation even thought they have a leaflet (which is incomplete and contains errors). Judging by the rest of their response Avon and Somerset Police are also ‘hazy’ on the legislation and on at least one occasion they have concluded that parking completely across the pavement on a blind residential street is not obstruction. Also… of course there will always be informal advice/practice on  an inflammatory issue as parking where there is an absence of formal guidance.

Q: Your organisation’s responsibility and powers in relation to enforcement against pavement parking.
A: To act where they have powers, but not in response to yellow lines etc as responsibility for these has been transferred to the council. See below for details of the list of powers they identify and the apparent gaps in their knowledge.

Q: Have you undertaken an Equalities Impact Assessment in relation to the above?
A. No response provided.

In detailing their powers in relation to pavement parking they identify the following (all of which are valid as far as I know):

  • Highways Act 1980 (section 137.1) Wilful obstruction of a highway by a motor vehicle £30 non endorsable)
  • Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986 (regulation 103) Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 non endorsable
  • Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (section 52) Powers to issue a fixed penalty notice
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 19.1) Park an HGV partly/wholly on a footway/verge £60 non endorsable
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 22) Cause vehicle to be left in a dangerous position. £60 endorsable
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (34.1b) Drive vehicle on a footpath/bridleway etc. non endorsable. £30 offence
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 42) Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 non endorsable
  • Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (schedule 2) Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 offence

They do, however, fail to mention the following additional powers which I believe are relevant:

  • Highways Act 1980 ( Section 148 and Section 149) it is an offense if ‘a person deposits any thing whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway without lawful authority or excuse‘
  • Road Traffic Act 1988 Act (Section 21). An immediate offense to park ‘wholly or partly’ on a share-use path
  • Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997 (Section 18 and schedule 4). Pedestrian crossing (including the area marked by the zig-zag lines. Enforceable by police even in civil enforcement areas (The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 – Section 7.1).
  • Traffic Management Act 2004 (section 86). Dropped kerbs for pedestrians to cross road (including places where the carriageway has been raised to meet the level of the pavement).
  • Highway Code (rule 238) prohibition of parking, waiting, stopping or setting down/picking up on School zone (identified by the yellow zig-zag lines).

Say it as it is :)

20 May

Back in 2001 and Commons select committee on ‘Walking in Town and Cities’ reported that pedestrians in this country were treated with contempt. In 2008 another commons committee looking at road traffic casualties spoke of the the scandal of complacency. Over in Philadelphia it has been reported that they take a more direct approach to communicating with pedestrians with Mayor Nutter (the mayor of the city) defending these new signs saying that ‘they are not vulgar” and “do not, in any way, show contempt for pedestrians‘.

New pedestrian sign?

You may like to check out the ‘news’ source for this last piece to see if you believe it. You don’t need to check if that is really the mayor’s name. It is.

Causing alarm distress or annoyance

18 May

A couple of evenings ago I had a knock on the door and found two police officers on my doorstep who explained that they had had a complaint from a local resident about someone matching my description who had ‘banged on their door’, told them to move their car and had also said that ‘the police were sh**’. I confirmed that I had indeed ‘rang their door bell’ to explain that their parking had resulted in a wheelchair user having to go into the road. I explained that I was about to report the neighbour’s Jaguar to the police (again) for also making it impossible for the wheelchair user to get past and would report her if she didn’t move it. I did also explain that the police had very little power to stop pavement parking. You will note that my ‘ringing the doorbell’ is her ‘banging on the door’ and that my ‘the police don’t have powers to act’ was turned into her ‘the police a sh**’. The neighbour’s Jaguar is incidentally already in the rogues galley.

The policeman, who I knew, told me that it was illegal to ring people’s door which was news to me! I assume that he was referring to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which introduced an offense of ‘causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress’ (section 154). I hardly think that politely raising an issue with a neighbour on their doorstep once is what the Act was intended to cover.

He also reassured me that if there was a parking problem locally then I should leave it to them! Unfortunately for them and us that is plain wrong and they can’t. He didn’t seem that interested in hearing about the meeting I had just earlier the same day with his sergeant where we had agreed that in many cases it was too much work for the police to make it worthwhile to prosecute even where there was good evidence. Interestingly, in researching this post I did come across a useful piece of related legislation in the Police Reform Act 2002 which gave the police power to seize vehicles ‘used in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance’ (section 59). It was clearly the opinion of this particular officer that I was causing intentional alarm and distress by raising the tricky issue of this driver’s parking on the doorstep but that the vehicle owner was not causing ‘distress or annoyance’ by leaving the car across the pavement. But hey, ho, that is how it normally works at present whenever pedestrian and motorist issues conflict.

Anyone campaigning on this issue does need to be careful not to stray into ‘using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting‘ which could result in a day in the magistrates court for harassment!

If the local police do wish to have a go at sorting out pavement parking in the town then here are some challenges for them. All these drivers have parked vehicles completely across the pavement or across and raised crossing in the past 48 hours and most have also blocked a dropped kerb, and… one of these vehicles is the very same Jaguar that I mentioned earlier and which was back blocking the raised crossing the day after I had reported it to the police in almost precisely the same stop as it was when I took the picture in the rogues’ gallery.

Large van completely blocking pavement and dropped kerb while driver popped into the corner shop

Making a deliveryto the university while fully on the pavement and blocking a dropped kerb

Removal van needlessly block busy footway on approach to the college campus

Our friend the Jaguar driver again

Confirmation again that motorists come first…

18 May

Having been rebuffed by the council waste team in relation to my request that bins are not left after collection where they obstruct pedestrians in what I consider to be an illegal manner I decided to ask one of the bin men themselves why they left them on the pavement rather than within the property. He was initially a bit defensive but then said ‘the first thing we are told is not to block driveways because otherwise motorists will have to stop in the road to move them and it will cause havoc‘. He also claimed that they never obstruct the pavement, by which I assume he meant ‘totally block the pavement’. He acknowledge that they did also leave bins on the pavement even where there was already a car on the driveway so it was unlikely that it would ’cause havoc’ to put them back where they got them from!

I then took a walk up the pavement to see how usable it was and it didn’t take long to find this example where there was only 400mm between the edge of the bin and the kerb, which is about half the width of a typical external door to a house! Two photos, one where the binmen had left it and another where I consider that they should have left it.

400mm remaining

Where they should have left it

Barnet in a tizzy

13 May

Barnet seem to be getting in a right state over pavement parking and road safety which is unfortunately one of the worst in London. According to an article published yesterday in a local paper the police have again been issuing dummy parking tickets to motorists who park on the pavement. The local (conservative) council explained that the notices were handed put because of complaints from pedestrians. The Labour party environment spokesperson has rather strangely come out on the side of the motorists saying ‘This is the Barnet Tories once again coming down heavy handed, using a hammer to crack a nut. Why don’t they listen to residents and come up with a scheme that benefits everyone?‘. A Conservative councillor has said that he is pushing for a scheme to allow residents to park on the paths and has asked for no tickets to be issued until one is drawn up. Umm… ok, so we will stop illegal parking once we have made parking on the pavement legal? Is that how it will work?

And then one angry motorist says it will be very dangerous and people we die: “If we’re forced to park on the road there’s going to be hell to pay. The other day an ambulance tried to get down Cheviot Gardens but there were two cars on the road and they had to knock on neighbours doors to get them to move. That’s a life and death situation and it’s crazy. By coincidence another article in today’s edition of the same paper highlighted the borough scary road safety record; nine were killed and 1,520 injured in traffic incident in the borough during 2010 including 241 pedestrians and 82 cyclists (up 32% on 2009). In neighbouring Harrow there were just two deaths and 551 casualties in the year and in Enfield had seven deaths and 1,075 hurt. That is a lot of people!

Fake parking tickets

The hedge will have to go!

13 May

A neighbour of ours has a particularly impressive and well cared for hedge. It is tall, healthy and has possibly got a little wide. So… Ipswich Borough Council in their wisdom wrote to the owners asking them to cut is back. The owners refused. Here it is still there in all it’s glory.

The hedge (and the electrical cabinet)

There is one other teeny weenie problem with trying to get down this particular section of pavement which is that some motorists think that it is the perfect place to leave their cars over night, at weekends and indeed on many weekdays. The council do nothing about this and don’t even mention that it is a problem in the parking section of their website in the way that many other councils do.

A very obstructive hedge!

Obviously the hedge will have to go!

In addition to the cars, the council policy is to leave bins across the pavement to avoid blocks driveways after then have been emptied. The council has refused my request for a meeting to discuss the issue and has also stated that they have no intention of changing their policy as this might lead to damage to cars and claims for compensation from them from motorists. Here is a typical example for how bins are currently being left by the council on this street every week.

A good place for the council to leave an empty bin after collection!

How about the police? I am pleased to have their full support of this campaign, however very regrettable I also spotted this ‘safer neighbourhoods’ police car parked needlessly across the pavement in the next street sending out all the wrong messages earlier this week!

That’s how you do it! make sure you always leave the carriageway clear

Challenging the local bin policy

5 May

I have now had a response to my query to Ipswich Borough Council in regard to why bins are left in just about the worst place they could be for pedestrians by their contractors after they have been emptied. The council confirmed that their contractors are instructed to leave bins “on the curtillage of the property… not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc” which they described as being the ‘safest position‘ as it didn’t risk damage to cars which she considered would be the case if the bins were left in line with the parked cars as I had proposed. Not a single mention of the needs of pedestrians in general and the blind and wheelchair users in particular. Not exactly what seems to be  required under the Equalities Act 2010 which came into force in October 2010 and provides ‘A basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport‘.

As it happened it was bin-day today and also polling day today so I was able to sample a few pavements on the route to my local polling station just after the bins had been collected. As you can see from the pictures below (on the left ) the bins were generally left in a position where they were obstructing the pavement. I moved them to a more sensible pave where I proposed that they should be left (on the right) which was often on the relevant driveway only a very short distance from where it had been left by the binmen.

Bins after collection (as now on the left, and as proposed on the right)

Update: Since making the above post I have noticed that the contractors leave bins in a much more obstructive way than the householders did. Check out the pictures below – the images on the left were taken just before the bin collection showing that the householders left them on the edge of their property sensibly, the images on the right show how to binmen then left them all over the footway.

Before bin collection on the left and afterward on the right

AA Streetwatch

4 May

The AA are asking members of the public to survey motorists at junctions this week reporting driver behaviour – including speeding, seatbelt wearing, mobile phone use, indicator use and defective brake lights. Their survey takes about an hour and must be completed by 9 May 2011. If you think any of these are issues in your neighbourhood then why not  choose a suitable junction and get on with it.

Last year they got people to do surveys of local conditions for pedestrians (broken kerbs, dog mess, pavement parking etc). Here is the map they produced highlighting which parts of the country had more and less pavement parking. I notice that my area is ‘not too bad’, if that is the case then I do really pity the red areas! It is great to see the AA, which was set up to warn motorists of police speed traps, doing work like this.

AA pavement parking survey results 2010

The tragedy of the commons, regulatory capture and negative externalities

4 May

It occurred to me yesterday that roads can be thought of as a form of common land in that they are a shared resource available to individuals to perform a range of agreed activities. If it is common land then one can consider if the ‘the tragedy of the commons‘ is applicable which is defined in Wikipedia as being where ‘multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource’.

Another useful term is ‘creep’, which can be used to describe the changes over time that can take place in norms, habits, and regulation. It seems to me that we have had both formal ‘regulatory creep’, for example the banning of football on the highway by the Highway Act 1835 and also informal ‘social’ creep; for example the general acceptance that the highway should be available for the storage of some very particular items of private property (notably cars and more recently wheelie-bins).

If one accepts that there has been creep then one can consider if there has been a degree of ‘regulatory capture’ which Wikipedia describes as follows: ‘capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for large firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called “captured agencies“. Yes, I do think it is fair to describe the police, local authorities and the courts as partially ‘captured agencies’.

So… what does this mean for this campaign? I think it provides a useful set of terms to use in debates with also provides some clues and historical examples of what we will need to do to get our public space back! Finally… here is a picture of a cow on a road for no particular reason other than it is proof that the motorist does not always have to have priority!

Beware, cows on the road – © Copyright Steve F ccbysa

More bins on the pavement and silence from the council

3 May

I have been writing to my council and my local councilor and have been leaving reports on FixMyStreet since October 2010 in relation to bins left on pavements. I am writing to the relevant officer again today.

Here are some new photos from over the weekend from one housing area in Ipswich. The first two pictures show the way that the pavement is being used for the permanent storage of bins by some, but not all, residents; the last one shows bins left scattered all over the only part of the pavement available for pedestrians after they have been emptied by the council contractors in a way that I believe is illegal under the Equality Act 2010

Bins along a very narrow pavement

More bins on the pavement

Bin assault course on collection day

Update: The council have now responded and said that they do follow up complaints about bins being left permanently on the pavement and get them moved. Lets now see what happens. They have however said they won’t change the instructions to their binmen on where to leave the empty bins which I am going to challenge them on.