Archive | September, 2011

Companies behaving badly…

8 Sep

I have created a new category called ‘bad company‘ (as in ‘bad boy’) with examples of where businesses are being naughty, selfish, thoughtless or lazy in how they allow their company vehicles to be left on the pavement. I am in no way commenting on their ability to do their trade, some of them are certainly pretty good at it – only on the way they present themselves in public by their choices of parking places. I suggest that they either clean up their act or take the branding off their vehicles!

Here are a few examples taken down one short section of road at the start of a school day on the approach to a primary school. I notice that the same Specialised Fixings van features in our Rogues Gallery and that the R+J Windows van has parked in that position for at least a year. R.L Johnson repair cars, but is it necessary to making walking any less attractive? I smiled when I noticed that the A.J.Cook advertise that they ‘specialise in disabled adaptions and alterations’. What, like making the pavement even narrower by parking a big truck on the pavement outside their offices?

Needham building contractors (790mm for pedestrians)

R+J Windows (complete blockage of the path)

R.L.Johnson car repairers (400mm for pedestrians and a very dangerous corner)

Specialised fixings (again), this time leaving 500mm for pedestrians

A.J Cook building contractors on the approach to a primary school at 8:45am

A.J.Cook helpfully advertise that they specialise in ‘Disabled adaptions and alterations’

Parking controls break down 1930s-1970s

7 Sep

I have been poking around the legislation that used to restrict the parking of vehicles on the highway in the early years. There are a few facts which still need to be worked into a clearer narrative with some gaps which need to be filled in but the general story is pretty clear. It starts with a tough parking regulatory framework where on-street parking is prohibited by default unless permitted in particular places after consultation. This process then melts under the pressure of increasing car ownership (car ownership which grew from 5% of the population having a car in 1930 to 20% by 1960). By 1963 the parking situation was a disaster – as highlighted in the the seminal ‘Traffic in Towns‘ produced in 1963: “the crowding out every available square yard of space with vehicles, either moving or stationary, so that building seem to rise out of a plinth of cars; the destruction of architectural and historical scenes and the intrusion into parks and squares” (page 22-23) The previous regulations, which were not working were quietly ignored and then repealed and were replaced by an ineffectually framework which started with the presumption that parking was allowed unless it was specifically banned. There was then the failed attempt to ban pavement parking in 1974.

Here are two photos from the early 1960s. The first shows a street where cars have ‘taken complete possession of the pavement. The lower image shows Place Vendrome in Paris crammed with cars. I am pleased to be able to report that the square is now almost completely free of parked cars as can be seen using Google Streetview. We are still living with the consequences of this failure. The curious fact however, is that I believe that there is no actual legislation to allow this parking on the road, it just happened and legislators went onto the defensive. See below for a more detailed analysis of how the cars took over.

Indiscriminate parking, as illustrated in Traffic in Towns 1963 (copyright image)

The Road Traffic Act 1930 (section 120) went into considerable detail describing how a local authority could create on-street parking for vehicles with the implication that parking was not allowed in other places. The creation of these parking places was complicated and time consuming and could only be done after extensive publicity and consultation. The 1926 Automobile Association handbook includes a similar description of the process of creating on street parking facilities (on page 183-4) implying that this process must have already been in force at the time. This same requirement was carried forward into the Road Traffic Act 1960 (section 81) only to be repealed by the Road Traffic Act 1972.  To quote the 1930 Act:

Where a local authority propose to make an order under this section authorising the use as a parking place of any land forming part of a street … the local authority shall cause notice of the proposal to be published in at least one newspaper circulating within their district, and shall also cause a copy of such notice to be posted for not less than fourteen days on the land to which the proposal relates, and every such notice shall-
(a) specify the land to which the proposal relates ; and
(b) notify the date (which shall not be less than twenty-eight days) within which any objection to the proposal shall be sent in writing to the local authority; and
(c) contain a notification of the right of appeal conferred by this section.
(3) Before carrying into effect any proposal of which notice is required by this section to be given, the local authority shall consider any objection to the proposal which is sent to them in writing within the time fixed in that behalf, and shall, after so considering it, give notice of their decision to the person by whom the objection was made, and if any person is aggrieved by any such decision he may, within twenty-one days after receiving notice thereof, appeal there from to the sheriff.

The Road Traffic Act 1960 also authorised the use of traffic regulations which in 1963 were used to create the first yellow lines. One has to ask why it was necessary to use yellow lines to prohibit parking on the street when there was a special process in the same act in order to create parking. I think it is clear that parking regulations were being completely ignored by this time and there was no effective action to enforce them. Two years after the legislative process to create parking bays was dropped in 1972 there was the failed attempt within the Road Traffic Act 1974 to ban all pavement parking but this was never enabled during the subsequent 37 years!

The highway code provides an interesting insight into the situation over this time. The first edition of the Highway Code in 1931 said that “No vehicle should be left standing on the highway for a longer time than is reasonable in the circumstances. Do not leave your vehicle at a standstill in such a position as to cause inconvenience to residents of to other users of the road. Draw in your vehicle close to the kerb and do not stop where the road space is already restricted by standing vehicles, road repairs or other obstructions. It is an offence to leave a vehicle in such a position as to cause obstruction. It is also an offence under the road traffic act to leave a vehicle in a position or in a condition or in circumstance likely to be dangerous.” The term ‘reasonable in the circumstances’ seems pretty vague but the general tone is ‘don’t do it’. Curious that there is no reference to the regulations in the 1930 Act and the possibility of permitted parking places – possibly very few had actually been created.

By the time of the 1946 version of the Highway Code this requirement had been deleted entirely, there is no guidance that I can see relating to parking in the code. The 1954 version then introduces the familiar phrase of “You MUST NOT park your vehicle or trailer on the road so as to cause unnecessary obstruction” with reference to section 88 of the Motor Vehicle Construction and Use Regulations 1951 (which I can’t find online at present). What is ‘unnecessary’ obstruction I wonder? People have, of course, been arguing about whether an obstruction was necessary or not every since.

I would like to find the pre-1930 regulations and fill in any details and correct any errors. Do please leave hints for me in the comments section or on twitter if you have more of the story. A big thank you to Dave H (@BCClets) for his tweet which gave me the initial clues to get onto this particular trail. Thanks also to these guys, who published the scans of the old highway codes that I am referring to above.

44% of motorists believe that they ‘own’ the road outside their house!

7 Sep

According to a recent poll of 2,000 motorists some 44% of motorists believe they “own” the nearest parking space on the road to their home and 18% have felt distressed when a stranger parked in front of their property. In reality it is possible that it is not actually legal at all to park on the highway – Surrey County Council’s website says thatIn common law, drivers have the right to pass and re-pass along the road. There is no legal right to park on a road, verge or footway“. ‘Parp part’ went Mr Toad.

‘Parp parp’

Rural speed limits in the UK and Holland

6 Sep

Following a discussion this blog in response to my recent ‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph? blog post, here are examples of rural speed limits in Holland in the the UK. Notice that many Dutch rural roads have 50 mph speed limits (purple) and 40 mph (red) rather than 60 mph (light blue) or dark blue (70 mph). Across the North Sea on the east coast of England all rural roads are 60 mph, no 50 mph speed limits at all and very few 40mph limits. The speed data is from OpenStreetMap and has been visualised by ITO Map. The speed data is not yet complete If you are able to help please then please add information to OpenStreetMap for your area and places that you visit.

Speed limits holland (click for slippy map view)

Speed limits Tendering District, UK (click for slippy map view)

This final image shows pedestrian road casualties for Tendering District since 1986. Large blobs are deaths, small ones are serious injuries. Red for pedestrian, blue for driver, green for passenger. Most pedestrian casualties are in the towns, which is likely to be for two reasons – firstly that most pedestrians movements naturally take place in towns and secondly because pedestrians avoid rural roads knowing that they are unsafe. Casualty data from Stats19 police data. Do remember that road deaths have fallen massively since 1985 when some 5,500 people were killed in GB compared to 1,857 last year.

Road casualties – Tendering district

‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph?

5 Sep

Rural roads without pavements and 60mph speed limits are apparently officially considered ‘safe’ for children to walk to and from school on as long as the section without a footway is less than 3 miles long (2 miles long for under 8s). To quote the guardian todaySchool transport spending cuts mean that from this week many pupils will be walking to school along unlit 60mph roads without pavements … The current guidelines presume children will be accompanied by a responsible adult, meaning councils can declare routes up to three miles long (or two miles for under eights) safe even if they are unlit, have 60mph speed limits, no pavements or step-offs, and are used by heavy commercial traffic“. I believe that this is the road illustrated in the article as shown on Google Streetview.

Walking to school along 60mph roads with no pavements

Of course if drivers were to travel at a speed where they could stop within the distance they could see and ensured that pedestrians could walk safely along the edge of the carriageway then this might be sort of OK, but in current conditions where pedestrians are frequently forced to climb onto the verge for their own safety then it is not. Do check out my recent post about what happened to the father who wanted to ensure the safety of his child walking to school along a road that is probably very similar to the ones being discussed in this article who was threatened with arrest if he ‘willfully obstructed’ the traffic again.

Incidentally, in 2009 the Department for Transport proposed dropping the speed limit on many rural roads to 50mph estimating that this would cuts deaths by 250 per year but the idea was soon dropped. Rospa noted in 2010 thatAround one third of pedestrian fatalities occur on rural roads and the other two thirds on urban. Pedestrian injuries in rural areas are more likely to be fatal however, and the figures from table 2 show that 5% of all recorded pedestrian injuries resulting in a fatality, compared with urban areas where fatal casualties are 1.5%” and proposed lowering speed limits to 50 mph on some rural roads. Brake proposed it again earlier this year after commissioning a survey which found that one in eight drivers admitted overtaking on single carriageway roads when they could not see if it was clear.

Things you mustn’t do!

5 Sep

The law has protected pedestrians and other road users over the years from virtually every intrusion into the footway and carriageway except that caused by parked cars. There are some gems contained within section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, all of which carry fines of up to £1,000 and a stay in prison of up to 14 days if one is found to have caused an obstruction, annoyance, or danger. Major sins include beating one’s doormat in the street after 8am and fastening a horse so that it stands across the footway. Those at risk include everyone who…

  • Causes any sledge, truck, or barrow to stand longer than is necessary on the highway for loading or unloading goods, or for taking up or setting down passengers (except hackney carriages or ‘public carriages’ but then only in designated places)
  • Places or leaves any furniture, goods, wares, or merchandize, or any cask, tub, basket, pail, or bucket on any footway
  • Hangs up any goods, wares, merchandize, matter, or thing whatsoever, so that the same project into or over any footway, or beyond the line of any house, shop, or building so as to obstruct or incommode the passage of any person over or along such footway
  • Places any blind, shade, covering, awning, or other projection over or along any such footway, unless such blind, shade, covering, awning, or other projection is eight feet in height at least in every part thereof from the ground:
  • Fixes or places any flower-pot or box, or other heavy article, in any upper window, without sufficiently guarding the same against being blown down:
  • Throws or lays any dirt, litter, or ashes, or nightsoil, or any carrion, fish, offal, or rubbish, on any street, or causes any offensive matter to run from any manufactory, brewery, slaughter-house, butcher’s shop, or dunghill into any street.
  • Beats or shakes any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats, beaten or shaken before the hour of eight in the morning):
  • Fastens any horse or other animal so that it stands across or upon any footway
  • Rolls or carries any cask, tub, hoop, or wheel, or any ladder, plank, pole, timber, or log of wood, upon any footway
  • Cleanses, hoops, fires, washes, or scalds any cask or tub, or hews, saws, bores, or cuts any timber or stone, or slacks, sifts, or screens any lime:
  • Makes or repairs any part of any cart or carriage (except in cases of accident where repair on the spot is necessary)
  • Keeps any pigstye to the front of any street, not being shut out from such street by a sufficient wall or fence, or who keeps any swine in or near any street, so as to be a common nuisance
  • Cleans, dresses, exercises, trains or breaks, or turns loose any horse or animal
  • Shoes, bleeds, or farries any horse or animal (except in cases of accident)
  • Slaughters any cattle, except in the case of any cattle over-driven which may have met with any accident

So… it appears that if the Mercedes was a horse or indeed any of the following (barrow, basket, bucket, cask, furniture, goods, horse, merchandize, pail, sledge, truck, tub) and if it was found to have caused obstruction, annoyance, or danger then the owner would be liable for a fine or up the £1,000 or even up to 14 days in prison!

500mm between these two cars

Pedestrian signage failures

3 Sep

I have been collecting examples of public signage that fails to communicate helpful information to pedestrians for a few years now. Signage for motorists was standardised many years ago and is generally very clear. Pedestrians it can be very poor indeed as shown in these examples.

I spotted these first ones at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in 2007. There are actually 20 halls over a wide area. Should I go left or right or take the shuttle. Who knows!

OK, do I want to go to the halls or to the halls?

Why would I want to go to a pedestrian subway? Does it lead anywhere?

Shall I go to the halls for the pedestrian subway. Hmm…

And what on earth was this map meant to convey? There is a stub road that doesn’t go anywhere and there are no footpaths at all. It doesn’t help that the car park numbers have been covered over, but it wasn’t very useful before.

Car park mapfail at the NEC

Back in Ipswich, this map outside the royal mail sorting office seems to be designed to confuse.

Map outside the Ipswich sorting office – no context

And this map in the grounds of the main hospital fails to show any pedestrian routes, include the main pedestrian/cycle route to Woodbridge Road on the right of the map. It also fails to name Woodbridge Road and doesn’t show the bus stops.

Ipswich hospital map totaly fails to show pedestrian route

There is actually a very good bus service along Woodbridge road, including ‘Superroute 66’ which runs 24 hours a day. Someone should take the original promotional material down now because I think it has lost some of its initial impact!

‘Super’ route 66 – dodgy promotional material!

24 hours a day

Needless to say, I have selected only the failures to show here. There is a lot of very good helpful signage out there but this isn’t it and there needs to be better quality control to stop the duff stuff getting put up and to get it taken down quickly. Do report failures on FixMyStreet. Some of the best work is being done in London with their Legible London project.

£50K fine and 5 years in prison for rubbish on the pavement – bins and cars are fine though

1 Sep

The council has recently put up signs in the area warning of penalties including fines of up to 50K fines and five years in prison for dumping rubbish on the pavement. Serious stuff! I assume there are referring to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 33). Unfortunately they then go and leave wheelie-bins all over the pavement every week after collection! The following two pictures are taken on the same street. The first shows signs warning that dog poo on the pavement costs up to £1,000 and the fines for fly-tipping. The second photo shows how the council leave bins all over the pavement after emptying them for no good reason that I can discover. Cars on the pavement are not being challenged of course.

No dumping of waste £50K fine

Bins all over the on the pavement again after collection by council

RIP school travel mode statistics – burying bad news?

1 Sep

Ministers have just announced that there will be no ‘travel mode’ question in the next school census. I find this curious because the school run is a hugely challenging and emotive subject for parents and for other car commuters. Here are a couple of charts showing who how things have changed over the past 15 years during which time this information has been collected. Notice that more primary age kids will be traveling to school by car than on foot soon if current trends continue, also that the car and local bus is gaining with secondary school age kids at the expense of waking. Cycling is lost in the noise at the bottom.  I wonder if the parents at these Brentwood schools parents will start chucking rocks at traffic wardens again? Was it relevant, per-chance that these statics were first collected in 1995 just after the previous conservative government abandoned the ‘great car economy’ following an epidemic of road protests in the 1990s? (walking is dark blue and is highest for both groups, cars are in yellow and are next highest for primary school kids and have similar percentage as for local buses for secondary school kids. Local buses are in dark purple).

Travel to school by mode of transport (1995-2010)