Archive | March, 2012

Not-so-Smart cars at Mercedes Ipswich?

28 Mar

Mercedes of Ipswich provide their customers with delightful messages about the ways they will be able to park their new acquisitions when they get them home, particularly their ‘not-so-Smart’ cars. I spoke to one of their managers about it, expressing amazement at how they were flaunting just about every parking regulation going; he responded by explaining that they painted the lines themselves on their own property and that none of them had any legal weight, he also explained that “no one walked there anyway”! Personally I think they should be sending out much more responsible messages.

Not-so-Smart cars lined up on ‘pavement’

More cars on the ‘pavement’

A pedestrian cops it, and you just can’t fit two smart cars in one space!

Ouch! another the pedestrian bites the dust

Can we help Tesco help themselves?

24 Mar

Tesco appear to need help, and I am not talking about their ‘ shock profits warning‘ last week after which their UK boss quit; I am referring to a phone conversation I had with them yesterday following a complaint I had made in which they assured me that Tesco require all drivers to abide by all laws, including all motoring laws at all times. Now this is very interesting because  rule 145 in the Highway Code which reads “You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property, or in the case of an emergency” with a penalty of £500 for each offense (Highways Act 1835 section 72). They assured me that they never allow their staff to break this law!

HA1835 S72 has of course been almost completely ignored. A FOI request I made on the Suffolk police last year showed that they had only prosecuted 6 people county wide for this offense during 2009, which included prosecuting kids for riding motorbikes on heaths and bridleways etc. They were not able to identify the circumstances of each incident and I suspect that none related to people parking vehicles on pavements. What I have did notice while researching this post was an article in the Daily Mail which claimed that ‘only’ seventeen cyclists were prosecuted for cycling on the pavement in London in 2008 (which the DM thought though was way too low of course).

The police tell me that it is impossible to prosecute pavement parkers using HA1835 S27 because they would need to wait and gather evidence as to who was actually doing the driving. Technical advances have of course come to the rescue, and suddenly most of us carry the necessary evidence gathering equipment with us all the time; phone/cameras proved crucial following the London riots, and also resulted in the conviction of a police officer for the unlawful killing of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 riots. I see no reason why we can’t use them for our purposes now.

I think we need a test case; a quick internet search shows that many people are upset about Tesco driving (and parking) on pavements and also littering pavements generally; and that is without even getting into the wider issues relating to their size and business practices. Are they a suitable target for our purposes? I use the word ‘target’ deliberately, because I think we need to focus on a single large public company that disregards the law every day all across the country and make an example of them that they, and others, cannot ignore. We could of course choose any of the delivery companies (DHL, TNT etc) who are equally bad, however I think Tesco are the best one for us, especially given their assurances that they always obey all laws! Please let me know what you think in the comments section? Will you be able to help by gathering video of local examples? Fyi, we have been offered the support of a powerful environmental law company with this campaign and they should be able to help out along the way with this particular project.

Finally, here are some photos. The first two are from the Daily Mail who campaign vigorously when it comes to riding bicycles on the pavements, as in this example where they even quote the highway code rule ‘You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement’ in virtually the first sentence! However.. they don’t even mention that both of these Tesco vans have broken the highway code in a similar manner and that the first has completely blocked the pavement!

Daily Mail don’t even comment on breaking highway code

Daily Mail again, and again no comment regarding driving on pavement

Tesco illegally driven on pavement in Cambridge

Tesco van illegally driven along pavement in Ipswich

Obstructing pavements in Westminster

Remarkable amounts of rubbish in Kennington!

Illegal pavement advertising by Tesco in Bournmouth?

Tesco, a persistent offender?

22 Mar

Today I am focusing on Tesco, who park on the pavement (and I believe break the law) close to where I live virtually every week when doing their home deliveries. What bugs me is the way that nothing changes despite numerous conversations with their drivers over the past year; each week they come back to almost exactly the same spot. This time they inconvenienced a total or three pedestrians, including one with a small child in a buggy. Drivers normally explain that they park on the pavement to avoid inconveniencing motorists and that they receive no guidance on not parking on the pavement from their company blar blar… (in other words the same old stuff).

What is very interesting about this is that Tesco (and just about everyone else who parks on the pavement) appears to be breaking section 72 of the delightfully old Highways Act 1835 which is still in force and is probably one of the most powerful laws available to us which states that it is an offense: “If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway“. The great thing about that law is that there is very little wriggle room – there in nothing about such driving needing to be ‘unreasonable’, ‘unnecessary’ which makes the obstruction law so useless. All one needs is suitable evidence which can be provided by virtually by a mobile phone with video recording capability. Any recording needs to show the situation, the pavement, the vehicle registration number and the driver’s face. The offense can lead to a fine of ‘Level 2 on the standard scale‘ which is currently a maximum of £500 which might make them pay some attention. It would of course be necessary to convince a court that it was worth their time to bring it to court. This is certainly something to explore in much more detail going forward.

Here are a bunch of Tesco photos; the first is from last week’s delivery and the last two from today’s delivery showing that not much has changed.

Tesco delivering on 15 March 2012 – no space for pedestrians

Back on the pavement on 22 March 2012. Pedestrians approaching with buggy.

Another view of the 22 March delivery

As always, I will email Tesco and ask for their thoughts and let you know what happens!

Update

Tesco have come back very efficiently and very promptly and assured me that it is company policy that Tesco home delivery vans should always obey all traffic laws and as such should never drive on the pavement!

As such, I am sure they would be interested to hear from anyone else around the country who has problems with Tesco vans up on pavements. If you have a problem then do please email customer.service@tesco.co.uk with details of the incident and provide the following details:

  • Time and date
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Street name and town
  • Your contact details

Do please also drop a comment with the the details of the incident (but not your personal information) onto the comments section of this post and we will see if anything changes as a result.

Injustice to motorists, my foot!

20 Mar

The RAC Foundation complained today that motorists pay £32 billion in taxation each year but only get a ‘paltry’ £10 billion spent on road-building.

OK, so what if they had remembered to include the £8 billion ‘cost’ per year for road fatalities (Audit Commission, 2008), the £8-20 billion ‘cost’ of  the 50,000 early deaths caused by air pollution, much of it caused by road traffic (Commons Environmental Audit Committee, 2010 ) and the £7 billion negative effects of the emission of 90 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year (DfT National Transport Model Road Forecasts 2011, page 52, at an estimated cost of £70 per tonne (Social cost of carbon OECD)? Include those and the direct measurable costs of motoring have reached £33 – 45 billion comfortably exceeds what motorists pay, even without considering of noise pollution, loss of amenity and military campaigns aimed at protecting access to fossil fuels!

Also, why does one have to keep on reminding these organisations that taxation is expected to cover more than the direct consequences of the activity? Not doing so is like a gambler complaining that it is unfair that taxation from gambling brings in more money that is spent on the negative social to families and communities of gambling addiction, or a drinker/ smoker complaining that taxation exceeds the negative effects to society and family of their activity. Check out the great campaign, iPaxRoadTax for a history lesson in how motorists have been pleading for special tax treatment since Winston Churchill ended the Road Fund in 1937!

Warning – full scale lobbying in progress

15 Mar

The BBC has today given considerable coverage to two reports from transport industry lobby groups who like carbon and tarmac. To their credit the BBC are entirely above board and make it very clear where the messages are coming from, however this stuff is influential. I am not saying the reports are wrong or anything, but simply that large rich industries have a considerable and probably unhealthy influence over public opinion and policy and that it is worth highlighting that from time to time:

This morning there was a story saying that not enough money was being spent on filling pot holes, based on a report by, errr, the Asphalt Industry Alliance. They appear to be owned by the Refined Bitumen Association who are owned by Exxon, Shell, Total and others. I wonder if they have some sort of angle on all this?

And then this afternoon there is a report that someone claimed that the UK’s aviation policy is in a mess because we are not building new runways fast enough. So who is this person, err.. Willie Walsh, head of the International Airlines Group (which owns British Airways and Iberian Airways) and who is of course completely unbiased on the issue.

Back in November 2011 I wrote about the new ‘The Road Ahead Group’ which had apparently been formed back in June 2011 to lobby for expenditure on roads. I say apparently because they said that they would have a ‘low public profile’ and indeed still don’t appear to even managed to set up a website to say who they are – there is a website for an organisation of that name, but that one is for a for an educational technology project based in Dubai! The best information available on the UK one is still the information on SourceWatch. Members include construction companies, haulage companies, the company that operates the M6 toll road and curiously also a very expensive city law firm – I wonder what are they doing there?

Welcome to the world of spin and games!

Welcome to Ipswich!

15 Mar

I am sorry to write such a direct post about my town, but I have being blogging on this subject for 18 months and during that time have had numerous conversations with just about everyone in authority locally, including the police, Councillors, council officers and my MP and absolutely nothing appears to have changed, if anything, a minority of motorists are getting even bolder and are parking further onto the pavement. During this time I have also become aware of the sheer number of different obstacles encountered in a small area. Do remember however that all is not lost, far from it. We are getting on the case and our job is to keep highlighting the issue in a way that the authorities can not keep ignoring and one day someone who is in a senior authority position will finally get enough courage and confidence to grab the issue and deal with it effectively.

There are many examples of where issues have suddenly been addressed after years of neglect. I believe that for years the French authorities accepted much higher levels of road deaths than occurred in the UK, until the son of the minister of transport? was killed in a traffic collision, Since that event the authorities have been having considerable success with a campaign to bring the figures down (I can’t now find a reference to this – can anyone confirm it). The French are currently introducing numerous additional road safety initiatives and produce particularly hard hitting information campaigns. It is also encouraging how cyclist safety has finally been getting very powerful media support from new sources, notably from The Times. The next step for this campaign might be when a major national newspaper to takes up the pedestrian cause in a big way with clear campaign demands.

Until something changes we need to continue to bring pressure and information to those in power who will one day realise that they just have to address it and that there is considerable support from people to address it. Until then I will continue to draw attention to the issue. To that end, here are a few examples of what pedestrians around my area have had to put up over the past 48 hours!

First off, there is the Tesco delivery truck this morning. The driver said that he had received no guidance at all on where it was acceptable to park and where it wasn’t (not that I believe that really, possibly it is more a matter of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘). The driver was parked so far up onto the pavement today that I could hardly get past at all without being scratched by the prickly hedge; the local guy in his wheel-chair would have no chance. As usual there was a space for the driver to park on the other side of the road, but that would have increased his drop-off time by, ohhh, possibly at least a minute and we all know that for Tesco ‘every penny counts’!

Tesco delivery - no space between van and prickly hedge

Tesco delivery – no space between van and prickly hedge

Next up, we have a delightful combination of bin day and road works. The road signs from May Guerney do at least leave the legally required 1m clearance this time, but unfortunately they create a chicane for pedestrians when combined with the bins that have been left scattered as usual across the pavement by the council making it impossible for my wheelchair-bound neighbour to use the pavement. Possibly he should just stay at home on bin-day? Or possibly the council should instruct their staff to return bins onto drive-ways where they are available and road-works signs should only be used where they are actually required for safety reasons!

Bin day and road works. No chance after council have littered pavements with bins!

So now we move the the next street where the bin collectors have left the bins neatly scattered across the pavement next to the cars which was also oh-so-elegantly up on the pavement making the pavement completely unusable. The bin-collector I spoke to was unapologetic and indicate that he was completely happy with how they had been left. His parting comment was ‘it is a kerb-side collection, not a garden collection’ which was clever of him! As regular readers will know I have been banging on to the local council about their bin collection policies for months now with no apparent effect.

Bins left on pavement by council and cars on pavement. No chance!

More bins and another car up on the pavement

Finally, we have a new ‘dropped pavement’ being constructed nearby. The council refer to them as ‘dropped kerbs’, but using the current design they lower the pavement on a slope across the whole width of the pavement. I have previously requested that they keep the majority of the pavement level as they used to in the past.

A new dropped-pavement being constructed – more sloping pavement to deal with.

And here is the result. And to illustrate the slope, I place the football at the curtilage (where the pavement joins the property) and watched it roll across the ‘pavement’ into the carriageway before settling in the gutter. Not helpful for wheelchair and buggy users. Do also notice the road-works sign (see below).

Sloping ‘pavement’, ball rolls into road

Finally, just past this dropped kerb I came across a road-works sign left illegally with less than legal minimum 1m space required for pedestrians. Given that I had discussed this issue with the person from the Nation Grid Gas only yesterday, and given that the road-works were highly visible, I have now removed the sign into safe keeping joining the sign from Mervyn Lambert which has still not been collected incidentally. As usual I will now email their marketing people and let them know that they can come and collect it from me.

Illegally positioned sign by the National Grid

Update

Almost at the exact moment that I pressed ‘post’ on this blog post my MP, Ben Gummer, contacted me indicating that he was going to work on the issue and was on-side. Very good news.

On a more irritating note I jumped through a bunch of not very clear hoops to get an email address for National Grid Gas from their website, but when I sent my email to that address I was told that it was no longer valid – at least they had the decency to automatically forward to the new addrress. They do also seem to be having a bit of bother with the word ‘correspondence’. “This email address is no longer valid. Your email has been forwarded to the correct address of Northampton.enquiries@uk.ngrid.com. Please use this as the correspondance address for future reference.

British Parking Award winners

10 Mar

The British Parking Awards event was interesting. It was big, there were 520 people sitting down diner with the prize-giving compered by Alexander Armstrong (who is more commonly seen on over on the BBC). Clearly there is money in parking, with many people representing the companies that build and operate the car parks, provide the technology were there; and also importantly, the people who enforce the regulations.

During the event there were a number of references to the fact that the sector gets a pretty bad press and grief from many motorists. The enforcement award went to Shropshire Council with Essex winning the Parking Partnership award; I have previously posted about Essex’s excellent ‘considerate parking initiative‘. I was disappointing not to hear any reference to bicycles or bicycle parking, or to any campaign that was about raising awareness of the consequences if selfish parking – may be next year. By way of background the event is organised each year by Landor-LINKs, who publish Local Transport Today and New Transit in addition to ‘Parking review‘.

The event did however leave me musing on why it is that free car parking is considered to be a ‘right’ (more about that later). Of course motorists, even in America, have established that roads should be provided for free by the state (which all sounds a bit socialist for the US really)! This right seems to then be extended to parking; For most normal motorists the not-availability of free parking ends up being directed at traffic wardens, the car park operators (who require people to pay a market rate for parking) and in the common ritual of driving for an extra 10 minutes to avoid paying for parking ‘out of principle’.

Foreign embassies in London evidently have a much more direct approach; Fines issued to 60% of embassy owned cars operating in London do not get paid; one Kazakhstan diplomat owed £53,820 for 471 tickets, two Sudanese diplomats owe almost £56,320 between and the US embassy owes Londoners £5m in congestion and parking fines. Kazakhstan and Nigeria have incidentally recently paid their fines; the USA and Sudan are apparently still holding out!

To sign off, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of what must be a very expensive car parking with 2 wheels up across a dropped-kerb within feet of the entrance to the award event. No apparent reason for doing so except probably habit. Would it help if the yellow line was painted a little wider or in a brighter colour I wonder?

Possibly the yellow line needs to be clearer?