Institutional ‘motoristism’?

14 Jul

(or should it be ‘institutional motorism’ – see update at the bottom of this post)

Coming home recently I have notice police cars parked in illegal and/or antisocial ways on a number of occasions. In this first incident they had parked a marked police-car with two wheels up on the pavement on a double yellow line and probably within less than 10 meters from a junction. So was it a big emergency? Ok, not an emergency at all, just a routine traffic speed patrol. I politely asked them if they could re-park legally which they were fine about it, but why don’t they do it as a matter of course?

Police car up on pavement on double yellow within 10 meters of a junction

OK, so it is not an emergency, just a routing speed patrol

And then there was the time a few weeks back when I noticed this police car parked with its bonnet slicking out blocking the entire pavement. OK, so it might have been an emergency, but actually when to looked at the back of the vehicle there was loads of space into which the driver could have reversed.

Badly parked police car blocks pavement

Plenty of room for the driver to have reversed into the bay properly

Why does this matter, I hear many motorists thinking? It matters because it shows that there is a culture in the police that pedestrians and the pavements they rely on are less important than motorists and their needs for convenient places to park. One could possibly call it ‘institutional motoristism’ and then look at how society has dealt with other ‘isms’, such as racism and sexism (and homophobia)? All of these other ‘isms’ were endemic in both the police and also society but needed to be dug out of the police force before the wider societal issues could be addressed effectively.

Institutional motoristism (or possibly just ‘motorism’) has a more nasty side when the police side with aggressive motorists who threaten or assault pedestrians or cyclists. Check out ‘The Cycling Lawyer‘ blog for a cyclist/barrister’s view on the bias in favour of motorists as demonstrated by both the police and the judiciary.


A comment has just be left below noting that Chris Hutt, the late author of the ‘Green Bristol Blog’ proposed the term ‘institutional motorism’ back in 2010 which he defined as being ‘a deep rooted prejudice in favour of motorised traffic at the expense even of the safety, let alone the convenience, of those that dare to travel on foot or bicycle‘. That is certainly what I was referring to and is easier to say that motoristism! Neither have quite the same root as racism or sexism – to follow those it would have to be ‘transport-modeism’ which doesn’t really work or ‘modeism’ which doesn’t mean anything useful at all. As such motorism seems to be the one to use.

What is encouraging is that the term seems to be picking up gentle traction. ‘At War With the Motorist’ used the term in July 2011 saying “In the 1950s the future was the car and road transport, and for five decades TfL could get away with their assumptions and their institutional motorism. The times are a changin’. We need to show TfL that they can’t get away with this in 2011“. Apparently they picked up the term from ‘People’s Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire’ in their ‘Institutionalised Motorism near UWE‘ post from July 2011. The term is also turning up in comments on blogs around the web.

18 Responses to “Institutional ‘motoristism’?”

  1. Nigel Shoosmith July 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    The first time I saw the term ” Institutional Motorism” was in the late Chris Hutt’s “Green Bristol Blog” back in 2010. Great term and sums up the motoring myopia perfectly.

    • Peter Miller July 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      Thanks for that. I have just updated the post to reflect Chris’s term and reference his post.

    • Graham Martin-Royle July 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

      Institutional Motorism. What a perfect description. I shall be using that in the future.

  2. Richard July 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    I am amazed they allowed you to take a picture of them.

    I believe if I was to challenge a Police Officer or to take a picture of them.
    I’d be questioned about my motives. Asked for I.D. “Name and Address.”. And checked out.
    Maybe searched. Or even taken to Police Station for a full body search.

    I wouldn’t be brave enough to ask a Police Officer to park his car off a Pavement.

    • Peter Miller July 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      In general the police in Ipswich are pretty chilled and reasonable and I have a good relationship with them. Needless to say, I consider that they have a strong streak of what I will now call ‘institutional motorism’ and I am sure they consider me to be a bit of a nuisance, but in general we get on fine and they have even at times encouraged me in this endevour. They even have a newspaper cutting from a stunt we pulled back in 1 April 2010 on a display board that they take around schools.

    • Graham Martin-Royle July 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Richard, Police Officers are human beings not ogres. Don’t be scared of them. It’s only when they start getting complaints about their behaviour that they will start to change (just like other human beings and other organisations) so it’s down to all of us, when we see something like this, to challenge the officer, to make a complaint.

      • Richard July 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

        Thanks. Graham Martin-Royle.

        For your wise words of encouragement.

  3. Graham Martin-Royle July 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    This is a very common problem and one of the major reasons that it is so hard to get the police to take any action against pavement parking or even to consider that it is a problem.

    I have taken several photo’s of Sussex Police vehicles parked in a similar manner. Every time I see them doing this I try to take a photo, take down details of reg. number, where parked, what was going on, any police officers in sight, blue lights, etc. I then send the whole lot to the police as a complaint (after all, if I complain about pavement parking by other motorists and complain to companies about their drivers, then I see no reason why I shouldn’t complain about the police parking like this).

    I have had several meetings with various ranks of police officers about my complaints. I have had some bizarre excuses for this behaviour, because the vehicle was single crewed (as if that makes a difference), because the officer was checking up on the welfare of a dog owned by a man in custody and thought it could be in danger as there was no one to look after it, because the officer was attending an emergency and didn’t think too much about where they were parking (if their concentration is that low, should they be driving at all?).

    Am I making a difference? I don’t know but I do see less of this than I used to, so maybe. Maybe they don’t do it any more because they got fed up with having to write out reports explaining their action. I don’t care what the reason is as long as this behaviour stops.

    • Peter Miller July 14, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      Thanks for the note. I have added that nugget to the update as well!

  4. Cyclestrian July 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    I guess police are less scared than other motorists about vigilante pedestrians who’ll scratch bodywork, rip off a wingmirror or just walk right over the misplaced car.

  5. Richard July 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I think Car Walking should be one of the Last Resorts. I’m a size 10 and very over weight so I might dent a few roofs.

    Just for fun here are a different kind of Boot Walkin.

  6. Richard July 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    OOPs wrong link is suppose to be this One.

  7. Steve March 7, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    Hi there. Parking on the footway (pavement is misused slag, all the paved area, including carriageway, is ‘pavement’) is a very weird law. My understanding is that the act of driving on the footway is illegal so a parked car is not automatically illegal unless conclusive proof of whomever drove it to that position can be varified. I think this very daft rule in the Highways Act is why police tend not to get involved in such cases as the ‘driver’ has to be prosecuted, not the ‘vehicle’ as it where …could be a protracted, of the Chris Hulme type lol, case if lawyers got involved. Having said that if it was a police car (or any official business) the police (or business) would have to varify who was in charge of that vehicle at any given time and would have to admit to the illegal act of driving onto the footway. However it is illegal to block access along these routes. If any user can’t get past, i.e. pedestrian, wheelchair users, someone with pram then the vehicle (and therefore its owner) is commiting the illegal offense of obstruction and potential danger to blind users any anyone that has to detour onto a live carriageway to get around it. A photo of the obstructing vehicle, say showing you can’t get a pram past, with the registration clear in the picture I believe would have a strong legal case …but I’m omly guess as have never gone down this route.
    Soz I don’t make the law, just have to work with it a lot!
    Alternatively I’m a keen runner and near where I used to live this idiot used to park his flashy white Merc full on the footway, all 4 wheels. having done steeplechase in my time it was a pleasure to run right over the bonnet, roof and boot and legally I was doing absolutely no wrong, that was my right of way. He came out screaming at me twice …however he stopped parking it there for then on; it worked!
    Steve – highways designer (with a green head!)
    Draw Align Ltd

    • Peter Miller March 8, 2013 at 3:51 am #

      Agreed. The check out ‘the law’ section re driving on the footway. Curiously, exactly the same piece of legislation that is used to prosecute cyclists from riding on the footway is also applicable to motorists where it is ignored by the police.

      • Steve March 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

        Oops, sorry I didn’t see you’d got it covered in ‘the law’ section, I was just reading this thread. Wouldn’t it be far clearer for all if the Highways Act had mounting a raised kerb and being a footway behind defined as ‘obstruction’ (regardless of how wide the footway is) which could then have some sort of warning leading to fine or points. The police/wardens would have clear remits and car drivers would have clear rules and deterants. I’m sure most car driver would obey clear laws its just now they don’t think they are breaking any when they put two wheel on, it’s a too grey an area.

  8. Eric D July 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    I look forward to the day when ‘motorist’ is as much of an insult as ‘racist’!


  1. Cars on pavements: is that selfish or is that selfish? | Community Severance - December 28, 2013

    […] Check other examples in Madrid and in an unnamed British city. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: