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When the law is optional….

5 Apr

I promised to post a photo showing how carefully these socially-minded fitters from Express Glass had created a safe route for pedestrians around their vehicle when while they fitted a heavy plate-glass window to this shop in central Ipswich. They seemed surprised when I said that I found this level of consideration and awareness of the law and the Highway Code unusual.

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Many other businesses who should know better seem to see what they can get away with… 24 hours earlier I had spotted fitters from another glass company, who were installing a window in our local MP’s office, and who didn’t seem to have gone to any great effort to accommodate the needs of pedestrians. Possibly the staff in Ben Gummer’s office could have said something?

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And this was not a one-off, here are another set of workmen with a large vehicle up on the pavement outside his office.

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Needless to say, it is MPs who create the laws, and people who break the laws may end up being taken to court in one of these vans. It does seem a bit ironic then that Serco park up on the pavement outside the back of Ipswich Magistrates’ Court on double-yellows in a no-loading zone. They do this regularly, and the receptionist explained that traffic warden has given them permission to do it. Doesn’t exactly send a good message to wrong-doers does it!

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And of course yellow Lines don’t just appear by magic, they need to be painted onto the road by people who drive heavy lorries like this ones. Seems ironic then that they have chosen to park it up on the pavement across a cycle lane on a section of double yellows in a no-loading zone. Possibly they shouldn’t bother painting them at all?

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Speaking of double yellow lines, privatized of the Royal Mail by our MPs has regrettably not stopped their staff from blocking pavements on a regular basis. In this picture we have not one, but two Royal Mail vans blocking the same pavement which takes some skill! When I ask them to not do this, they typically point to the royal crest and say that they are on queen’s business. Needless to say, they no longer serve the queen, and unfortunately I can’t see anything much that is ‘royal’ about them any more.

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Privatisation of mail delivery was of course designed to create competition which is good and drives down prices and gives choice. One unfortunate expression of this competitions seems to be for these companies to attempt to deliver fastest with fewer drivers in larger vehicles (where did postman Pat and his bike go?) and explore which laws can be ignored in pursuit of profit. Here is a very large TN lorry up on the pavement on yellow lines in a busy city-centre street.

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And it’s not just TNT – here are UPS delivering to an address in the same street, one which happens be a major pedestrian route between the town centre and the waterfront. Notice the muddle of people trying to pass each other on the bit of remaining pavement. This particular driver appears however to take pleasure in ignoring all requests to be more considerate, and has reassured me that ‘he has never got a ticket’.

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Needless to say, police forces are not always that keen on enforcing the law, as in this famous case where the police in Bristol apparently deemed that this car, parked fully across the pavement on a bend was not causing an obstruction!

Police in Bristol said that this car was not causing an obstruction

What really worries me however, is when I saw this milkman parking up on pavements on double yellows just as kids are on their way to school. He evidently choose to avoid the hassle of driving all the way into the free car park visible in the left of the picture because it was more convenient for him to simply dump his vehicle on the pavement.

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All of the above seems to confirm that authority has no great interest in pedestrians and their needs. The people who make the laws don’t seem to be too worried about them, nor are the people paid to implement the related regulations, nor are those employed to deal with people who break the other law interested in obeying them. Creating a competitive market for deliveries in these conditions only increases the chaos, where competing companies are incentivised, indeed almost compelled, to see which laws are optional in pursuit of greater profits!

 

To be continued….

 

Are the @racfoundation being a bit silly again?

26 Jul

I notice that the RAC Foundation have again been using the ‘surplus’ word in relation to parking, this time it is in an article titled ‘Councils make half a billion pounds surplus from #parking each year‘ in which they express irritation and surprise that Westminster Council made a ‘surplus’ of £38 million from parking fees last year. Needless to say, their definition of ‘surplus’ ignores all capital costs as usual. This may sound like a lot, but this is a place where a single 5 bedroom flat can cost £30 million and office rental can run to £100K per week! Indeed, a single parking space, (at 320 sq ft) would cost £32,000 per year if rented out at £100 per sq ft, which is about right for Westminster.

It isn’t just the RAC Foundation who seem to be a bit blinkered in relation to parking in Westminster. Go back only a few months and we find a shop-keeper and a bishop both complaining about the terrible problems that would be caused if Westminster Council charged for parking on Sundays. The shop-keeper, Philip Green, explained that “people who come to London know they have got to find a place to park. Charging people on a Sunday is just outrageous behaviour” and the Bishop of London explained that “detrimental to the parishioners who have met Sunday by Sunday in our parish churches for hundreds of years“.

So.. not only do we have an organisation whch is no-doubt populated by very intelligent people calling the whole market economy into question, we also have a very rich shop-keeper suggesting that the city would grind to a halt unless people are allowed to park for free in the most expensive part of London and a bishop who seems to believe that parishioners have been driving to church for hundreds of years. Most remarkable! Personally I would suggest that charging motorists for parking on the highway in Westminster (and also in Kensington/Chelsea and other expensive areas) makes a huge amount of sense.

RAC Foundation – failing to see the obvious?

18 Jul

The RAC Foundation has just published one of their weighty tomes, which this time looks at parking. As always, their reports seem to contain both useful new information and analysis which they then interpret from a ‘motorism‘ viewpoint.

This report confirms that private cars are only actually used for an astonishingly low 3% of the time(p.24), that one-third of front gardens have already been turned into hardstanding,(p.10) with 25% of vehicles being left on the highway over night, rising to 60% in high density areas.(p.vi) Motorists pay an average of only £42 in parking fees annual, excluding residents charges(p.vii) with local authorities make an average of only £60 per vehicle in fees/fines.(p.102)

The report studiously fails to mention the huge role that car clubs play in reducing parking pressures mentioning car clubs only twice noting rather unhelpfully, that “all cars take up kerb space and cause congestion“(p.55) in a section which confuses car club cars with private vehicles powered by alternative fuels. This is despite evidence that each car club car typically replaces between 6 and 20 private cars!

It also repeats the commonly held view that ‘inadequate’ parking inevitable means that cars will litter the pavements: “Inadequate provision of parking results in parking on pavements and verges,blocking roads for other vehicles. It can cause disputes between neighbours and reduces the opportunity for children to play outside.” Personally I don’t believe that this is inevitable; support for alternatives combined with effective policing works well in many thriving and prosperous cities. People own less cars, keep them further from where they live and/or make alternative transport arrangements. If you really want child-friendly cities then look to Freiburg and other places which largely reject the private car, not to larger car-parks.

The words ‘adequate’ and ‘inadequate’ appear a total or 25 times through the document and seem to being used to imply that it is practical to provide sufficient parking in our cities and that the lack of this parking is a failing of the authorities and has nothing to do with the size of private cars or the fact that they are unused for an average of 97% of the time! Yes, we should ensure that children receive ‘adequate’ clothing and food and that the elderly receive ‘adequate’ heating and care, but most adults should be able to provide for their transport needs within their own means. I suggest that ‘limited’ would be a more suitable, and less loaded term to use in future.

The report does suggest that “there is an argument in principle that space should be charged for as a scarce resource“.(p.102) but then warns that “paying for parking is an emotive subject, as motorists feel that they should not pay for parking on the street, it being seen as common property for which they have already paid through taxation“. In this case there is a note of reasonableness around charging, which is then neutered by a warning not to try it!

The RAC Foundation blog post is, as usual, more opinionated and rehearses the injustices metered out to motorists. Here are a few examples:

There is a strong suggestion that is it unreasonable for motorists to pay more for parking than the cost of collection: “Together, councils in the rest of England made a surplus of £310 million in 2009/10 from parking activities“. Two things are interesting about this, firstly that the ‘surplus’ is so small, working out at about same amount that Barclay’s Bank have just been fined for being very naughty; it is also the use of the word ‘surplus’ which neatly forgets the value of the land, the cost of maintaining the facility or the pricing of scarce resources.

The blog reiterates that planning authorities should provide enough suitable parking at ‘the right price’ and again uses the word ‘adequate’. To quote: “providing adequate parking in the right place at the right price is a big challenge for planning authorities.” How are they meant to do that? Should we should knock down one house in twenty and turn it into a multi-story car-park made available for only the cost of cleaning it so people can continue to own more private cars without paying the full economic cost? If not, then what exactly do they suggest?

Again, apparently being intentionally thick (sorry, and this is my personal view, not a statement of fact), the author goes on to again imply that authorities should provide ‘adequate’ parking for private cars as part of their general responsibility to society: “Unlike their legal obligation to keep traffic moving there is no law that makes them provide adequate space for stationary cars, though the two topics as inextricably linked“. This of course neatly avoids remembering that car clubs remove many of the parking pressures, and that bicycles, motorbikes and public transport require limited or no space, so these issues are not ‘inextricably linked’ except in the mind of a Motorist (the ones with a capital ‘M’).

Finally, it is worth noting that the blog post is littered with emotional language, including the following phrases: “there is a fear that councils regard parking provision as an afterthought“, “it is a hugely emotive topic“, “the suspicion amongst many…“. The use of emotional language is not generally helpful and tends to result in less intelligent and more primitive responses. Please keep the emotional language out of it so that we have a better chance of thinking effectively and rationally about this.

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.

Update

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.

Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff

10 Jul

The police have just announced a crack-down on people cycling on the pavement on Cowbridge Road East in Cardiff. For sure, many pedestrians are concerned about cycling on the pavement which is also against the law (highway code rule 145). Personally I would prefer there to be legal dispensation for young children to cycle on the pavement, but in general let’s ensure that the roads are safe for cyclists and make sure they use them which is after all what many cyclists are asking for.

Needless to say, rule 145 also makes it illegal to drive on the pavement, but the police and newspapers prefer to ignore that irritating little detail. It is also illegal to stop within the controlled area on the approach to a Toucan crossing (Highway code Rule 240) and an Act of Parliament, which was passed in 2004, should also have made it illegal to park in mandatory cycle lanes except that in 2010 the DfT was still procrastinating and consulting on the subject. The Highway Code rule 243 also says “DO NOT stop or park within 10 meters of a junction” (but of course DO NOT only means “we would prefer it if you didn’t but can’t do anything about it really”).

So lets take a look at what is going on on Crowbridge Road East. This great way to get an idea of a place us using Google Streetview which gives a snap-shot of life in British cities on a random day and a random time of day. Sometimes it is 4am on a Sunday, but for this bit of Cardiff it seems to be a typical day.

This image from Google Streetview shows cars parked almost continuously along the cycle lanes. Note that these are only ‘advisory’ cycle lanes, which have dotted lines, so even if the DfT had completed their ‘consultation’ it would still not be illegal to park in these lanes. There are however also cars parked on the zig-zags of the approach to a crossing which is highly illegal. Get video evidence of who is driving and the police may even accept it and prosecute.

Parking in cycle lanes on Crowbridge Road East

And then this one a few meters down the road on a junction where a cyclist was seriously hurt recently. It shows a van clearly parked fully on the pavement, and a 4×4 across the cycle-lane with two wheels up on the pavement within 10 meters of a junction.

Parking on the pavement and in cycle lanes on Crowbridge Road East

The wonderful OpenStreetMap is a good way to confirm that the speed limit around here is 30 mph which in practice generally means 35mph at which speed most pedestrians and cyclists that are hit will die. So now lets look at the safety record. Here is a map showing reported road casualties on this road. The map shows that one 16 yo boy and a 45 yo man and a motorcyclist have all been killed on the road in the past 11 years (between 2000 and 2010) with over a dozen serious injuries, including at least seven pedestrians and two cyclists and numerous slight injuries.

Road injuries on Crowbridge Road East and the surrounding area

So… did Google Streetview show up a huge problem of pavement cycling? Not exactly, more a problem of vehicle owners behaving anti-socially making cycle lanes unusable pushing cyclists onto either the main road (where they occasionally get killed) or onto the pavement.

Winter stories and toilets

16 Feb

Just spotted this grit-bin plonked down across a pavement by Hampshire County Council. Shame that they couldn’t find anywhere for it which wasn’t blocking the pavement for buggy and wheel-chair users, especially as they had been to the effort to create a dropped kerb. The hedge could do with a trim as well.

Grit bin obstructing most of the pavement

Back in Ipswich, I spotted Ipswich Borough Council doing more repairs to the local pavements which is good, however I can’t help thinking that they could have organised the barrier around their roller and portable toilet a bit better. To their credit they did adjust it to reduce the problem after I had taken the picture, but why wait for someone to point it out? They continue to leave signs illegally obstructing the pavements, but that isn’t news any more so I will leave the pictures this time.

Workmens’ ‘stuff’ obstructing pavement whilst, err.. renovating pavements

Talking about toilets, I recently also spotted this portable-toilet/van which now regularly left parked half-way across the pavement in a nearby residential area. Do these companies check where their staff are going to park them before suggesting that they take them home?

Highway Maintenance toilet parked across pavement

Think pedestrian, especially when it snows!

5 Feb

Ipswich hospital did an excellent job clearing snow from its service roads today, but unfortunately failed to clear its pavements effectively, which is a shame, given the considerable workload that slips on snow and ice create for the NHS.

Some of their pavements had been dressed with salt but there was then too much snow for that and the paths were soon covered in slush and will probably freeze solid tonight. It’s a good job that emergency services are just round the corner! All of the following pictures were taken on busy routes on hospital grounds.

‘Critical care this way’, but no effort to clear the path to it.

Road cleared, path covered in slushy snow, now freezing

Nice pedestrian crossing, road cleared of ice, path has not been.

For anyone who is still in doubt, residents are encouraged to clear pavements and business owners are at risk of prosecution if they fail to clear snow effectively. The ‘Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957’ states that a business must “take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there“. (Section 2.2) Lots of occurrences of the term ‘reasonable’, but personally I think it is reasonable to expect a large hospital with thousands of staff and visitors arriving each day to take a bit more care to keep their primary pedestrian routes clear of snow and ice. It would certainly set a good example for others to follow if nothing else!