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Police officers arrest and fight each other in parking rows

23 Aug

Back in October 2010 a PC Roderick Lund was awarded £5,000 in damages after suing his own force for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and using unreasonable force in relation to a parking incident! It seems that Lund’s next-door neighbour, who was himself a retired police superintendent reported Lund to the police saying that his car was causing an obstruction. Duty officers arrived, agreed and asked Lund to move it which he refused to do saying that he had had a drink. The conversation became more heated with Lund challenging the duty officers motives; Lund was arrested, led away in handcuffs and detained for 10 hours. I wonder if these officers might like to return and deal with the cars and bins that seem to be regularly left obstructing the pavement of the same street.

police offices arrest each other (copyright image)

Of course, this is all pretty tame compared to South Africa where the police traded blows and drew guns on each other when traffic officers attempted to tow a police car belonging to another force.

SA cops trade blows (copyright image)

At least the people involved in the above incidents lived to tell the tale which was not the case for one off-duty policeman in Baltimore who was killed in a dispute over a parking place in which he was hit on the head by a rock in 2010.

Fighting on the home front and elsewhere

22 Aug

First the real fighting. Two businessmen were shot dead in Forest Gate, East London recently after asked a driver to move his vehicle from behind their hotel. In Carlisle a driver who headbutted a special constable in a parking row has been electronically-tagged.

Over in China there have also been deaths. In one incident four workers were apparently killed and 16 injured and others were blown up with dynamite after a fight broke out over a parking space in Longnan City, Gansu Province, China and then there was the incident in Qianxi, Guizhou, China where hundreds of people rioted, set fire to vehicles, blocked streets and injured several policemen after a local officials apparently shoved an elderly woman who had parked her motorbike illegally.

I am glad to say that things seem to be a bit calmer elsewhere. Possibly Britain isn’t completely ‘broken’ after all!

In Darwen local people are complaining about post office vans being parked across the pavement outside the post office.

Post office vans blocking the pavement in Darwen (copyright image)

Meanwhile, a local resident in Henley paid Oxfordshire County Council £2,000 to install bollards to stop pavement parking outside his house, only to be told that it is a conservation area, that the pavement was listed and that the bollards would have to go!

Henley – a row about bollards (copyright image)

Over in Tipton, West Midlands residents were confused when a short section of newly created red route (which gives priority for buses and bans parking) was removed within weeks and replaced by parking bays marked out half on the carriageway and half on the pavement!

New red route replaced with parking bay across pavement and carriageway (copyright image)

Up in Alnwick wheeelchair users are complaining about the fact that motorists are blocking the few available dropped-kerbs which allow them to cross the road. One man explained that “Unless someone has sat in a wheelchair and done it, I don’t think they appreciate the difficulties”.

Residents in Lynn, Norfolk say the problem of pavement parking is getting much worse. One person explained “It’s becoming almost impossible to walk down a pavement in most of the older part of the town without having to squeeze past parked vehicles. It’s not just scooter users that suffer, either. It’s getting increasingly difficult to negotiate a pushchair or even carry bags along our pavements.” Residents in a street in Worcester are fed up with their street being used by staff and customers of nearby businesses park who park their cars on the pavement and block driveways. Top Gear apologised for parking their electric car in a disabled parking bay.

However In Stretton, Staffordshire residents are complaining about parking being restricted to 1 hour only. One resident complained “I used to be a taxi driver before I retired and my taxi used to be parked outside all night long without any problem,” he said, “Now if my daughter comes to see me she can only stop an hour or she gets a ticket.” They are being offered an option of ‘no change, two hours, residents parking permits or to remove all parking restrictions. These residents do not in fact have any legal right to park on the highway at all!

But then there are the 40 residents in Wargrave who ‘packed a public meeting’ to complain about the loss of 8 parking bays in the village. One resident asked “What are we meant to do when we can’t get into the car park because it is full?“. Sigh!!

Reporting from the front line

6 Mar

It’s been an interesting few weeks! Motorists have been fighting (sometimes literally) for the right to park their beloved cars somewhere. Police and authorities have been fighting back. People have ended up in hospital, in court and some have almost gone to jail. In one instance the police in South Africa ended up drawing guns on each other over a disputed parking space.

Starting with the good news..

Police in Loughborough will be delivering leaflets to every household in the town warning of a crack-down on pavement parking by the police and the council. In future motorists will risk getting a fine if they leave less than 1 meter of pavement clear for people to get by. The RNIB regional campaigns officer said that they were “ incredibly pleased that we have had such a positive response from all the organisations. .”

In Perthshire the police have warned drivers that they face receiving three penalty points and a £60 fine if they block pavements. The police have told drivers that they should leave at least enough room for a pram or wheelchair to get pass. They have got their work cut out, because traffic wardens locally have been assaulted on numerous occasions over the past few years with one motorist threatening to shoot a warden and another trying to run a traffic warden down.

In Bolton the police have warned drivers that if they force wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs into the road by parking on the pavement they could soon be fined £70. They launched the campaign after ‘a flood of complaints’ and their action has the support of 57% of those who responded to a poll organised by the local paper.

In Reading Labour councilors are objecting to plans by the Conservative-led council to ban pavement parking. Labour think this should only be brought in for roads where all residents have ‘adequate’ off-road parking, which they define as meaning off-road parking for ‘one or two vehicles’. I see… if the motorists ‘need’ the pavement then they get it, if not then the pedestrians can use it. Nice.

In Middlewich a parent claimed that irresponsible drivers were ‘dicing with death‘ after her 5yo son was nearly knocked down by a reversing car outside the school.

Meanwhile a man in Machester only just avoided a jail term after punching a female traffic warden to the ground – he was given a four month prison sentence suspended for a year and 250 hours unpaid work.

In Oxford a 24yo man was also given a suspended prison sentence after punching a 66yo traffic warden and dislocating his shoulder.

A survey of 3,000 motorists in the UK found that 25% of these drivers admitted to ‘verbally assaulting’ other motorists for their parking decisions or worse and in one third of cases the incidents related to parking on pavements.

In New York and woman is in a coma after being punched in the face during an argument over a parking space.

And finally…  in South Africa police from two different forces drew guns on each other when officers from one force attempted to tow away a vehicle belonging to another force from outside their offices. It is reported that the argument escalated with more and more policemen coming out of the building, fighting, and then threatened to shoot each other!

What makes the news and what doesn’t and why?

28 Feb

I have done a quick little survey of what transport safety stories have hit the news in the past few days. I was prompted to do this when I noticed that a horrific story from Brazil about a car driver who drove at speed through a throng of cyclists taking part in Critical Mass had only resulted in 3 stories in the main-stream media (on CBS, Sky and just now also on the BBC) according to Google News. Update: This story has just hit mainstream media, and  Google now reports over 200 articles around the world. It did however take four days to do so, and only went mainstream after the driver was brought in for questioning. The event took place on Friday evening, and by Monday evening this was what Google reported, only 11 articles of which most were cycling media:

Brazil Critical Mass news reports

Have a look at the video of the incident and consider why this was ignored and check out what did make it into the papers.

The big story from today is that the UK government wants us to drive faster on motorways to boost the economy. This resulted in some 793 new articles according to Google News within hours.

Google news resuluts – 80mph

Then there were the 690 news stories acknowledging the 10th anniversary of the ‘Selby rail crash’, which should more accurately be called the ‘Land Rover driver kills 10 rail passengers crash’. Incidentally the driver of the Land Rover was out of jail after serving 30 months of his 5 year term.

Selby crash anniversary

Go back a few weeks there was the story that a possible new inquiry into the deaths of two teenagers who died five years ago while crossing a railway line at a level crossing when the warning lights were flashing. 266 articles for that one, including a front-page story in The Times.

Essex level crossing deaths

And finally there was the story about ‘the footballer who crashed his fast car’. Where have I heard that one before? Result: 305 articles.

Footballer crashes fast car

For comparison, here are the stories that relate to terrible 2006 incident where a car driver slipped on ice and crashed into a group of cyclists and killed 4 of them including a 14yo boy which only resulted in 15 news stories that Google News can find today. The drive, who admitted that he may ‘very possibly’ have been driving too fast, was only fined a total of £180 with £35 costs and given 6 points on his license.

Welsh cyclist deaths 2006

My only conclusion is that motorists (and I am one) hate to be reminded about how dangerous this activity is and of the risks that we are taking on a regular basis. We prefer to read about other stuff, even if it is that we are going to be able to drive faster and take more risks while driving. So much for ‘ending all car crash fatalities‘ as was predicted by the BBC recently!

How was school today?

11 Feb

A quick internet news search turns up numerous stories about dangerous parking and conflict outside the school gates over the past few weeks. And… also stories of youngsters challenging this selfish behaviour and of local newspapers getting in on the campaign.

Cambridge: “A headteacher has apologised over continuing tensions between parents and residents over parking outside a Cambridge school. Parents have been hurling “abuse” at residents and police have launched a crackdown on the anti-social behaviour involving parents of children at the Shirley School, in East Chesterton.

Crewe: “Five schools on the Wistaston Green and St Mary’s wards expressed their concern regarding the parking of vehicles outside their premises. A key concern for all of us is safety for all road users. The schools, police, local councillors and Cheshire East Council are working to find a long term solution, but in the meantime a uniformed presence is in place to deter bad parking around the schools in Wistaston Green and St Mary’s area.

Pupils on the case!

Cumnor, Oxfordshire: “Children in Cumnor took to the streets to urge parents to park safely on the school run. Pupils at Cumnor Primary School have been investigating the issue after a survey found one in four of them had experienced a near-miss in the road outside the school. And they decided that parents parking on pavements and zig-zag lines were causing the safety problems in Oxford Road. To hammer their message home, they made special banners and staged a protest at school closing time, backed up by a letter that was sent home to their parents.

Maidenhead: “Mums on the school-run in Maidenhead are endangering their own kids by ignoring parking restrictions – which they asked for. According to Jenny Stephen, the headteacher of Boyne Hill Infant and Nursery School in Rutland Road, the surrounding roads are being clogged through ‘inconsiderate parking’ by a minority of parents. Cllr Mike Holness (Lib Dem, Boyn Hill) is also concerned about the danger to the school’s 200 young students while neighbours are fed-up of being blocked in their driveways.

Peterborough: “The Evening Telegraph is backing calls for parents to park safely to prevent the school run motoring mayhem that is putting children’s safety at risk. Scenes of traffic chaos surrounding a number of city schools have been pictured by our photographers showing cars blocking roads and pavements, heavy congestion and parking on double-yellow lines.

Reading: “An irate licensee has banned school-run parents from using her pub’s car park and been forced to issue parking permits to her regulars. She introduced the system after finding the exterior of the pub had been damaged and customers were being blocked in. Tracy said: “90 per cent of those using my car park had never even been into the pub – if they’re not going to patronise my establishment then why should they be allowed to damage my property?”

Sheffield: “Pupils who became concerned about the levels of traffic congestion outside their school have designed their own posters in a bid to discourage parents from parking directly outside the school gates. Youngsters at Westbourne School, in the Broomhill area of Sheffield, decided to take action after a parent contacted Sheffield Council to ask for help in improving the situation. School spokesman Angela Bywater said: “These posters are so colourful and have such a direct message that we have already been approached by other schools who all have a similar problem. “It would be great if we could see the campaign spread throughout the city.”

Wolverhampton: Plea over Wolverhampton school parking – “Neighbours have filed a petition calling for the plans to amended to include more parking spaces. They say private driveways and public footpaths are being blocked during the school run, leading to angry exchanges.

And then of course there is a repeat of the tired old ‘unfair traffic wardens and councils’ story as printed recently in a Hampshire paper. Yawn.

Farnborough: Parking CCTV to target school run mums. TRAFFIC wardens will be using CCTV spy cameras to catch people parking illegally in Aldershot and Farnborough town centres.

Damage to vehicles left on the pavement

19 Jan

Drivers often say that they park across the pavement to protect their cars from damage from other vehicles using the road, however is appears that the pavement isn’t that safe either as was nicely explained to a owner of a vehicle who was mystified about the scratches on the side of his car:

“Before I changed locations, I used to live within 200 yards of a primary school. I remember having a conversation with one of my neighbours about mystery scratches that kept appearing all down one side of his black Astra car. The penny dropped for him when I told him that they almost certainly  caused by his stupidity of parking on the pavement almost blocking it. The scratches were from the various prams and buggies being pushed along by the parents walking their children to school. Why he parked on the pavement, I do not know as there was plenty of room to park at the kerbside. He did get the message in the end.

Be aware that damage to a vehicle is a criminal offense regardless of contrary claims made below as highlighted in the prosecutions section at the end of this post.

Mumsnet

Here was the question which provoked all the suggestions and confessions: “Hello all, I need to rant about this. On the way to nursery every morning we have to circumnavigate the sheer volume of cars parked on the pavement. We haven’t used a buggy for ages but I know people who do and it is damn near impossible to squeeze a buggy through the gap left on the pavement once the cars are in place.

  • “If it happens again after my baby arrives, I will not be pushing the pram out into the road. Instead, I will squeeze/scratch past if possible, and hopefully that will teach the bastards a lesson”
  • “I would need squeeze my buggy through the gap -too dangerous to push it on the road- and wouldn’t it be unfortunate if the cars all got scratched??”
  • “Well, if they just HAVE to leave their car on the pavement, I think you just HAVE to leave a dirty nappy face down on their bonnet. Clearly, that is what is easiest and most convenient for you to do with the nappy, just as it is easiest and most convenient for them to park on the pavement”
  • “Funnily enough was walking to school this morning imagining myself setting up a guerilla group to egg cars that do this unecessarily. “
  • “Scratch the cars and you’ll get done for criminal damage – you can bet someone will ‘see’ you do it. Far better to give DS something nice and gooey to accidentally drag along the sides of the cars as you squeeze past. You can help him if he can’t get the aim right. Ice cream is good, but if it’s early morning a nice peanut butter sandwich should do nicely. Sticky Nutella toddler-handprints would probably be a lovely fashionable addition to the nice cars

Babycentre

And the question on Babycentre. “Okay so I have just had a run in with a guy from my mum’s street. The street is quite narrow so a lot of people park half on the pavement and half on the road but this guy for some reason has 3 people carriers.

  • “This guy sounds like an idiot and I would purposely scratch the car to prove a point or at least knock the wing mirror!!!
  • “Did you know that if you scratch a car with your buggy that is parked on the pavement, the owner has no leg to stand on?!!? Due to the fact he is obstructing a public footpath which is illegal.
  • “Hi, sorry I’m crashing here, but I’m so filled with rage by people who park on the pavement that I had to post!.. so I get really irate when I have to walk on the road with my son.”
  • “it’s so good to hear that if I ‘accidently’ scratch someone’s car (perhaps the repeat offender down the road….) it’s not my problem.

BBC – Ouch, its a disability thing

A reader posted that “a blind man who claimed police were not doing enough about motorists parking illegally on pavements is angry that he was arrested when he decided to take action” (as reported earlier on this blog).

  • He should have let the tires down and never said a word. Don’t threaten, DO! As my Grandad used to say “Never point a loaded gun unless your going to fire it”.
  • Hmm, alternatively, as letting tyres down is difficult and timely and you might be seen, there is always the accidentally squeezing past the obstacles and … oooops my harness handle has scratched the paintwork. Oh and there it goes again! And heavens, my arm got caught on something, was it really your wing mirror? Accidents DO happen
  • My wheelchair has ‘grown’ some very rough and sharp edges. You know, the type that wouldn’t be kind to the bodywork of, let’s say, a car obstructing my path. Add to this the poor control I have of my wheelchair on some terrain; and, crunch shriekkkk…whoops.
  • I knew someone who when he came across a car parked on the pavement he’d rip the wing mirror off! simple as that, no threats, no warning, just did it!!

Prosecutions

Sometimes people completely loose it, and pay the price for criminal damage:

A 64yo ‘grandmother’ found by the owner scratching the side of the vehicle in Watford having already left a not ‘pavements=people’ on the winscreen was fined £2,000 and found her picture all over the Daily Mail..

The 84yo man who ‘lost control’ and scratched two cars in Chiddingford and was fined £2000.

The priest who scratched cars in Middleport, Staffordshire and was fined £200 as reported in the Daily Telegraph.

Some are more lucky. This is London reported that a dog walker had smashed a wing mirror off a car parked on the pavement in broad daylight causing £100 of damage but was never caught. The article explained that the driver had gone to deliver a birthday card to her brother-in-law’s home, which is about a mile up the road from their house, but his driveway was full so she ‘had to park with  two wheels on the kerb’ to avoid blocking main road.

Skirmishes on the front line

8 Jan

Yesterday afternoon I used a camera-phone to record some examples of dangerous and illegal driving outside a local primary local school. These included a car arriving at speed and stopping with two wheels on the pavement in the ‘school zone’ and also a driver reversing into a parking spot by yellow lines opposite the school zone. Before I was able to capture more examples of dubious parking the second driver drove up, stopped his car in the middle of the road and then got out and pushed me backwards and asked me if I was a pervert! As in happened, there were two off-duty police officers collecting children from school and I ended up having a useful discussion with these policemen and the assistant head of the school about this incident and wider issues.

The Policemen were unambiguously supportive of the campaign aims but suggested that the approach taken wasn’t ideal. Given my recent experience and regular reports of violence outside schools elsewhere I had to agree with them! Indeed the assistant head said that there had already been four confrontations outside the school between parents. He said that he wanted to talk with the head about what would be appropriate way of proceeding.

The reason for this post however is not to tell that story, but to highlight a pattern. Two previous drivers, both driving black Range Rovers as it happens, had accused me of being a ‘nonce’, ie a pervert. Here is one of one of them parked in the middle of the carriageway in a pedestrian-only zone waiting for someone to return. He had decided that I had taken a picture of a small child who he assured me was buried somewhere inside the huge vehicle hidden behind the smoked glass!

The other occasion was when I had spotted another Range Rover, this time one which was parked on the pavement outside a local shop on double yellow line. I said nothing but then found the vehicle kerb-crawling me as I walked on. The driver asked me what I had been looking at, and then asked if I was some sort of pervert. I found this odd given that he was the one behaving unusually and threateningly but it wasn’t really about logic but about power.

Finally, I  was cycling on one of the new London ‘Cycle Superhighways’ near the Oval and came across this incident. Why are vehicles as large as the one on the left allowed on our city streets at all? This Audi Q7 weighs 2.2 tonnes, has a minimum engine size of 4.2 litres and scores 2 only out of four for pedestrian safety. Clearly smaller cars don’t come off very well in an collision either. Incidentally the £43,000 Range Rover scored a ‘dire’ 1 out of 4 for pedestrian safety in 2002. Here are the official results which include the comment ‘Just three sites out of 18 tested on the vehicle’s front gave any protection. This is dire, and Land Rover needs to improve matters’.

A 2.2 tonne 4-6 litre SUV in serious crash in London

My conclusion from the  above is that the type of motorist who ignores all the social conventions and regulations around what sort of vehicle to drive and how and where to park will also be a self-selected group of ‘Motorists’ (as in die-hard capital ‘M’ Motorists) who are likely to behave unpredictably and dangerously when challenged. Any campaign of this sort needs to be aware of that.

As for the pervert claim, I see that as just one of a number of excuses and distractions by drivers for not address the issue at hand. For sure society needs to be vigilant in relation to child abuse but not at the expense of the huge risk to the safety and freedom of children from the drivers who behave illegally, carelessly or recklessly outside schools every day. That being said the use of camera-phones outside schools, particularly video-recording is unwise in the current climate even though it is the only way to gather credible evidence of driving on the footway or of careless driving.