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Shanks’ pony wins gold at the 2012 Olympics!

2 Aug

Way back in 2006 CarFreeUK, formed by ‘a group of researchers, transport planners and environmentalists’ put forward a proposal for with the support of other green campaign groups including Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protection of Rural England for a car-free London 2012 Olympics which would create “a lasting legacy of sustainability after the Games”.

By October 2007 it was clear that ‘cars were not invited’ to the proposed games (apart from 3,000 vehicles were to be made available to visiting dignitaries, officials and sponsors) and many improvements have since been made both to London’s to the public transport network and also to it’s cycling and pedestrian facilities.

Result? According to Locog usage of the Docklands Light Rail is currently up by 65%, public transport by 7.5% and national rail by 5% and Additional express coach services created for the occasion which operate from 76 departure points across the country have also clocked up 500,000km so far. By contrast road traffic in London is down 17%, a decrease which comes on the back of steady falls in road traffic in the city over the past years.

As a result the media have bounced from reporting of Traffic delays of two hours and ‘London traffic jams reach Olympic proportions‘ to ‘Olympics: London calling, where are you?‘.

However, this is not the first time that predictions of major traffic chaos have actually led to reductions both in traffic and congestion. Los Angeles experienced lower congestion than normal when the 405 freeway through the city was part-closed in 2011 with the media switching from ‘Los Angeles braces for weekend of “Carmageddon“‘ and ‘Carmageddon: Tempers flare as 405 Freeway shuts down‘ before the closure to reporting that road traffic actually decreased by some 20% across a wide area with the Los Angeles Times musing: “L.A. city and county officials are asking whether drivers can be persuaded to leave their cars parked more often”, and that “People discovered something about themselves and Los Angeles auto culture that shocked them. Why can’t we take some chunk of L.A. and shut it down to traffic on certain days or weekends, as they do in Italy?”.

A few weeks ago I spotted a poster in a local museum encouraging people to use Shanks’ pony and to ‘walk short distances’ back during WW2 and had been waiting for some excuse to post it on this blog, so here goes:

Walk short distances

So… well done to CarFreeUK and lets get on with ensuring that there is a great legacy from these games!

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?

British Parking Awards 2012!

8 Mar

OK, so by some odd and completely random route which had absolutely nothing to do with this blog or any associated campaigning I will be donning a suit tomorrow and be heading for the  2012 British Parking Awards‘ ceremony in Park Lane, Mayfair. In case you are curious, I believe that I was invited because I wasn’t interested in car parks or parking and would talk about something more interesting! Little did they know….

Anyway, I will report on the event in due course after finding out who won the following awards: Enforcement Award, Parking and Environment Award and the Exceptional Customer Service Award. I will be less interested in the Best New Car Park and Best Car Park Refurbishment Awards!

British Parking Awards 2012


Strange goings on at Halloween

31 Oct

Scary stuff was going on at Halloween in Oxford in 2002. This year there are road closures for events in Los Angeles, in Washington and also in in New York.

Road Witch trial 2002

Inspiration from Park(ing) day 2011

17 Sep

Inspiration from around on world from Park(ing) day 2011 which took place yesterday when people all over the world reclaim parking meters for social and convivial purposes. Here are a few photos and a great piece of artwork from the people who created the event a few years ago. Great to see a neat little park hitting London’s streets with help from ibuyeco and the Woodland Trust.

Parking day hits London’s streets (copyright image)

Parking day 2011 – barber’s shop

Enjoy the day! (copyright image)

Save the day – Rebar

Car free sundays

31 Aug

Waterloo, Ontario had its first Car Free Sunday a few weeks ago. The 2011 Paris Plage came to a close a week ago and New York Summer Streets worked great. Brussels has one on the 18th September and London also had one (err. that is London, Ontario actually). London, England will of course get a taster on the 4th September when the Mayor hopes to get more than last years 85,000 cyclists out for the 2011 London Skyride. Our very own public health minister, Anne Milton suggested that streets in the UK should be closed on sundays so children could play after learning about how they close streets in Bogota, Columbia every Sunday. Unfortunately the health ministry said that ‘would be something for local councils to consider’ (sounds like a ‘no’ to me!) Maybe next year 🙂

Here are some tasters for this summer’s events. I love the kid in the first picture and the total silence in the New York video – when is New York ever that quiet? I love the jazz and the I am hopeful that there is some very serious unstoppable energy building around this idea and that it will be coming to more and more places more often until it becomes as normal as smoke-free restaurants have become over the past few years.

Waterloo, Ontario. First car free Sunday (copyright image)

AA Streetwatch

4 May

The AA are asking members of the public to survey motorists at junctions this week reporting driver behaviour – including speeding, seatbelt wearing, mobile phone use, indicator use and defective brake lights. Their survey takes about an hour and must be completed by 9 May 2011. If you think any of these are issues in your neighbourhood then why not  choose a suitable junction and get on with it.

Last year they got people to do surveys of local conditions for pedestrians (broken kerbs, dog mess, pavement parking etc). Here is the map they produced highlighting which parts of the country had more and less pavement parking. I notice that my area is ‘not too bad’, if that is the case then I do really pity the red areas! It is great to see the AA, which was set up to warn motorists of police speed traps, doing work like this.

AA pavement parking survey results 2010

An ‘autoban’ on the autobahn!

20 Jul

There is a growing trend for cities to close major roads to motorised traffic for periods of time to allow them to be enjoyed by pedestrians and cyclists. Germany recently banned cars from the A40 motorway for a party to which 3 million people turned up (three times the expected number).

Other examples include the Paris Plages which have taken place in Paris each summer since 2002 on roads beside the River Seine. Initially there was one ‘beach’ with a second added in 2006, in 2007 some 4 million enjoyed the event. We have already reported on the separate closure of the Champs-Elysees which attracted 2 million people in 2010.

In London the ‘mayor of London’s Sky Ride‘ (previously London FreeWheel) has taken place since 2007 with a 14km road closure in central London from Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace each September. In a separate event Oxford Street and Regent Street are closed to motorised traffic before Xmas each year.

In New York Summer Streets involves the closure of 7 miles from Central Park to close to the Brooklyn Bridge on three consecutive Saturdays in August. It has taken place since 2008 and in 2009 an estimated 100,000 people came out on the first day.

In Bogotá, Colombia they have a weekly event in which over 70 miles of city streets are closed to traffic.

Of course there was a time when it was only the protesters and activists who were challenging the dominance of the car on these roads and the authorities were trying hard to keep the traffic moving! Reclaim the Streets organised many un-authorised street closures during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and Critical mass have been holding mass cycling events around the world for many years. What is encouraging is that what started as illegal protests are now becoming an important part of the culture of many of our largest cities with huge numbers of people get to experience cities without cars, many for the first time.

Here is the route of the London event.

Route of the 2009 London Skyride

Route of the New York Summer Streets event:

Route of the New York Summer Streets event in 2009

The fields of the Champs-Elysees

28 May

The Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers) union attracted 2 million people to the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France during a weekend in May 2010 by transforming it into lush fields bursting with crops. They did it to raise awareness of the agriculture sector but it also demonstrated that we can used our city centres in a different way when we evict the cars. These following pictures are taken from in the middle of the road looking towards the Arc de Triomphe.

Photographs courtesy of Perry Tak

Photographs courtesy of Perry Tak

This is the normal view of the road as a dual 5 lane road full of polluting traffic – notice how inefficiently it is being used – there are actually only a relatively small number of vehicles, and therefor people, dominating a huge area.

The Champs-Elysees on a normal day. copyright image

The organisers are hoping to take the concept around the world so hopefully we will see them in Trafalgar Square soon!