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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….

 

Pavement hogs

16 Aug

The government has just introduced £100 fines for people who “needlessly hog the middle or outside lane” of a motorway or dual-carriageway.

I find this curious, because the rule 264 of the Highway code reads: “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking. You MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, HA traffic officers in uniform or by signs.

The word ‘should‘ in the Highway Code is code for ‘this is antisocial but not illegal’. ‘MUST NOT‘ means that it is illegal. Conclusion — lane hogging is not illegal, but is antisocial.

Curiously Rule 244 of the highway code says: “You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.” Forget London (unless you live there). For most of the rest of use this would read: “You should not park partially or wholly on the pavement unless signs permit it.” Conclusion — pavement parking parking is antisocial, but not illegal (unless you live in London).

However, in addition Rule 145 of the Highway Code says “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.” Conclusion —- in order to park on a pavement a driver has to break this law twice, once to drives onto the pavement, and again to get off.

In summary:

  • Pavement hogging involving breaking the law at least twice (but is largely ignored by the police and politicians).
  • Lane hogging appear not to be illegal, but the politicians have determined that the police should fine people £100 for doing so.

To add insult to injury, Rule 145 (which is ignored for motorists), is vigorously enforced when people cycle on the pavement!

So.. the big question is what are we going to have to do to get the politicians to wake up to this issue.

The problem is that every year there are more cars, every year more people discover that they can park on pavement without getting into trouble, and park more audaciously. Every year more people get more confident of their ‘right’ to park on pavements. Every year it gets tougher for pedestrians.

To illustrate the point, here are a few incidents I have noticed locally over the past few weeks. Driver appear to be totally confident that the police won’t do anything even if they block the entire pavement.

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The good news is that the politicians have demonstrated that they can act even if they want to. Now we just have to make them want to!

Update

Carlton Reid has just commented that the paving outside the shop in the first two photos is very cracked. He also noted that pedestrians do not crack paving slabs when they walk across them, but that vehicles often do! Here is a photo of the same area taken when it was free of cars. Needless to say, in this case motorists are breaking loads of additional laws, including parking on the pavement next to a double yellow line, parking in a ‘no loading’ place and parking within 10 meters of a junction. Any more? Anyone care to estimate how much this paving would cost to fix?

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Update 2

I have just found another really classy bit of parking outside the side the same shop. Notice all the road-signs and bins on the pavement the other side of the vehicle.

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‘Harm to local amenity’

15 Jan

The government is evidently going to publish plans on Monday to prevent councils in England fining householders who break ‘minor bin collection rules’. They claim say that councils should only be able to act where they can prove that a householder is causing ‘harm to local amenity’ and that ‘only those causing real problems for their community will get punished’. The aim of this legislation seems to be to reduce the powers of authorities over rubbish collections, however in Ipswich bins are already causing ‘harm to local amenity’ as can be seen in all but one of the cases features below :

Dropped kerbs and ‘Special enforcement areas’

9 Nov

It appears to be a requirement that all rules relating to parking and pavements should be confusing and ineffective and slow to come into force. By way of example, lets look at the relatively introduced legislation which bans parking across dropped kerbs.

This legislation received Royal Assent back in 2004 with the Traffic Management Act of that year. Royal Assent was followed by five years of consultation on these new rules during which time the AA, needless to say, objected saying that it would be entirely unreasonable to expect motorists to know that it was illegal to park on dropped kerbs unless the council installed white lines on every single one at their own cost. I am glad to say that the government ignored them and the legislation was finally ‘enabled’ in June 2009. We should of course be grateful that the legislation was enabled at all, given that legislation which would have banned pavement parking entirely which received Royal Assent in 1974 was never enabled at all!

Now comes the ‘confusing’ bit. As I have said, legislation needs to be confusing. Part of the small print of the 2004 Act says that these new powers will only be available in places that adopt new ‘Special Enforcement Area’ status. Every Council wishing to use these powers then had to apply for this  Special Enforcement Area status (as distinct from ‘Civil Enforcement Areas’ which many had already been granted). To make it more complex Special Enforcement Areas can be applied for covering either an entire area of, or only part of a Civil Enforcement Area.

So.. the next question of course is to find out if my town and which other places have been granted ‘special enforcement area’ status. Is there a national map of these areas? err… no; is there a published list of such areas? err… no. Is it clear from my local authorities website if my town has been granted these powers? err.. no. The only way I found out that they had was to email them. The good news is that it has been enabled in my areas and people do get fined from time to time I understand. The bad news (for pedestrians) is that my local police didn’t even know that it parking across dropped kerbs was actually illegal and apparently refuse to enforce it in some cases. Here is a local driver explaining to be that he finds that this particular dropped-kerb is a very convenient (and often available) parking spot when doing his local shopping.

Blocking a dropped kerb, no problem

HGV spotters guide

10 Sep

Heavy commercial vehicles (ie, goods vehicles with a gross weight of over 3.5 7.5 tonnes) are uniquely subject to a pretty comprehensive ban in respect to parking on the footway or verge thanks to the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Section 19 and 20, Highway Code rule 246). The only exceptions being when they are “unloading in situations where they are not creating a danger and are not causing an obstruction and are where the vehicle is at no time left unattended” or alternatively if they are stopping to save a life put out a fire!

Unfortunately… there appears to be no way to tell from the outside if an HGV is over or under 7.5 tonnes because all HGVs, including the smaller ones with gross vehicle weights of between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes have the letters HGV on their tax disks. The only way is to ask the driver who is probably not going to tell you if he is being naughty! Here is some basic information to tell the difference between them all.

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes

These vehicles which are over 7.5 tonnes, also sometimes referred to as ‘large goods vehicles’ are not allowed to park on the pavement as detailed above. The driver of this vehicle (which I believe to be over 7.5 tonnes) is causing such an offense as he shares a cup of tea and a chat with the staff in ‘Motormania’ while blocking the pavement and delaying traffic and buses on a busy road because there is a place round the back to park and he has left the vehicle ‘unaccompanied’. The cement mixer, also over 7.5 tonnes is probably doing loads of damage to the pavement and there seems to be no good reason for it not to be on carriageway so that one is also causing an offence. All of these vehicles have the letters HGV on their tax disks, but unfortunately so do the smaller HGVs and there is no reliable way to tell if a particular vehicle is over 7.5 tonnes.

HGV with two wheels on the footway – an immediate offence

This is definitely an HGV!

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) under 7.5 tonnes

These vehicles, known either as ‘medium goods vehicles’, ‘7.5 tonners’, ‘large goods vehicles’ or HGVs are unfortunately below the weight limit re the 1988 Act and can therefore can park all over the pavements to the same extent that cars can! In addition, there is no way to be sure if it is under over the 7.5 tonne limit or over. The vehicle in the picture below was parked completely legally btw and the driver was very helpful which is why I knew it was just below 7.5 tonnes.

This vehicle is just under 7.5 tonnes (and was parked in a proper parking bay)

Light goods vehicles (LGVs) under 3.5 tonnes

These lighter vehicles, known either as ‘light goods vehicles’ or more correctly as ‘light commercial vehicles’ are also subject to the same weak and ineffective rules as cars. They have ‘LGV’ on their tax disks. Clearly these guys are being pretty thoughtless and the police may consider that they are causing an obstruction, but there is no cut-and-dry offense as there is for the large HGVs. The first guys appeared to make the obstruction even worse by leaving the driver’s door open after I had unsuccessfully  tried to get them to move it off the pavement. The second vehicle (with trailer) often parks on the pavement  but doesn’t always have another car on the back – it must be doing a load of damage to the pavement.  The final vehicle is very tall and wide and leaves very little space for anyone to get by but is not quite an HGV. Why on earth do these companies think it is ok to leave vehicles like these on residential streets every night – I guess it is because it is much cheaper and easier for them and their staff than doing the considerate thing- nice!

Light commerical vehicle (LGV) on the pavement – not in itself an offence

Flatbed truck – also a ‘light commercial vehicle’ (LGV on tax disk)

Specialised fixings (again)

Confusing terminology

The terms in use at present are pretty confusing. Here is a quick primer. The new official harmonised EU term for an HGV is ‘Large goods vehicle’ which has abbreviation of LGV and was adopted in 2001; the EU also recommended the term ‘Light commercial vehicle’ for the goods vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes at the same time. Unfortunately the UK previously used the abbreviation LGV for ‘Light goods vehicle’ and the DfT is still in a muddle over these terms some parts of the department using LGV for HGVs and other parts (including VOSA) using LGV for the smaller vehicles. To make it worse the DfT also uses the term ‘medium goods vehicle’ for the smaller end of ‘large goods vehicles’ (ones between 3.5 tonnes and  7.5 tonnes) meaning that a vehicle can both be a ‘medium goods vehicle’ and also a ‘large goods vehicles’ at the same time! They also sometimes use the term ‘larger goods vehicle’ which may be different from a large goods vehicle or possibly not – I have no idea. Anyway, all heavy goods vehicles (including the medium goods vehicles) have the letters HGV written clearly on their tax disk because VOSA does that bit and uses the older terms and also puts  LGV on the tax disks of smaller vehicles.

Update

I have updated this article following further investigation into how one can tell the different classes of HGV apart (one can’t it seems!).

Parking controls break down 1930s-1970s

7 Sep

I have been poking around the legislation that used to restrict the parking of vehicles on the highway in the early years. There are a few facts which still need to be worked into a clearer narrative with some gaps which need to be filled in but the general story is pretty clear. It starts with a tough parking regulatory framework where on-street parking is prohibited by default unless permitted in particular places after consultation. This process then melts under the pressure of increasing car ownership (car ownership which grew from 5% of the population having a car in 1930 to 20% by 1960). By 1963 the parking situation was a disaster – as highlighted in the the seminal ‘Traffic in Towns‘ produced in 1963: “the crowding out every available square yard of space with vehicles, either moving or stationary, so that building seem to rise out of a plinth of cars; the destruction of architectural and historical scenes and the intrusion into parks and squares” (page 22-23) The previous regulations, which were not working were quietly ignored and then repealed and were replaced by an ineffectually framework which started with the presumption that parking was allowed unless it was specifically banned. There was then the failed attempt to ban pavement parking in 1974.

Here are two photos from the early 1960s. The first shows a street where cars have ‘taken complete possession of the pavement. The lower image shows Place Vendrome in Paris crammed with cars. I am pleased to be able to report that the square is now almost completely free of parked cars as can be seen using Google Streetview. We are still living with the consequences of this failure. The curious fact however, is that I believe that there is no actual legislation to allow this parking on the road, it just happened and legislators went onto the defensive. See below for a more detailed analysis of how the cars took over.

Indiscriminate parking, as illustrated in Traffic in Towns 1963 (copyright image)

The Road Traffic Act 1930 (section 120) went into considerable detail describing how a local authority could create on-street parking for vehicles with the implication that parking was not allowed in other places. The creation of these parking places was complicated and time consuming and could only be done after extensive publicity and consultation. The 1926 Automobile Association handbook includes a similar description of the process of creating on street parking facilities (on page 183-4) implying that this process must have already been in force at the time. This same requirement was carried forward into the Road Traffic Act 1960 (section 81) only to be repealed by the Road Traffic Act 1972.  To quote the 1930 Act:

Where a local authority propose to make an order under this section authorising the use as a parking place of any land forming part of a street … the local authority shall cause notice of the proposal to be published in at least one newspaper circulating within their district, and shall also cause a copy of such notice to be posted for not less than fourteen days on the land to which the proposal relates, and every such notice shall-
(a) specify the land to which the proposal relates ; and
(b) notify the date (which shall not be less than twenty-eight days) within which any objection to the proposal shall be sent in writing to the local authority; and
(c) contain a notification of the right of appeal conferred by this section.
(3) Before carrying into effect any proposal of which notice is required by this section to be given, the local authority shall consider any objection to the proposal which is sent to them in writing within the time fixed in that behalf, and shall, after so considering it, give notice of their decision to the person by whom the objection was made, and if any person is aggrieved by any such decision he may, within twenty-one days after receiving notice thereof, appeal there from to the sheriff.

The Road Traffic Act 1960 also authorised the use of traffic regulations which in 1963 were used to create the first yellow lines. One has to ask why it was necessary to use yellow lines to prohibit parking on the street when there was a special process in the same act in order to create parking. I think it is clear that parking regulations were being completely ignored by this time and there was no effective action to enforce them. Two years after the legislative process to create parking bays was dropped in 1972 there was the failed attempt within the Road Traffic Act 1974 to ban all pavement parking but this was never enabled during the subsequent 37 years!

The highway code provides an interesting insight into the situation over this time. The first edition of the Highway Code in 1931 said that “No vehicle should be left standing on the highway for a longer time than is reasonable in the circumstances. Do not leave your vehicle at a standstill in such a position as to cause inconvenience to residents of to other users of the road. Draw in your vehicle close to the kerb and do not stop where the road space is already restricted by standing vehicles, road repairs or other obstructions. It is an offence to leave a vehicle in such a position as to cause obstruction. It is also an offence under the road traffic act to leave a vehicle in a position or in a condition or in circumstance likely to be dangerous.” The term ‘reasonable in the circumstances’ seems pretty vague but the general tone is ‘don’t do it’. Curious that there is no reference to the regulations in the 1930 Act and the possibility of permitted parking places – possibly very few had actually been created.

By the time of the 1946 version of the Highway Code this requirement had been deleted entirely, there is no guidance that I can see relating to parking in the code. The 1954 version then introduces the familiar phrase of “You MUST NOT park your vehicle or trailer on the road so as to cause unnecessary obstruction” with reference to section 88 of the Motor Vehicle Construction and Use Regulations 1951 (which I can’t find online at present). What is ‘unnecessary’ obstruction I wonder? People have, of course, been arguing about whether an obstruction was necessary or not every since.

I would like to find the pre-1930 regulations and fill in any details and correct any errors. Do please leave hints for me in the comments section or on twitter if you have more of the story. A big thank you to Dave H (@BCClets) for his tweet which gave me the initial clues to get onto this particular trail. Thanks also to these guys, who published the scans of the old highway codes that I am referring to above.

Things you mustn’t do!

5 Sep

The law has protected pedestrians and other road users over the years from virtually every intrusion into the footway and carriageway except that caused by parked cars. There are some gems contained within section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, all of which carry fines of up to £1,000 and a stay in prison of up to 14 days if one is found to have caused an obstruction, annoyance, or danger. Major sins include beating one’s doormat in the street after 8am and fastening a horse so that it stands across the footway. Those at risk include everyone who…

  • Causes any sledge, truck, or barrow to stand longer than is necessary on the highway for loading or unloading goods, or for taking up or setting down passengers (except hackney carriages or ‘public carriages’ but then only in designated places)
  • Places or leaves any furniture, goods, wares, or merchandize, or any cask, tub, basket, pail, or bucket on any footway
  • Hangs up any goods, wares, merchandize, matter, or thing whatsoever, so that the same project into or over any footway, or beyond the line of any house, shop, or building so as to obstruct or incommode the passage of any person over or along such footway
  • Places any blind, shade, covering, awning, or other projection over or along any such footway, unless such blind, shade, covering, awning, or other projection is eight feet in height at least in every part thereof from the ground:
  • Fixes or places any flower-pot or box, or other heavy article, in any upper window, without sufficiently guarding the same against being blown down:
  • Throws or lays any dirt, litter, or ashes, or nightsoil, or any carrion, fish, offal, or rubbish, on any street, or causes any offensive matter to run from any manufactory, brewery, slaughter-house, butcher’s shop, or dunghill into any street.
  • Beats or shakes any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats, beaten or shaken before the hour of eight in the morning):
  • Fastens any horse or other animal so that it stands across or upon any footway
  • Rolls or carries any cask, tub, hoop, or wheel, or any ladder, plank, pole, timber, or log of wood, upon any footway
  • Cleanses, hoops, fires, washes, or scalds any cask or tub, or hews, saws, bores, or cuts any timber or stone, or slacks, sifts, or screens any lime:
  • Makes or repairs any part of any cart or carriage (except in cases of accident where repair on the spot is necessary)
  • Keeps any pigstye to the front of any street, not being shut out from such street by a sufficient wall or fence, or who keeps any swine in or near any street, so as to be a common nuisance
  • Cleans, dresses, exercises, trains or breaks, or turns loose any horse or animal
  • Shoes, bleeds, or farries any horse or animal (except in cases of accident)
  • Slaughters any cattle, except in the case of any cattle over-driven which may have met with any accident

So… it appears that if the Mercedes was a horse or indeed any of the following (barrow, basket, bucket, cask, furniture, goods, horse, merchandize, pail, sledge, truck, tub) and if it was found to have caused obstruction, annoyance, or danger then the owner would be liable for a fine or up the £1,000 or even up to 14 days in prison!

500mm between these two cars