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‘Ziggy and Zaggy’ scheme

14 Jan

Pupils have been working with neighbourhood police officers in a scheme run by Staffordshire Police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council to hand out warning cards to thoughtless motorists who block footpaths, zig zag yellow lines, block driveways or park opposite or within 10 metres of a junction.

The police explained that the area around the school was dangerous at peak school times and that parents were asking them to try to sort the problem out. Headteacher Dawn Farmer said: “I’m thrilled… in the morning, cars block the whole street and refuse to move, forcing people to reverse down the whole street.. It had got to the point where so many parents were complaining, we had to do something.” One of the 12 year six volunteers explained ‘I just wanted to do something to tell grown-ups off and I thought it would be fun. I’ve already got two people this morning and two this afternoon!”

Handing out warning cards in Staffordshire. Copyright image

How many people do drive their kids to school?

10 Jan

The government has just published a set of indicators indicating how children got to school across the country last year broken down into primary and secondary age groups. A graph based on the percentage of children walking, cycling or taking public transport to primary and secondary schools organised with the authority with the lowest rate on the left and the highest on the right comes out like this. The red line if for primary age children and the brown line for secondary.

Getting to school 2009-2010 by Authority

It shows that even in the authorities with the lowest rates for primary schools there are nearly 50% of children walking/cycling etc and that in the highest it is up to about 90%. The average across the country is about 63% for primary and 70% for secondary.

The papers claimed that the statistics showed that the schools with the highest driving rates were the rich and rural ones and the ones with the lowest were urban and not so rich. It isn’t actually that clear – here are the only ones where more than 50% of children are being driven: Herefordshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Solihull, Cornwall, Surrey, St. Helens and Sefton.

The London borough feature prominently in the list of places with the lowest driving rate with Portsmouth being the most interesting inclusion – Portsmouth also has been pioneering area-wide 20mph speed limits with very encouraging results. Here are the ones with over 80% walking etc starting with the highest: City of London, Islington, Camden, Westminster, Isles of Scilly, Newham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Hackney, Portsmouth.

The slight anomalies for the rates for secondary schools to the right of the graph are probably data errors. The blip down to 40% is for Brighton and Hove and the one to 50% is for Ealing.

My conclusion is that it is a minority of parent who are causing all this trouble and one should bear in mind that many of the ones who do drive will park their vehicles some way from the school gates and walk the final section. I suspect that there is a lot of self selection of drivers going on which results and that ‘die hard drivers’ and ‘complacent car addicts’ are well represented outside the school gates.

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.

Parents stone traffic wardens outside Brentwood schools

7 Jan

Its getting messy in Brentwood. Traffic wardens have suffered a string of physical and verbal assaults, they have also been pushed, tickets have been  snatched and on one delightful day they were stoned by irate parents! One  assailant got a one-year custodial sentence for the assault on a warden. The director of environmental services at Brentwood Council said “We normally send a pair of wardens and on a number of occasions they have been accompanied by PCSOs or police because of the reaction they get”. All these incidents have happened on Sawyers Hall Lane in Brentwood, Essex which is a dead-end road with five schools along it.

Road jammed on Sawyers Hall Lane

Traffic backs up in the morning and evening as parents try and collect their offspring outside the school gates, often blocking local driveways. One parent explains: “The situation is totally ridiculous. I have to get here for 2.15pm if I want a space”. She said that she had had paint thrown over her car and a large sticker warning her not to park there super-glued to her windscreen. A local resident said the situation was horrendous and that they “were suffering terribly” and that was impossible to get out at some times of day. One several occasions cars had been driven over local residents’ front garden.

The above report was from 2009, although things are hardly better by February 2010 with parents claiming that they are ‘forced’ to park in dangerous places outside the school. One parent said “I didn’t realise I wasn’t supposed to park here, the yellow lines are a bit faded.” Another parent said who was parked half on the double yellow lines claimed it did not matter because the traffic wardens no longer visited.

Then in July 2010 parents complained that wardens were using “sneaky” tactics because they issued tickets on a sports day on a Sunday complaining that parking enforcement was rarely carried out during busy school picking-up and dropping-off times. A parent said “How mean to deliberately target a family day, where kids, mums, dads and grandparents, were coming together for a sporting event – rather than let their kids roam the streets or sit in front of the computer – just to make money.” The school helpfully issued a warning on the public address system saying “traffic wardens are operating in Sawyers Hall Lane and are ticketing your vehicles”.

Well… I guess it is hardly surprising if the traffic wardens don’t visit at the busy times these days given what happened to them when they did. This sort of conflict is unfortunately only going to happen more often given the relentless rise in vehicle numbers and the current governments claim that they will ‘end the war on the motorist‘.

Pupils at primary school highlight parking dangers

7 Jan

The kids are back at school and so has the craziness around the school gates caused by anti-social and dangerous parking. I have just spotted this story about some work done in the Autumn at one school where the police worked with the staff and pupils at a primary school in Peterborough to highlight the dangers caused by drivers parking illegally and the availability of a ‘park and stride’ system that had been introduced for the school.

A pupil said: “We’ve made two cars move today with our signs. They just looked confused.” A welfare assistant at the school commented: “We’ve had a couple of near misses and had reports of parents parking on the zebra crossing…reversing onto verges and pavements near school is particularly dangerous for obvious reasons”. A parent explained: “If my little girl hadn’t been clever enough to jump out of the way she could have been killed, the driver didn’t notice her at all.” Children at other schools have been not escaped injury.

Highlighting poor parking

‘If you block the pavements then I’ll block the road’

31 Dec

Since her 9 year old son was hit in the face by a car door opened by a driver who had parked on the pavement, a mother in Manchester has taken to blocking the road to her child’s primary school explaining that: ‘If you block the pavements then I’ll block the road’. The headteacher of St Wilfrid’s School said: “The majority of them are very supportive but it’s a shame there is a minority of parents who keep double parking and using the pavements.” Again, we hear that it is a minority of drivers who cause these issues, and it is yet another example of a child being injured by this dangerous but generally accepted behaviour.

She has got a lot of support from the comments below the article. Here are a sample of them:

  • good on you, its a nightmare when cars park on the kerbs all around schools and also dangerous!!! why dont people just walk to the school to pick up their kids!!
  • Well done mum
  • Good for you Jane.
  • keep up the good work
  • Good on you Jayne but why does it take a mums actions to get a result ? WHY
  • Good on her!
  • The selfish behaviour that I witness by school run mums beggars belief
  • Nice one. Sick to death of motorists, you can’t move in this country without a vehicle up your backside, reversing at speed without looking, opening car doors without looking, speeding around bends the list goes on.
  • Good on ya girl, you have the support of all non-selfish people and drivers.
  • Excellent, we also have huge problems at Wellfield Infant School in Ashton on Mersey, the mums can not get down Church Lane with buggies and it end up single file for cars
  • Nice one Jayne
  • Well done girl! Keep up your protest.

Finally, this longer response which is so typical of what happens if one challenged the behaviour. “I saw a woman parked on yellow zig zags outside a school in Cheadle last week. She was putting her child inside the car, not giving a monkeys for the safety of anybody elses kids. I said you ‘You cannot park there’. ‘I know, sorry’ she said. ‘Well move it then’ said I. ‘Who do you think you are speaking to’ she asked angrily. She has a problem with the way people to speak to her, but does not give a damn for the safety of other peoples children.

Car 1, pensioner 0

16 Dec

Parent in Bristol blocks private lock-up garage with his car and heads for the primary school with young child. 83 year old man opens the garage and pushes the blocking car into the road. Crowd gathers, the man tries to drive off picking a man taking his number plate on his bonnet, child runs for safety. For this and a similar incident 2 weeks later the 83yo is banned for dangerous driving, receives £1,100 in fines and costs, and is made to give £620.59 for damage to the parent’s car and £200 for the man who was picked up on the bonnet.

Clearly this is a mess but is it not part of the bigger mess outside every school? The parent who parked anti-socially appears to have been fully compensated and got significantly more than the guy who was taking down the number plate who was rammed. The driver seen stopping in the yellow school zone box didn’t even raise a comment in the news reports because it just isn’t news! New regulations will soon ban the use wheel clamps on private property, such as the land outside the garages, to stop such anti-social parking. There is incidentally a newish law against blocking a dropped kerb with a parked car, but this driver was, I believe, parked on private property so that probably doesn’t apply.

In general this gives permission for this mess to continue regardless of who is inconvenienced. He had rented the garage for 20 years and had previously tried to get Bristol City Council to do something. The recorder said “No doubt you were severely irritated with the long-existing parking problem… but … you can’t go taking the law into your own hands.” If he can’t and the council won’t and the law provides no basis for the police to act then what? It seems that users of these garages will probably just have to realise that they will not be able to access their cars at pick up and drop-off times! I notice that this video was been watched nearly 460,000 times and that most of the comments on the Daily Mail article support the older driver.

Local newpaper champions “Park safe be safe” campaign

13 Dec

Back in 2006 the Northants Evening Telegraph launched a ‘Park Safe Be Safe‘ campaign focused on anti-social and dangerous parking the county and have encouraged action by parents, children and authorities. All very impressive and very necessary. Consider the issue has it has unfolded in the past few years:

Three children were knocked to the ground outside a school in Kettering by a car which had been parked on a pavement during the school run in February 2009. A few months later a mother appealed to drivers outside the same school to behave more sensibly. One mother reported that ‘she has had to step in to prevent her children being hit by vehicles on at least three occasions’.

In October parents were continuing to park dangerously and illegally outside a primary school in Kettering despite pupils previously issuing their own parking tickets. One parent reported that their nine-year-old daughter and a friend had almost be hit by a reversing car and then in November 2009 a two year old girl had to be pulled out of danger from a reversing car in Corby. The mother explained “I was picking my little boy up from school. We were walking on that side and a driver started backing up. She was about to be squashed but we managed to pull her out of the way”.

In February 2010 three children were knocked down while crossing a zebra crossing outside another Kettering school. In April 2010 a father was rammed by a car after he had knocked on a car window to ask a driver to move. In May 2010 parents were again urged to park sensibly. In June 2010 a new scheme based on ‘school drop off’ points was trialed at some school where volunteers walking the children from the drop-off point to the actual school and then pupils were handing out special tickets on cars parked dangerously or illegally near their school and a neighbouring infants school. PCSO Thomas said that the tickets which looked like parking tickets but were specially-made cards from Northamptonshire Casualty Reduction Partnership has been well received by parents and local residents.

In September 2010 the paper relaunched their campaign with the slogan ‘When you dropped your child off at school this morning, where did you park’. Also in September 2010 they reported that illegal parking had reduced significantly outside the school where the 3 children had been knocked down in February after police had handed out 23 tickets in 3 months. The police commented that ‘police officers have put parking tickets on vehicles committing offences… this has not proved popular with the drivers of the offending vehicles, but we have explained why we are at the school and why a penalty ticket has been issued’.

In December 2010 a total of 26 schools that participate in the ‘Junior Road Safety Officer‘ scheme received banners to display outside their school to highlight the risks of thoughtless parking.

Well done to the Northants Evening Telegraph for championing this important cause. But isn’t it amazing that drivers are sill complain about this and that a small number of drivers ignore regulations and then complain when the regulations are enforced or worse and actually drive into people who try to ensure that regulations are enforced!

Is Northants uniquely bad or have they just been better than most places at documenting the issue? I suspect that it is just that they have been better at documenting the issue, indeed I have been told by a parent at my local primary school that she also had a scare when a driver reversed a vehicle onto the pavement and nearly knocked her kid over.

Update

A three year old girl was in hospital with a broken leg after being knocked down by a reversing car outside a school in Burnley in November 2010. The police said: “Enquiries are ongoing but clearly both the family of the girl and the driver of the car have been left devastated by what has happened”. The canon of the local church said “The legal parking is much further down Church Street but you can’t stop parents getting as close to the school as they can”.

A Manchester mother started blocking the road to her child’s primary school after her 9yo son was smacked in the face by the door of a vehicle parked on the pavement in October 2010.

Risk assessment relating to removing school crossing patrols

10 Dec

Following suggestions that all of the 72 school crossing patrols in Suffolk may be axed to save £230K per year I have just submitted a Freedom of Information request to the County Council requesting the sort of information that will be required assess the risk associated with removing the school crossing patrols at each of these locations. Look East highlighted the fact that this amount of money was almost exactly as the annual  salary of the chief executive at the council. Incidentally, a total of four pedestrian have been killed in the last 10 years close to one of the crossing patrols under review close to where I live.

Elf and safety is an amazing thing. A few years ago a profusion of ‘cyclist dismount’ signs were installed at great expense in Ravenswood near Ipswich along a new cycle path which no one in their right mind would follow. Now I get the impression that parents will be left to fend for themselves crossing fast 30 mph roads when the chance of death is about 50% for a pedestrian  hit by a car at that speed. If the same logic was used for car drivers as it is in Ravenswood for cyclists then car drivers would be expected to get out and push their vehicles along section of road where pedestrians were likely to cross the road! You can also get the context for the signage from Google Streetview.

Dismount again and again and again

DHL’s ‘cost-effective delivery solutions’

8 Dec

DHL claims to offer ‘rapid, reliable and cost-effective delivery solutions’. Certainly no additional costs were incurred today when delivering to a house opposite a primary school at pick-up time. The unmarked car was parked diagonally across a raised school crossing in a ‘school zone’ on a single yellow line within its active period right across the pavement. The driver was wearing a DHL tabard and as is usually the case explained that ‘he had only been there a few minutes’. He was however relaxed and wasn’t aggressive at all which makes a nice change.

An unmarked car delivering for DHL

The driver was wearing a DHL tabard

I guess that it is more cost effective to park across the pavement than to park a little way down the street and walk. As always an email is winging its way to their marketing department and I will provide an update in due course.

The same crossing takes poll position in our Rogues’ gallery where a Jaguar and a Mercedes shared it nose to nose, very sweet! I also commented on the way that even when there isn’t a car completely blocking the pavement that the 88% of the people who walk to the school have only 18% of the space. Also that the school crossing patrol at the end of the street is likely to be lost when the person doing it retires in the spring. So much for the ‘war on the motorist!‘.

It has been suggested – see comments – that they get their inspiration for this dynamic and never-say-never approach to ‘on-time’ delivery from Lieutenant Frank Drebin in Police Squad, played by the recently departed Leslie Nielsen.

Update

We are in communication and DHL are puzzled. Their staff do not used unmarked cars, however they did sell their local delivery business to HomeLink recently and that company was evidently allowed to use DHL branding for a period of time which is not up yet. They are checking with HomeLink.

After making two phone calls to DHL where they promised to look into the issue I have heard nothing. Not very impressive really. I will keep my eyes open for the next occurrence.