Tag Archives: parking

School’s video shame ‘naughty parents’ who park illegally outside schools

9 Jul

A few days after Eric Pickles failed to get CCTV enforcement vehicles banned outside schools Cambridgeshire County Council launched a road safety video featuring hundreds of primary school children that encourages parents not to flout parking laws outside schools. A road safety spokesman for the council said that parking issues outside schools were one of the most common issues they dealt with and police officers urged antisocial parents to “shape up and stop wasting police time”. Earlier in the year the police had a crackdown on the “nightmare” illegal parking outside Cambridge schools following reported fights between parents with some success!

And here is a photo I took a few days ago outside a local primary school shortly before children started arriving. The caretaker puts cones out on the zig-zags every day because they are ignored otherwise by some parents, and even when they do put them out I have seen parents squeezing into the spaces at the end of them! When will our politicians ‘brave up’ and realise that they should be supporting our schools, kids, councils and the police instead of listening to a minority of drivers who cause so many difficulties for the rest of us?

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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.

Heroes, motorists and parking places

1 May

The BBC published an article earlier today asking ‘Is there a worldwide parking problem’ in response to a piece of research published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the article they talk about all the cunning ways one can park 600 million cars in a smaller space that at present, or just change the colour of the car park so that the surface doesn’t get so hot.

Unfortunately they (and the report) doesn’t address the question of why so many people drive in the first place, how demand can be reduced. No mention of car clubs, public transport, cycling or simply charging drivers for the spaces they use rather than just providing spaces for free. The BBC gives Bluewater, which provides 13,000 free parking places ‘right next to the M25’, as an example of good practice because they have lots of tree shade. The architect of the Bluewater car parks is quoted as saying “[car parks] should be designed in such a way that they “honour the heroic routine” of driving, working and shopping.”

Heroes, driving, shopping? Now this is getting seriously weird!

They also make no mention of the dramatic reductions in car traffic in many UK cities since about 1995 or the impressive drop in parking demand in Canary Wharf recently; in the late 1990s 12% of workers in Canary Wharf ‘demanded‘ parking spaces, but now only half that number do. I am not sure why This is London uses the phrase ‘demand’; I could ‘demand’ more cycle racks or free bus travel and nothing would change! But I guess heroes can demand anything.

Anyway… I have written to the BBC with my views and will see if I get any sort of response.

A happy Mr Toad!

21 Jan

Mr Toad will be delighted that he can continue to park for free in Westminster. Colin Barrow, the councilor leader (Conservative) said he would step down in March after announcing that the council’s controversial plans to actually charge people to park cars in one of the richest places in the country during evenings and on Sundays was to be scrapped. Paul Dimolden, Westminster’s Labour group leader said that he had paid the “ultiminate price for his poor judgement”. Don’t you just love party politics! I find it curious that this is the second place where Conservatives have been pressing for tougher parking restrictions and where the local Labour group has been opposing it.

A very happy toad! (copyright image)

All in a tizzy in Westminster

3 Dec

Philip Green is outraged that motorists in Westminster will be charged to park on the street until midnight each weekday and until 6pm on Sundays. He says “people who come to London know they have got to find a place to park. Charging people on a Sunday is just outrageous behaviour” (umm, most people come by train and a few people seem to think your tax arrangement are a bit outrageous as well, and while we are at it, could you please stop your staff parking in the pedestrianised Arras Square in Ipswich?).  The Bishop of London said he was concerned that the legislation would be “detrimental to the parishioners who have met Sunday by Sunday in our parish churches for hundreds of years” (gosh, and to think that they have been driving to church in cars for hundreds of years – amazing). Karen Buck, MP for North Westminster thinks the charges would be illegal (actually, Karen, there is significant legal evidence that it is illegal to park on the highway at all –  Surrey County Council says if clearly on their website, stating that: “in common law, drivers have the right to pass and re-pass along the road. There is no legal right to park on a road, verge or footway“). Lord Young, the PMs business advisor said that the move ‘would destroy the West End’ (of course it would your Lordship – people come to see all the cars lined up on the roads, without them what is there to see).

Philip Green is ‘outraged’

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

Ig nobel peace award to car crushing mayor!

30 Sep

Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania has been awarded an Ig Nobel peace prize for demonstrating how the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by destroying them with a military tank.

Ig Nobel Peace prize 2011

For those who missed it, here is the stunt that led to the award.

Is this just a bit of fun? Personally I think it is another signal that people all around the worlds are getting impatient with the private car. Attitudes are changing. I am reminded that Ken Livingston was given an award for ‘policy innovation’ by Scientific American in 2003 after he introduced the congestion charge to London.

Anyone who thinks the private car is secure in out cities should take notice of what William Clay Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford and the current executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company is thinking. In 2000 at a Greenpeace business conference in London he said that “The day will come when the notion of car ownership becomes antiquated. If you live in a city, you don’t need to own a car” and went on to explain how Ford would reposition itself as a ‘purveyor of mobility’ and would own the vehicles and make them available to people when they need access to them. Ford, good to their word recently went into partnership with Zipcar offering cars on American university campuses for hire by the hour.