Personal Freedoms vs. Public Ideals

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I was talking with a friend who is a London bus driver the other day.

He was saying how important bus lane and parking enforcement were in his job and how grateful he was that local authorities take their enforcement responsibilities seriously enough to ensure that people don’t park their cars obstructing the bus. He said nothing frustrated him more than “selfish” (his word) drivers stopping in bus stops or bus lanes or on narrow corners.

I saw him again a couple of weeks later and he told me he received a parking ticket (on his own car) for stopping briefly on a yellow line. He was as cross about getting the parking ticket as he was about other drivers blocking the passage of his bus.

I tell this story because it nicely illustrates the dichotomy that many of our members face on a regular basis. We all think reducing congestion, improving road safety, and encouraging and helping buses are good things–it would be difficult not to. But we’re not happy if our personal freedoms are curtailed in the pursuit of these ideals.

The British government’s consultation–the responses to which are now being sifted through by Department for Transportation (DfT) civil servants – didn’t take account of the importance of good parking management to these objectives around congestion and road safety. The British Parking Association (BPA) has been reminding government of why good parking management exists and that we should be careful what we ask for when we fail to take account of these wider ideals.

The government’s own report says that traffic in the UK will increase on our roads by 43 percent by 2040. Local authorities will need the tools to deal with the clear threat to congestion and road safety which this growth will create. This is not a good time to be making it more difficult for authorities to address that task.

 

British Parking Challenges Continue

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There’s been no let up in the British government’s and member of Parliaments’ fixation with the parking sector.Car_BritFlag__163052918

Following various statements from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles and his new High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis about the impact of parking on the shopping centers of our towns and cities, the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee published its report in October.

I found the report a little lackluster to be honest, not really tackling the issues on which it received evidence and concluding somewhat meekly that government should do something about the perception that councils are using their parking enforcement powers to generate revenue.

There were some useful recommendations around the need for government to tackle foreign registered vehicles, to arbitrate on the conflict between the needs of the freight industry and the wider road using the public, and it stopped short of recommending that mobile closed-circuit television (CCTV) used for parking enforcement should be banned–something the communities and local government department has advocated.

But the way forward on these issues is at best muddled. Government will respond (probably early next year) to the Select Committee’s report. In the meanwhile the British Parking Association (BPA) has called for and is organizing a summit to try to drive some leadership into the debate so we can all better understand what it is that needs to be done to restore public confidence in local authority parking management and to set out the local authority case for properly and legitimately managing traffic and parking in their communities. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill (who replaced Norman Baker) has already agreed to attend.

The time is fast approaching when these particular chickens will come home to roost and local authority traffic and parking departments need to be part of the solution. So I wish you all a very happy holiday and ask you to prepare for resolution in the new year to get this sorted once and for all.