Friday 22 March 2013

Portas Pedal Powered Parking Pickles

the latest salvo in the "war against the motorist" has been fired by every local government officer's favourite politician, Eric Pickles MP, the Communities Secretary and MP for Brentwood & Ongar.

The Daily Telegraph has reported the Rubber Knickers Manufacturer's Association Spokesman (look it up!) as saying

The man himself. Image from The Times.
“Thirteen years of Labour's war on the motorist have created an over-zealous culture of parking enforcement... Extending CCTV, not to catch criminals, but to catch you out the moment you park on a yellow line. A rigid state orthodoxy of persecuting motorists out of their cars, with no concern about its effect in killing off small shops... Councils should allow more off-street parking spaces, to take pressure off the roads... They should end dodgy town hall contracts which reward and encourage the proliferation of fixed penalty notices... I believe we need to give people the good grace to pop into a local corner shop for 10 minutes, to buy a newspaper or a loaf of bread without risking a £70 fine.”  

Space for one car or lots of bikes? Image from Google Streetview
As Easy As Riding A Bike and Cyclists In The City have both covered this in more detail from the political and economic points and so I won't repeat their excellent work. Instead, this post will be looking at just how easy it is to install on-street cycle parking using the ubiquitous cycle hoop compared to on-street car parking because as we all know, a bike is a very easy way to pop to the corner shop rather than sod about with getting the car out. 

Oh, and my basic reply to Pickles is that his Government has singly failed to do anything to help people who don't drive everywhere and to those who get parking tickets (unless wrongly issued of course), thanks for keeping the revenue flowing in!

Before I go on, I will mention TV's Mary Portas (otherwise my clever post headline doesn't work). Rather than to go to all of the fuss of commissioning planning, transport and economic experts, Mary Portas undertook a review into the future of our high streets for Messrs Cameron and Clegg. One of her recommendations was for "free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres" which must be music to our Eric's ears (and assumes that town centre parking is controlled by Councils - much is not). 

Completely unrelated to her review is some of Ms Portas' other consultancy work for quirky high street brands such as Westfield and sustainable transport systems experts Mercedes-Benz. Any interest in cars and parking at shopping centres is of course entirely coincidental.

So, how would Eric's 10 minutes of free parking work? Quite simple really (well, perhaps not!). We would need to design a suitable area for a parking bay marked on the carriageway and then come up with a simple sign to explain that people have 10 minutes to park for their loaf and paper, but also, there is a charging regime in place for those staying longer as we still need to cover operational costs of providing the parking (I have chosen pay-and-display - P&D). 

We would then need to advertise and consult on a Traffic Regulation Order (Notice of Making) which sets out the proposals. 

Next, a committee or delegated officers would decide whether or not to implement the scheme taking objections into account and then the scheme could be implemented with the Traffic Regulation Order "made" (signed and sealed by the Mayor and delegated officer) with a Notice of Making explaining that it is coming into force.

I am not 100% sure that the dual-use arrangement of 10 minutes parking and pay-and-display is quite permitted; the Regulations are a bit complicated even for an old hand and so I would want to check with the Department for Transport (who are quite rightly sticklers for getting it right). I think this sign is correct, but one can also get special authority from DfT for non-standard layouts so long as they are logical and sensible - this can take 3 months, but I am sure Eric could put in a good word.

Enforcement is not simple. Those at the sharp end of the persecution of the motorist enforcement are the Civil Enforcement Officers (or parking wardens etc etc). They would need to constantly check the bays for people exceeding 10 minutes rather than with the simple P&D test of "are they displaying a ticket". 

In my experience enforcement is done on a rota basis around an authority area and certainly with the smaller shopping centres, there are not CEOs wandering around all day. As the revenue from free parking is bugger all, employing legions of staff is not an option and besides, why should non drivers subsidise a parking scheme, after all, the Market will decide!

For the 10 minute option, they would have to find someone without a ticket, note the time and take photos of evidence (position of a wheel valve is often used) and then wander back after 10 minutes to check - cue, "come on mate, I was only there 11 minutes". With the money the CEOs are paid, discretion is not their job. What I am getting at is 10 minutes free parking is labour intensive (costly) and puts some of the most low paid people working for Councils and their contractors right in the firing line.

My opinion (from experience of designing, consulting and implementing many on-street parking schemes) is that it is the early morning trade who get caught out nipping into the shops on the way to work and this is the realm of newsagents, bakeries and sandwich shops etc. So, start the paid-for parking scheme at 9:30am and you have dealt with a greater part of the objections. 

Aside from the arguments about whether or not on-street parking by shops is desirable, people who are driving elsewhere anyway (or coming back) aren't a bad target for passing trade and a paid-for system makes sure there are spaces available rather than being blocked by all day parkers such as commuters and the businesses' own staff (which happens all the time).

Right, time for me to stop pandering to the car as it does not follow that parking helps local shops as those on foot, bike or public transport spend more over time.

Let's see what we can do for cycle parking using the humble hoop. This diagram is pretty much to scale and takes a standard 1.8m wide/ 6m long on-carriageway parking bay and turns it from a single car space to 6 cycle parking spaces. One of the most used cycle hoops is the Sheffield stand which is made by many manufacturers as it is very simple - bend a steel tube a couple of times and possibly weld fixing plates at the ends. They come in all sorts of colours, although I do like stainless steel as it is maintained by rubbing a damp rag over it every few years and there is no paint to chip or scratch (a lot more expensive to buy initially though)

I have two of my own concreted into my front garden for cycle parking which is as simple and easy to use as car parking! I got mine from from which is essentially the on-line retail arm of Broxap. Mine were cheap (powder-coated green) and easy to install. They gave me 4 spaces (2 bikes per hoop). If we are a bit worried about cars hitting the bikes, then 5 hoops protected by bollards is very simple to install. 

They don't need to be in the carriageway of course, they can go in the footway, but if you are designing a layout, don't forget that a bike is much longer than the hoop as we don't want to block the footway for those walking (allow 1800mm x 500mm for the "footprint" of the bike).

Dimension-wise, these hoops are about 700mm long and should be mounted with about 700mm out of the ground (some manufacturers make a "junior" version which is lower for children). They should be spaced at least 1 metre apart (1.2m is better) to get a bike in either side with the next hoop and so the end hoops need at least 500mm clearance (600mm is better) to other features (walls, kerbs etc). 

There are two options for installation. First, concreted in involves digging two holes and setting the posts into poured concrete. The ends of the posts are either crimped or have a small plate on the end to stop anyone pulling the hoop out of the ground. The concrete can be left below surface level to allow the paving to be matched above. The other option is to bolt down the stands. In my opinion, this is only of use when fixing to an existing concrete slab otherwise a concrete foundation is needed anyway. Bolting to paving and tarmac never works. Bolting involves drilling holes into the concrete slab and then chemically or resin-fixing bolts to which the stands are fixed. The nuts into the bolts then need to be spot welded to stop anyone undoing them.

I have used Bikedock Solutions as an installer several times using both techniques and where high-quality paving is concerned, they are very good at drilling out a hole through paving to create the foundation, so it should keep the urban designers happy.

In terms of cost, a basic Sheffield stand, concreted in and with the paving reinstated by a contractor will be around £300 a go. Compared to Eric's 10 minute parking bay - this is a little bit more than one parking sign and post at about £250 a go (but a bay will need several and if with P&D, that will be £4k per machine). Stainless steel will cost about £550 a site - of course, a larger scheme will attract a saving. My own hoops at home cost about £45 each (hoop, ballast and cement) to install, it just took a bit of time, but anyone with DIY skills can do it - just be careful digging holes in front gardens - that is where utilities come in and if you hit power, it can kill you! So, when your Council says that they cannot afford to install cycle parking, but they put in vehicle parking schemes, they are essentially lying. Perhaps parking departments need to be harassed to pay for a few cycle parking schemes - it might then make it more mainstream!

The beauty of hoops is that they can be put anywhere. At work, we have a little cycle parking compound right by the staff entrance. It is fenced off and covered by CCTV and is entered with our electronic door passes (so access is restricted). The area was a small piece of unused land which was not doing much other than attracting smokers (sorry guys) and so with a few hoops thrown in, it is pretty good. It would be nice to have it covered, but the space is well used and popular. Hoops can be placed in groups (with a separate canopy to protect the bikes) or singly and are so very flexible. 

The important point is that cycle parking can be placed right at the places users wish to visit and the high street is no different. 

Here is a Google Streetview image of some cycle hoop parking outside Borough Market in London. The market was a destination for me for regular training runs last year whereby I got there just before 8am on Saturdays. After a couple of hours wandering around (I can really recommend it!) they were all taken. I am looking forward to going back when the weather warms up!

What Transport for London could do here is put a few more hoops in. If they fill up, put a few more in and so on. In my day job, we did the same thing at a high street near a railway station where we started with 5 hoops. Over the next few years, we did other schemes in the area and threw a few more in which got filled up, so we threw a few more in and now we have 15 (30 spaces). I think that being outside a bakers helps balance the exercise those arriving have just undertaken!

And yet, across the gulf of the high street, minds 
immeasurably superior to ours regarded this space 
with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew 
their cycle parking plans against us.
Legislation-wise, highway authorities have powers under S62 of the Highways Act 1980 for;

"the provision of subways, refuges, pillars, walls, barriers, rails, fences or posts for the use or protection of persons using a highway"

This is nice and vague as it is part of general powers to improve the highway, but in essence, allows highway authorities to provide "things" which can be "used" by or for the "protection" of users of the highway; that is, cycle hoops to park at and bollards to stop them being hit. 

Powers for the provision of "racks" or "devices" for securing cycles and motorcycles is contained within S63 of the RTRA1984.

One issue which can come up is motorcycles being parked at hoops - this can be controlled by a Traffic Regulation Order, but I have never needed to resort to it. If motorcycles are an issue, then perhaps they need to be provided with some dedicated parking places. In some authorities, a senior member of staff will need to sign-off a formal decision to install cycle hoops - I have used this to "cover myself" in the event that politicians moan (and they do sometimes). 

So, there you have it Eric and Mary. Cycle parking is cheap and easy to install in the high street. For every car space, we can provide 5 or 6 cycle parking places and we can provide hoops right outside the door of popular destinations. 10 minutes free parking for cars? I can get to my local shops and back for the paper in less time by bike, even with my rubber knickers on!


  1. "If motorcycles are an issue, then perhaps they need to be provided with some dedicated parking places."

    If people are doing something which isn't strictly permitted, perhaps we should look at providing for this – instead of banning it?! Are you sure you're working in the UK, because I don't think that's how we do things around here!

    Great idea though, we should give it a try.

  2. In nearly 10 years in local government I have only ever had 1 request for dedicated on-street M/C parking and there are hoops designed for the purpose, but I am aware of the the odd complaint about M/Cs using cycle hoops. There are places in central London for on-street M/C parking which are busy and so there is demand. I guess M/Cs are OK in town as they don't cause congestion.

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