Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Populist Pickles' Petroleum Powered Pro-Parking Primrose Paint Permission Perversion Provides Placement Patrollers' Problems Preventing Pedestrians' Plus Pedallers' Passage Plugged Past Petulant People

in work, i sometimes end up speaking to a "customer" who pushes a certain button which leads me down a path which will become an argument and maybe a formal complaint! The news item about Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles MP, has been teasing this button all week and finally the red mist rolled in.

Here we go again, Eric. Image from The Times.
I thought I had got the whole Pickles'n'Parking thing out of my system back in March, but no, in the summer silly season where there is no news or the Government is trying to bury bad news, you can rely on our Eric to go shooting his mouth off about parking in the name of Common Sense (again).

Essentially, he has suggested that drivers should be allowed to park for 15 minutes on double yellow lines as this will revitalise the beleaguered high street and allow people to pop into the shops to pick up their paper, loaf of bread, Special Brew or whatever. 

I have really tried hard not to bite and write a post about double yellow lines, but the activity on Twitter has tipped me over the edge and so please accept my apologies, but I am essentially conditioned to react to such idiocy and besides, I think I have come up with my best post title ever (or perhaps not).

Fortunately Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP, said;

"The idea of actually having cars parked for a very long period of time on a double yellow line actually undermines the purpose of a double yellow line and I am advised it is unworkable."

Sources close to Pickles said;

Sensible DYLs at Eric Street, Mile End which try to keep a cycle
bypass to a road closure clear. Royal Mail are allowed to stop for
postal services purposes.
"The high street is in danger of shrinking or dying off, and over-aggressive parking enforcement is part of the reason why. If people are worried about paying a fortune in parking fines, it will make them more likely to do their shop online or go to out-of-town shopping centres.
For too long parking has been a revenue raiser. It's time to end that. There is room for a deal [with the Liberal Democrats]. Dangerous parking is a menace to people, whereas if you're in the parking bay or just on the side of the road you're not presenting any risk."

So what the "sources" are suggesting is that because people are worried about picking up a parking fine, they will go to an out of town shopping centre or go online to buy their newspaper? What crap! 

I may have the tiniest speck of sympathy for the person who is driving to work and pops into the newsagent to get a paper on the way risking a parking fine (in a bay and not DYLs!) and I recognise that in many parts of the UK, the private car is the only real means some people have in getting to work at weird hours, where they live too far to cycle or there are no buses. The solution to this tiny part of the parking argument is to put in paid-for bays, but don't start charging until 9:30 when most people will have picked up their gherkins, hat pins or whatever the hell they need to stop for.

My sympathy endeth there. Double Yellow Lines (DYLs) are not magicked up overnight, they are installed only after a statutory advertisement process (Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and The Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England & Wales) Regulations 1996 plus some other bits - if you are as sad as me, sorry Scotland).

DYLs at Ilford Hill where the slip road goes up to the A406 North
Circular - quite sensible DYLs again here.
Image from Google Streetview.
They are placed for 3 reasons:

(1) Safety - to keep junctions clear for visibility purposes, to stop people parking in stupid dangerous places

(2) Traffic Flow - to stop people parking where they would cause a blockage to traffic (including cycles and pedestrians)

(3) Seasonal Issues - (1) and (2) may not normally be an issue, but if it is on a seasonal basis (i.e. at the seaside in summer) DYLs can go in for a period of between 4 and 12 months (not less than 4 and of course less than 12).

OK, the third was not quite a reason on its own, but you get the idea and it is not often used. They are not placed to trick drivers into stopping on them so the local council can profit from their confusion, although I welcome relieving people of fines if they cannot understand that they are not allowed to park on DYLs! In some cases, the installation of DYLs have been overturned on judicial review because they are judged too draconian.

Quite literally a High Street - Bexley High Street. Come on, just
15 minutes to nip in the betting shop won't be a problem will it?
Image Google Streetview.
DYLs mean "no waiting", so one can stop on them to let a passenger in or out of the vehicle, one is allowed to stop and load their vehicle (they must clearly be loading and not "loading" a newspaper from the corner shop, taking 10 minutes). Also, blue badge holders are permitted to park on DYLs for up to 3 hours (except for some some local restrictions such as Central London).

So, how the hell does Pickles think a 15 minute grace period would work, as parking enforcement officers would have to hang about to check nobody overstays - would they have to check if the driver has bought bread or a paper? What a waste of resources. 

If, say, DYLs are put on a junction so people can see or be seen when crossing the road, does he think blocking the view for 15 minutes is safe? Perhaps we need 2 types of DYLs - DYL Max and DYL Light depending on the amount of danger. Of course, this is another little chip away at the rules which give the green light (pun intended) to some people that it is OK to break a rule if they don't agree with it. What next, stopping on zebra crossings will be OK as long as it is safe, cyclists are allowed to jump red lights if it doesn't look iffy (I probably shouldn't open up that can of worms!) or lorry drivers can park on pedestrians' feet, so long as they ask first?

Actually, another person would like the idea, but those old enough
will remember Arthur Daley's relaxed approach to officialdom,
including how the double yellow lines outside the Winchester Club
didn't refer to him!
Image from The Guardian.
No, the trouble with the "Common Sense" approach is that it only suits the person who thinks it is a good idea. In this case, it may well be Pickles on his own. Perhaps our Eric should actually find a use for his Department for Local Government & Communities which is meant to;

"work to move decision-making power from central government to local councils. This helps put communities in charge of planning, increases accountability and helps citizens to see how their money is being spent"

So rather leaving local councils to get on with it, he is interfering. Why doesn't he work to make implementing active travel measures easier for local councils than trying to distract us from pointless parking policy pontification? Phew, I feel much better now and might be able to post something useful next time!

Update 1/8/13
The annual "profit" (surplus) announcements from parking charges and fines have been announced and as usual some London Boroughs come in for a kicking for "taxing" the motorist. However, Brighton & Hove and Cornwall are up there too!

Our Eric cannot keep quiet about parking or his nose out of local things and he has said:

"This municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers."

Another throw away comment because 

a) "town hall officers" don't keep the money for themselves 

b)"town hall officers" work for the council which is the elected body and its political executive; we implement the politician's policies - many of the "profit" making councils are of Eric's political colour!

c) S55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act restricts what "profit" can be spent on and that is essentially running the parking system and then highways and transport works.

The argument might be that the "profits" are excessive and should not fund other highways/ transport areas, but there are many councils across the country that have to subsidise the parking service.

Finally, how can anyone have a problem with fines being used to fund other highways - related things?


  1. I get the distinct impression that Pickles considers getting off the sofa to grab a chocolate bar as exercise, and that ice cream counts as one of your give a day.

  2. Too late! you've opened it now...
    1. In parts of the world cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs as give way, Red lights as stop signs and turn right (in our case left) on red lights.
    2. Is there REALLY a case for continuing to treat cyclists as vehicles? Should we not treat them as we do pedestrians who are free to do whatever they like except for M'ways? This vehicular classification was made decades ago and has not served us well.

    I once had a 'discussion' in a local bike forum with the police rep. I claimed people riding bikes without lights at night were putting no-one but themselves at risk. The copper said "what happens if a driver doesnt see the bike then suddenly sees them and swerves and hits a pedestrian or other vehicle?" It seemed a classic case of 'i've got a law to explain so there must be a reason for it'. Only in Road Safety do we have laws that protect sane people 'from themselves'. The law should be there to protect us from others.

  3. Nico - well, the point about stopping on yellow lines is also linked with laziness!

    crapbournemouthcyclist - yes, the comment was tongue in cheek, but you make valid points. I am not sure that red lights being used as give ways with motorised traffic on a green will be acceptable to British culture (perhaps it will, but every conversation I have about transport ends up in the old red light jumping cyclist row!)

    How about a cycle-only all arms green "scramble" where "we" share the junction with each other - the debate will go on forever!

  4. Odd how none of these politicians suggest the obvious and simple solution to the High Streets suffering from unfair competition from the big box retail parks? It really is very simple: tax parking spaces at the retail parks and by so doing provide a level playing field.

  5. See, I am not so sure that all retail parks or out of towns have the same offer as town centres. My local town is in East-London and it holds it's own against Westfield, Lakeside and Bluewater because it offers something different. You have loads of places in London at least which also hold their own. For example, Borough Market or Canary Wharf are a little different. Frankly, I cannot think of anything worse than driving to a big retail park, even for free parking as the roads are packed - the High Street needs to concentrate on what it does best, be it quirky, specialist, independent or even just better customer service. The whole parking in town centres argument has had its day I reckon, but what do I know - i like online shopping!