Notes from Big Ben
Parking Terrorists in the South of England!
Some of the good (or more correctly bad) citizens of Lewes in the South of England were not too happy when the local council introduced parking charges two years ago.
Where their neighbors limited themselves to letters to the local paper, somebody decided to take more direct action by blowing up the pay-and-display machines using industrial-grade fireworks. So far, 218 attacks have destroyed 33 machines and caused more than $600,000 in damage. The explosions have thrown shards of metal more than 60 feet, and it seems only a matter of time before someone is killed or injured.
Meanwhile, the Town Council says the money that would have been used to improve facilities in the town has had to be used to maintain the system, so everyone loses.
Personally, I see no difference between putting a bomb in the street because you don’t like the parking charges and putting a bomb in the street because you don’t like the government. Neither, I suspect, will the judge.
Taxi Drivers, 1: Rail Passengers, 0
To understand this, you have to remember that (a) we drive on the left (correct) side of the road and (b) therefore the driver sits on the right.
My very busy local railway station has a one-way access road that comes up to the front of the station, with traffic passing from left to right across the front of the station. Cars bringing passengers to the station used to stop on the left-hand side of the road and taxis on the right. Buses and through traffic passed between the two lines of stopped vehicles.
This meant that cars could safely unload passengers and their luggage directly onto the footway outside the station. It is easy to get out of a black London cab either side, so taxis could equally safely set their passengers down to the right and the passengers could then cross to the station via a pedestrian crossing.
Not good enough for the taxi drivers who lobbied to drop their passengers outside the station. Result? The taxi passengers now get down outside the station, and the rest of us have to get out into the traffic. There have been no fatalities, so far.
I like books, and so far I have managed to collect a few thousand covering everything from how to make a sweated joint in a lead pipe (your grandfather may be able to explain that) to the “Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill.” My wife, who believes that books should be (a) read and (b) given to someone else, cannot understand my obsession, and every few weeks I have to intercept her as she tries to sneak out with a bag of books for the local charity shop.
Recently (Christmas), I received a real collector’s item: Clason’s “Touring Atlas of the United States” from around 1928. The atlas contains an interesting table showing the minimum ages for a license in each state (the lowest is 12 in South Carolina) and the maximum speed limits – 10 mph in town and 20 mph in the country for Tennessee. Seems fast enough to me!
My second book, “Parking Mad,” a gift from my daughter, really shows that I need therapy. It’s a review of more than 30 new car parks by someone who describes himself as president and sole member of the Car Park Appreciation Society. The guy had previously published a best seller called “Roundabouts of Great Britain” (no, I am not making this up). He traveled from John O’Groats to Lands End visiting car parks, and he has now published a book about his trip. Only one question: Why?
You guys seem to be fairly locked in to Professor Shoup and all his works. I got the job of reviewing his book for a UK magazine when it first came out. Three thoughts:
(1) I fully support his ideas about excess parking with new developments; we got there in London in the 1974 Greater London Development Plan.
(2) Will you ever be able to deal with the imbalance between on- and off-street parking without having a sensible coinage? No one has come up with anything better for paying at the meter; you need a $2 or $5 coin if you are ever going to be able to charge a premium rate on the street.
(3) Having discredited the “traditional” way of estimating parking “need” by relating spaces to square footage, what is the alternative? This is not a criticism of the Professor’s deduction, with which I fully concur. It’s simply asking, to me, the obvious question: So what’s a better way?
The coinage issue is being resolved by using debit/credit/smart cards, in car meters, and cell phone parking. As for numbers of spaces per square foot, the Professor feels that the free market should simply decide. Let the builder install as much (or little) parking as he or she feels necessary. Then let the chips fall where they may. Editor.
Peter Guest is PT’s European Correspondent and can be reached at
Article Abstract from February, 2007