Magazine

Notes from Big Ben …

Edinburgh, Canberra, and London – Parking Problems And All

Peter Guest

First a complaint, in his blog our glorious leader referred to an article from India and commented on “the King’s English”. I realize that sometimes the news make take a little time to make it out to the colonies John but since 1953 the mother country has had a Queen and so what we all use now is the Queens English. Do try and keep up.
It’s been pretty quiet here over
summer (that’s when the rain gets warmer), so there is not too much to tell you. But here’s a roundup of what’s been happening.
In Edinburgh, the City Council has just rolled out extended controlled parking and, you guessed it, they are going to get money out of it. This newspaper report is quite specific – and completely inaccurate. It’s not the city that’s making the money, it’s the council chiefs.
Public reaction is mixed and split between those who see this as another example of the work of the devil (i.e., charging for parking at all) and those (mostly local residents) who suffer from the problems that the scheme is designed to address (i.e., that workers in the city would rather park in the streets for free than pay to use a car park).
Meanwhile, in Canberra, Australia, the government has just launched a review of disabled parking provisions in the capital on the grounds that the local population is getting older. This seems eminently sensible, and I wonder why most of the UK isn’t doing the same.
Disabled parking is a big issue here. The rules are crazy. For example, parents of disabled children cannot get an exemption no matter how pressing their need. Yet when use of the system is checked, up to 70% of those using permits are doing so fraudulently, using forged or stolen permits or permits that belong to another family member. Seems wrong to me.
We recently had yet another TV exposé of the evils of parking enforcement, this time presented by the BBC’s former royal correspondent – someone obviously well-qualified to comment on the intricacies of street management.
Her basic thesis was that the wicked parking people spent all day going round unfairly giving tickets to innocent drivers. She even convinced one parking company to allow her to go out on the street for the day.
The program kind of went a bit wrong here, because far from issuing the hundreds of tickets she had expected, she found out that, because the people she was working with were doing a good job, nobody was breaking the rules and the system was working.
The only driver she found to “persecute” was a truck driver loading in a no-loading zone. Not only was he in a no-loading zone, he also had put his truck on the footway (next to the sign) so he didn’t block traffic.
Meanwhile, down by the sea at Eastbourne in Sussex, the locals are revolting. In the UK, responsibility for public parking is split between the local town councils – called District Councils and responsible for off-street car parks – and the County Councils, which are responsible for the streets. Sussex County Council has decided to implement street parking controls in Eastbourne, but the local leaders don’t agree. Both sides have met with the Transport Minister, but if I lived in Eastbourne, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
One big piece of news here is that finally, one year late, the government has published new draft regulations for municipal parking enforcement. The new rules expand the range of traffic violations that the municipality can deal with to include things such as making a banned turn. The new rules also tighten up on things such as using clamping only against scofflaws (yes, I know that you guys worked this out more than 25 years ago).
Once again the municipalities have been told that their parking powers are to control traffic, not raise money, and once again I suspect that most of the elected members faced with a choice between raising parking charges and raising local taxes will totally ignore this.
A good thing in the new powers is that councils will have stronger powers to issue parking tickets by post. In the past, the ticket had to be fixed to the car or handed to the driver, and many drivers simply drove off to avoid the ticket. The new rules will make it easier to issue a ticket by post if the driver leaves before the ticket is issued.
Meanwhile, in London, a 33-year-old native of Albania has been sentenced to life in prison for shooting dead a rival in a dispute between two gangs over territorial rights in a scam stealing money from parking meters. Last year, Westminster, in central London, lost more than $2.5 million to these gangs, which originally simply cut off the meter heads, but later made counterfeit keys that they even “rented” to other criminals.
I did some work on a feasibility study for the mayor of Tirana, Albania, in 2005 and have just started working for a company that is bidding to implement the program. Perhaps I should buy a flak jacket?
And, finally, I think they are getting at me. It was she-who-must-be-obeyed’s birthday recently, and one of her birthday cards had the following message:
“Why are men like parking spots?”
“The good ones are already taken, and the rest are several inches too small.”
With friends like that …

Peter Guest is immediate past president of the British Parking Association. He can be reached at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk

Article Abstract from October, 2007




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