Notes from Big Ben …
I Am Not Making This Up
By Peter Guest
Whitebeam is a type of tree, and a new sub-species was recently found in Devon, UK. The official registered name of this tree is “Sorbus no parking.” Why? Because the first specimen was identified in a rural “lay-by” and had a “No Parking” sign nailed to it. In the almost uncontrollable excitement this news has brought to the UK parking industry, no one has thought to ask what seems to me to be an obvious question. That is why, in a lay-by (definition: “a place where vehicles may pull off the road to stop”), there was a “No Parking” sign?
British Parking Awards
The party’s over, and the prizes and accolades have been distributed, and I have to say that a fine time was had by all (roughly translated as a lot of people got happily drunk). There were a few surprises at the British Parking Association’s awards ceremony: The UK’s biggest (and probably most expensive) new car park at Heathrow got nothing (all that money and you can’t get the drainage right), and the best new car park honors went to a quirky building at Bicester Village, an out-of-town retail center in Oxfordshire.
The V-shaped result (see picture nearby) is integrated into the landscaping, and although the car park is more than 800 spaces, one gets the feel of a much smaller and more intimate parking experience. The one failure is to impose any sense of order on the customers. Bicester Village is a high-end retail experience – catwalk rather than high street – and the Oxfordshire Country set will not allow anything to stop them from abandoning their Mercs and Lexuses so they can get to their Manolo Blahniks. So cars are more or less abandoned at the first available parking space, and if that blocks the lane, well, “I am in a hurry, darling.”
The other BPA award that I had a personal interest in (i.e., I judged) was for best refurbishment. Unlike previous years where the award has sometimes gone to the least worst, this year we judges had some genuinely good projects to look at. I was going on to describe the refurbishment entries, but I just realized that I did that last month.
Parking Kills (1)
Have you ever walked under a car park barrier? So have I. It’s a dumb thing to do, and luckily I saw it coming and dodged it. Anne Evans, 79, wasn’t so lucky. She walked round her husband’s car to activate the barrier at a Cheltenham hospital car park; it hit her on the head, and 48 hours later she was dead. There are lots of signs saying don’t do this, it’s dangerous, but she learned the hard way.
Parking Kills (2)
Gillian Birdsall had a longstanding dispute with her neighbor about parking on their shared-access driveway in Bournemouth. Therefore, when she came home and found an ambulance parked on her “private part of the drive,” with her neighbor seriously ill in the back, she blocked it with her car and refused to move. Her response to the pleas of the crew was to ask “Is he dead yet?” When after 10 minutes she eventually let the ambulance out, the neighbor was taken to hospital where he did die. Her defense that she didn’t know it was an ambulance didn’t impress the court (large white vehicle, the word ambulance written on the front, blue lights, paramedics) and she was fined $750 for obstruction since they couldn’t prove that the delay caused the neighbor’s death. Nice lady.
There is nothing like consistency – this is nothing like consistency
My daughter is the manager of a high street store in the next town up the road, and she has started to get me involved in her parking problems. It’s a traditional high street store with deliveries coming through the front door. They get one truck a week, and immediately outside the door is a loading bay. Here’s the first problem; local car drivers decide this is the perfect place to park, so when the truck turns up, the loading bay is full of cars.
The local wardens do very little to stop this, so where does the truck stop while he is off-loading? Warden A tells him to block in the cars, and if their drivers want to leave during the delivery, that’s their hard luck for parking in the loading bay. Warden B says don’t do that or I will ticket you for obstruction. Warden C says park on-street just up the road. Warden D says you can’t park there, because there is a loading ban (there may be in theory, but the signs and markings do not conform to the rules, so “No Sign, No Line, No Crime”).
Half the parking wardens are trying to be helpful; the other half are just a pain in the arse. The golden child is now looking for advice on how best to sue the council.
I seem to be doing one country a month so far this year, and in March it was Albania, where my client is bidding to build a 1,600-space underground car park. This is quite interesting because no one in Albania has ever made a hole in the ground that big before, and I don’t think they have any rules for how to do it.
At the end of last year, I ran a very quick tender to get my client a car park designer for the structure, and the winner was an Italian design bureau. Italians have rules for car parks that are somewhat different from the rest of Europe, especially in how they deal with ventilation and fire safety, so at present we are finalizing a bid that is part Albanian, part Italian and part British. Should be interesting; I will let you know if we win.
I have worked with people from all over the world. Some you respect and some, well, you work with because that’s the job. I have enormous respect for Mary Smith of Walker Parking Consultants (she even laughs at some of my jokes). Therefore, I was delighted to see that the faculty of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education has awarded Mary its 2009 Outstanding Alumni Award. Well done!
Peter Guest is PT’s correspondent on all things European and Middle East. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Article Abstract from May, 2009