Notes from Big Ben …
Middle Earth, 1835 Laws, and a Question for JVH
By Peter Guest
It’s the end of summer, and in the UK, we are pretty much still in silly season. Yesterday’s Times had a man whose prize pumpkin had been sabotaged as the front page lead story. How very English – I don’t know what the world’s coming to if a chap’s prize veggies are not sacrosanct. I blame it on the Yanks, blah blah blah.
My day has been pretty stressful: Three days ago, a major European company turned up on my doorstep wanting help. They had decided to develop new business in the UK, and much to their surprise, they got short-listed for a bid. They suddenly realized they needed help, and whom did they know in the UK – little me. So far, so good, I needed to read a few things and then I could help them.
Just as the prose was flowing, the PC went phut. After 12 very stressful hours, my mate and guardian angel Roger pronounced that the graphics card (who knows) was fried. Following a trip down to the local techno supermarket, where Roger and the salesman spoke Geek to each other and I bought something in a box that cost $75, the problem was fixed. As you can see, I am back writing again.
Never had these problems with a quill pen, and the chap with the cleft stick always got the message through, if the monsters didn’t get him.
Back to parking ...
After many years of parking enforcers being viewed as the spawn of the devil for daring to try to do their job, something really strange is happening in Middle England (like Middle Earth but not quite so advanced).
Gloucester County Council has taken over parking enforcement from the Police and (gasp) the public seem to like it! Parking is easier, contraventions are lower, and in some areas, the locals are even asking for more enforcement to make it work better.
Next thing you know the locals will be asking for higher parking charges.
Footway parking (1)
In Britain, a law dating to 1835 makes it illegal to park on the footway (sidewalk in “American”). Trouble is, the police never enforce it. In London, we gave up on the police and got a local statute.
In many narrow roads, drivers park with two wheels up on the footway to let the traffic pass. This means that pedestrians have to walk in the traffic, including mums with buggies, kids and the blind. It doesn’t seem right to me, and it’s easy enough to ticket: Wheels on the footway, you get a fine.
In Wales, the police found this too hard, but they were able to arrest blind resident Daniel Duckfield when, after months of failing to get any police action, he became so frustrated with the police’s two-to-three-hour response time that he threatened direct action. Within 10 minutes, he was arrested and put in a cell. It seems a basic but wrong principle that when confronted with their own shortcomings, some police react by seeking an excuse to penalize the complainant rather than to address their own failure of service.
Footway parking (2)
When illegal parking takes place on the footway, which is not built to take the weight of a car, the local council can pay out millions of dollars on footway repairs. In Cambridge, they pay out about a million dollars a year in compensation to people injured by tripping on broken pavement and so on. Perhaps they should bill the police for failure to do their job?
‘Advisory’ street parking
In Aberdeen, they provide a local who is disabled and has no driveway with an “advisory” street parking space outside their house. Advisory means no legal status and anyone can park there. The Scottish government has changed the law, and these spaces have to be replaced with proper regulated spaces.
I have a strong hunch that Parliament has done this because the pretend bays don’t work. Aberdeen is now very exercised about this, because it will cost them a lot of time and money to fix the system. Newsflash: Government costs money; stop whining and get on with it.
One for JVH
Exeter City may abolish Sunday parking charges, which raise about $225,000 a year in income, to show solidarity with traders and the public during the recession, as one councillor put it.
First of all, the charges were sure as hell introduced solely to raise revenue; they were not needed to control traffic, since the city freely admits that demand is low on Sundays. However, Exeter is a major tourist attraction, and I can’t see that visitors will make decisions about visiting the town based on a few cents more or less spent on parking. “Hey, mom, let’s go and spend an extra dollar in the gift shop since we don’t have to pay for parking” – not going to happen.
And how about the city’s math? Sure, they raise $225,000 a year from parking, but Sunday charges are lower than the rest of the week and they probably pay staff more for working Sundays and it costs the same to process and collect a 90 cent payment as it does a $1.50 one.
I suspect that if they do the math properly, they might actually be better off making Sunday parking free of charge. Now I know JVH has strong views about “free” parking; so do I. What do you think they should do, John?
(RE Exeter City: Show solidarity by taking the $225,000 and fix the broken sidewalks, install new lighting, clean up that crumbling cathedral, and then tell people that their parking fees are going for something more than just paying for the local council’s tea during their endless sessions. JVH)
Peter Guest is PT’s correspondent on all things European and Middle East. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from October, 2009