Parking the problem

Two weeks ago I started up a petition about car-parking following a fire that destroyed 4 houses in my area.  There’s been a lot of concern about car-parking since then and I want to reflect some of that.

Let’s get something out of the way first of all.  Car-parking was not a critical issue for this fire.  I have met with the fire service staff and they have confirmed that it was the danger of building collapse that would have led them to be reluctant to go all the way up a narrow street rather than problems of turning.  But the officers also said that car parking is a problem in the area and may be a problem in the future.

So the fire is not the reason for wanting to address car-parking.  It is a trigger to deal with something that was already a problem and would continue to be so, fire or no fire.

Let me relate just a few examples from the very very many problems that people have raised with me:

“When I was giving birth to my second daughter I needed an ambulance in Hazelbank Terrace and it couldn’t come down the street because of all the double parking. My husband had to run to ambulance and help them carry all the oxygen and so on from the main road. I have a friend in Almondbank who needed an ambulance for her son and it couldn’t turn the corner into her street again because of the parking. They had to carry him up the street. The ambulance said that if it had been a blue light emergency they would have had to hit all the cars to try to bump them out of the way. Is it going to take someone to die because the emergency services can’t get to them before people stop parking illegally?”

“I’ve lived in colonies for 17 years and reduced my cars from 2 to 1. I have never parked on the pavements with my car. This is irresponsible and hazardous. Apart from causing issues for emergency services vehicles, it also impacts the elderly, infirm and also and young families with prams, making them use the road rather than pavements.”

“I agree something needs to be done. The CPZ is soon to be extended to include all the surrounding streets – this will increase the number of people looking for a free space in the colonies and increase the amount of dangerous parking that goes on.”

“My neighbour, in his 90s, had to be wheeled down the street on a trolley to the ambulance which could not come to his door. Later his wife had to struggle to the funeral car to attend his funeral. Each time cars were parked beyond the corners and blocked entry. Pushchairs are also made to go on the road because cars park on both pavements. Our neighbour with an end terrace gate had to lift his grandchild over the bonnet of a car parked to cover the pavement at his gate. There must be numerous other instances.”

“I welcome this opportunity to raise the issue badly parked cars in the colonies. I live in Alderbank Terrace. Every night people “park” their cars on the pavement in Alderbank Terrace and on the pavement between Alderbank Terrace and Briarbank Terrace. A fire engine would not be able to get past the narrow bit of road which is left.”

I have spoken to a lot of people including families or people who lost their homes in the fire.  I’ve yet to meet anyone in the area who believes the status quo is an option, especially if controlled parking is extended, as planned, right up to our doorstep.  Even more cars will be displaced into an area that has around 270 homes and, at best 200 spaces for vehicles.  So there isn’t a solution that doesn’t involve reducing the number of vehicles competing for space.  That’s not a matter of policy; it is simple arithmetic.

The policy question is how we can manage that competition for space that spreads the burden in a way that is fairest for everyone who lives there.  For example, by restricting the number of vehicles from outside the area that are left sometimes for days on end; or restricting multiple car-ownership by any one household.  I’m not really talking about two car households here – although you can see that with 270 homes and 200 spaces it would be impossible to have many two car households.  But there are households with 4 vehicles.

Because we don’t need much to make things a whole lot better.  We don’t need a parking revolution – we just need a bit of respite.  Ironically that has been what has happened, to some extent, in the last 2 weeks as the vast majority of car-owners have responded responsibly to the increased attention on car-parking in the area.

But we need long term solutions.  That is why I have come round to thinking that some sort of control is needed.  Like many people in the area I have been sceptical of CPZ in the area in the past, not because I am in love with cars (I am an active supporter of a more balanced traffic policy)  but because CPZ directly tackles day-time parking and the biggest issue is at night-time.  I worried that the wrong answer to the problem would undermine the credibility of other solutions.  However, I now believe that controlled parking would offer us enough respite from the kinds of pressures I mentioned above, especially over the long term.

So I believe there’s a lot of merit in a traffic management plan for the area that has three elements: one, controlled parking tailored to the unique layout of the colonies; two, use of double yellow lines to eradicate pavement parking and to release turning space at corners; and three, more regular enforcement action for that tiny minority of drivers who park in ways that endanger others.

Following the petition last week a small short-life action group has been set up to look at the options in more detail and I’d welcome anyone who wants to be a part of it.

This is based on points raised at the South West Neighbourhood Partnership Meeting on 13 September 2011