Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Living Streets

  1.  Living Streets is pleased to submit its comments to the above inquiry. Living Streets is a national charity, established in 1929, which campaigns for better streets and public spaces for people on foot. We work to persuade both national and local governments to improve policy and practice for pedestrians, including through our network of local branches; we are joint organisers of the National Walk to School Campaign; and we undertake "Community Street Audits", which evaluate the quality of public space from the viewpoints of those on foot.

  2.  We believe that streets are more than simply traffic corridors—they are important for the vibrancy, economic health, and safety of neighbourhoods; they can help to improve community cohesion by bringing people of different ages and backgrounds together in a shared space; they are outdoor "gyms" which people can use to get fit through walking and cycling; and they are potential playgrounds for all children but especially those who do not live close to parks and playing fields. However, with some 25 million cars on our streets (24 million of them parked at any one time), many streets have become little more than car parks. Living Streets believes that the different uses of our streets need to be better balanced—and parking policy is an essential tool in developing this.


  3.  The larger policy direction, which requires joining up transport, planning, health, economic development and community strategy, should be to reduce the number and length of car journeys, to make streets and public space more attractive for walking, cycling and using public transport, to reduce deaths and injuries on the road, and to find a balance between the different uses streets have. Parking policy has a role to play as part of this, and Living Streets believes that more can be done to win public confidence in parking policies by working with local people to implement a parking strategy as part of wider measures to improve their neighbourhoods, including the ODPM's cleaner, safer, greener programme.

  4.  Research shows that people associate the appearance of their neighbourhoods, and the management of their roads in terms of traffic, cleanliness and anti-social behaviour, as key to their quality of life.[21] CABE has suggested that while people want to park their cars directly outside their homes, they are willing to make compromises when other benefits such as safe playing areas for children, and the provision of shops, services and public transport links in walking distance, are offered.[22]

  5.  Likewise, people have voted with their feet by surging into shopping centres like Norwich and Nottingham where parking has been removed from key shopping streets and the walking environment has been improved. Once parking is placed in this positive context of improving quality of life, the public can make informed choices with their various "hats" on—as drivers and as pedestrians, residents, parents etc.


  6.  Parking restrictions are not new—they began about 80 years ago—around the same time that mass car ownership began to grow. As the number of vehicles has grown, so have the number of parking restrictions. In broad terms, Living Streets strongly favours the strict enforcement of parking restrictions, by local authorities, for the following four reasons:

1st.  Accessibility for pedestrians

  7.  A major hazard for pedestrians is the parking of cars on pavements. Through our audit work, we come across many examples where pedestrians have to squeeze past vehicles, or must dangerously make a detour into the carriageway because there isn't enough room to pass. This is a particular problem for those in wheelchairs, pushing buggies, or with young children—but it is a problem for a far wider group of pedestrians, for example, those carrying shopping bags. Vehicles parked on the carriageway at the corner of junctions, or across pedestrian crossings, also restrict accessibility for pedestrians. This is especially true if the vehicle is parked next to a dropped kerb intended for step-free access for those with mobility difficulties.

  8.  Whilst the majority of drivers blocking access for pedestrians are probably unaware of the problems they are causing—and may only be parking for a few minutes to deliver or collect something—this is still a serious problem for pedestrians, and a deterrent to walking, which should be tackled through strict parking enforcement.

2nd.  Encouragement of active travel and alternatives to private car use (eg public transport/car clubs), and the role of parking policy in demand management

  9.  According to the 2004 National Travel Survey, some 20% of journeys under 1 mile and 58% of journeys between 1 and 2 miles are undertaken in a car or van. A high proportion of these journeys could be undertaken on foot, or cycled. If they were, there would be considerable benefits to the local environment and to personal health. A "push-pull" approach, to encourage people to walk and cycle more, is needed—promotion of the benefits of active travel and steps to make it easier to walk/cycle, coupled with measures which make it less attractive to use the car for short journeys. Restrictions on the availability of parking, coupled with increased cycle parking and improved walking routes, can help to encourage people to consider more active methods of travel. This needs to be supported with strict parking enforcement. When streets are seen as places which have multiple users and uses, the benefits of getting a better balance between car use and other uses can be appreciated by the public.

  10.  Planned reductions in parking spaces in city and town centres can help to reduce traffic, and increase street vibrancy. Over a period of 35 years in Copenhagen, parking spaces were reduced by 2-3% per year in order to free up public spaces from car parking, for other uses. The result has been a four-fold increase in public life since the 1960s in the centre of Copenhagen.

  11.  The Government's Planning Policy Guidance 13 (Transport) states, "reducing the amount of parking in new development is essential . . . to promote sustainable travel choices" (para 49). One way of achieving this is through the use of car clubs—providing preferential parking locations for car club members. Effective enforcement of parking controls can reduce the attractiveness of private ownership of cars, and increase the viability of car sharing.

  12.  Living Streets believes that the controlled reduction and management of parking provision—balanced with enforcement against illegal parking—is a key tool in the management of traffic levels, and can help to alter the balance of our streets to make them more pedestrian and cycle friendly. It can also help the Government to achieve its targets for reduction in the levels of obesity.

3rd.  Reduction in street clutter

  13.  Ineffective enforcement of parking restrictions can lead to more street clutter in the form of railings and bollards. Indeed, the Department for Transport Traffic Advisory Leaflet, Pavement Parking[23], even suggests the use of guard railing as a method for controlling illegal parking.

    "Standard guard rails can be used to prevent pavement parking. Their disadvantage is that they limit where pedestrians can cross a road or where people from parked vehicles can get onto the pavement. They are not generally suitable unless for safety reasons the aim is to channel pedestrians to particular crossing points. Costs of guard railing can vary considerably, being from £45 per metre upwards. In some areas drivers have driven up onto the pavement inside the guard railing. This is dangerous and illegal and local authorities may wish to consider liaising with the police on measures which could be used to prevent it. Local authorities could erect bollards on the pavement close to dropped kerbs to stop drivers using it. Gaps between the bollards should not be less than 1.2m to allow wheelchair users or people with double buggies to pass."

  14.  The above advice can be seen to have been put into effect across the country: guard rails making it difficult for pedestrians to cross the road and making the street less safe (because drivers are more likely to forget pedestrians), followed by bollards to stop drivers from driving up onto the pavement behind the guard railing. The result has been streets clogged with clutter which would be unnecessary if parking restrictions were enforced.

4th.  Road safety for pedestrians

  15.  Although speed reduction is far more important for pedestrian safety, the evidence suggests that where parking restrictions are enforced, conditions for pedestrians are safer. An ALG study of metered controlled zones showed that the number of parked vehicles was reduced by half, and traffic accidents decreased by 21% in the zone, but in similar uncontrolled areas the number of accidents rose by 22%.[24]

  16.  Inappropriate parking is a particular safety issue where there are likely to be more vulnerable pedestrians—eg in residential areas and around schools and hospitals. The Government's School Travel Advisory Group (STAG) reported in January 2000 on recommendations to give children greater travel choices and on improving safety on the journey to and from school. These recommendations included the enforcement of parking and other traffic restrictions.[25] Our experience as organisers of the National Walk to School Campaign is that the illegal parking of cars on the yellow "zig-zags" outside schools is a significant issue for many school communities, causing a lot of tension and daily arguments as well as a chaotic and dangerous place for children to cross the road, and that schools are seeking help from their local authorities and police forces to enforce the law.


  17.  Living Streets understands that parking enforcement has grown in controversy as the number of Penalty Charge Notices being issued has increased. In large part this is to be expected, as parking offences which were previously ignored are now being detected and the perpetrators penalised. Studies in the 1980s showed that in London, only one illegal parking act in 100 was penalised and more than 50% of those Fixed Penalty Notices issued did not result in the penalty being paid. It is not surprising that a tightening up of enforcement will lead to complaints.

  18.  However, parking regulation has become complicated, and the public need to be kept on board as an increasingly sophisticated regime is introduced, especially in built-up urban areas where residential streets, shopping centres, facilities like hospitals, and commuter stations are crammed together. The regime is there to make life tolerable for everyone, but if it is not explained properly to drivers, they can feel they are being unfairly penalised. Public awareness campaigns to explain to drivers what to look for when they park, and why the different kinds of restrictions are in place, are needed.

  19.  The independent review of decriminalised parking commissioned by the British Parking Association, just published[26], has recommended that councils should spell out how much money they have collected from parking fines and how it is being spent. It has also recommended that the Department for Transport carries out research in to how far parking controls are achieving their aims. Living Streets supports these recommendations and makes the further recommendation that the aims are revised to explicitly encompass the needs of pedestrians and the needs to design and manage streets and roads to meet all their uses, not just vehicular carriage. It is also important that local authorities tighten up on appeals procedures and information provided to offenders, so that justice is seen to be done.

  20.  Despite the frustration of some drivers, we believe the vast majority of parking notices are issued legitimately. Living Streets urges the Government, and local authorities, to stand their ground and ensure that parking regulations are enforced. Despite the furore, there is widespread "silent" support for restrictions on traffic and for improvements in the quality of streets:

    —  The 2004 ALG Survey of Londoners found that 67% of Londoners thought that action against illegal parking in London should remain the same or get stronger, while 75% said the same or more action should be taken against people illegally using bus lanes.

    —  A survey by MORI, Physical Capital Liveability in 2005, found that "road and pavement repairs" was the third biggest issue that people reported as needing improvement in their local area, and "low levels of traffic congestion" was the seventh.

  21.  We also support the retention of fines by local authorities, as long as that money is used to improve streets and public spaces for everyone, and a proportion is spent on improving the pavement infrastructure, which has been sadly neglected. Much of the damage done to pavements is as a consequence of pavement parking—it seems only just that the bill for this should rest with those who are parking illegally. We doubt whether some of the most innovative improvement schemes for pedestrians—for example, the Boulevard Project in Camden—would happen were it not for the additional revenue raised through parking enforcement.

  22.  "How the money is spent" provides an opportunity for local authorities to work with communities to win support for parking controls as part of wider measures to improve neighbourhoods. Living Streets recommends that councils pool the income and hypothecate it to street and public space improvements—according to need based on deprivation indices and casualty rates rather than connected to the wards where the money was raised—and that communities have a say in how that money is spent. Improvements like the introduction of 20 mph zones, wider pavements, provision of children's play facilities, tree-planting, free public toilets, more benches and litter bins, and ground-level pedestrian crossings would be appropriate.

  23.  We would like to see the possibility explored of parking attendants taking on a range of responsibilities. They could be the eyes and ears of the council on the street. They could also be responsible for reporting pot-holes, broken paving slabs, abandoned cars, litter, and other street issues. They could be trained in the powers of the new Clean Neighbourhoods Act and be given the power to issue Penalty Charge Notices for dropping litter, dog fouling, etc.


  24.   Living Streets would propose two changes to the current situation:

i.  Speed up the process of parking decriminalisation.

  25.  Living Streets does not believe that the police are the best agency to carry out standard parking enforcement. Not surprisingly, police forces see parking as a very low priority. Parking is an integral part of transport planning, and its operation should thus be a duty of local authorities. Local authorities are best placed to integrate parking policy with other transport and neighbourhood policies, and to respond to local need. At present, 135 applications for decriminalisation have been approved outside of London. We would like a deadline set by when parking will have been decriminalised across the whole of England and Wales.

ii.  Pavement parking should become a parking offence, in all areas except where it is specifically allowed.

  26.  This would bring the rest of the country into line with London, and would help to ensure that the needs of pedestrians are adequately addressed. Pavement parking is a huge problem in all parts of the country except London. It causes damage to paving and grass verges, and is a serious problem for pedestrians—particularly blind and disabled pedestrians. In London, prohibition of parking on footways was introduced under the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974. Streets can be exempt from these footway parking regulations (for example, because they are too narrow or pavements are very wide). As a consequence, in general, pavement parking is not a serious issue in London. The situation outside of London is the reverse—pavement parking is not a specific offence unless there are double yellow lines, or unless specific traffic regulation orders have been applied. The result is that pavement parking is a huge issue in many parts of the country.


  27.  Parking space is a limited resource, and its allocation will therefore be highly controversial. It is unsurprising many local authority councillors report that many people get more upset about parking than virtually any other issue. However, effective parking restrictions are an essential component of more walkable streets. They are therefore important in delivering a range of government objectives including increases in the exercise levels for adults and children; reductions in the levels of obesity and coronary heart disease; promotion of active travel and reduction in car dependency; and cleaner, safer, greener neighbourhoods.

Tom Franklin

Chief Executive

21   Physical Capital Index, MORI June 2005. Back

22   What home buyers want: attitudes and decision making among consumers, CABE March 2005. Back

23   Traffic Advisory Leaflet 04/93. Back

24   ALG written evidence to the London Assembly Transport Committee Inquiry, Parking Enforcement in London, June 2005. Back

25   Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for Everyone. Back

26   A Review of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement for the British Parking Association, 2005. Back

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