29 June 2009
Parking: How to get your own way
I'm not normally a violent person. But on Saturday I was just the width of Michael Jackson's nose away from punching an unarmed middle-class, 40-something woman in the face.
Or even more savage, smiling and telling her 'I bet you used to be quite good looking when you were a lot younger, didn't you?'.
It was at a local consultation over a proposed scheme to make a few streets round our way nicer by putting in pocket-park areas outside schools: social, green areas with trees and benches.
But guess what? Yes, locals came into complain that the scheme would lose a handful of onstreet car parking spaces so, by definition, it must make the area 'worse'. This in a place that is two minutes' walk from the Elephant and Castle transport hub, with buses everywhere, two tube lines and a mainline train station.
To sum up this woman's argument:
1. But I need my car, you see.
2. How dare you tell me car parking space is limited? You can't just go round telling people what to do, you know.
3. The problem is parents driving their kids to school and taking up our car parking spaces. Somebody should tell them to stop.
4. But I need my car, you see.
5. You don't have a car, so stay out of this.
6. The trouble with you cyclists is you're all the same - you all generalise.
7. The other problem is these new blocks which bring more residents. They should have to sign a commitment not to have a car.
8. I need my car, you see. It's the other car drivers who are the problem.
I realised wearily that there was little point pursuing the matter. I shrugged my shoulders and accepted that, however inconsistent, selfish and deranged her views were, they were probably indicative of many residents. That's how democracy works.
Then I fished out her comment slips from the box and made a few minor redactions so that her submissions now read 'I want to see parking spaces taken away' and 'You must not listen to car owners'. That's how democracy should work.
(NB For the benefit of dozy Guardian-bike-blog readers, I didn't really do that. It's what we cycle journalists call 'a joke'.)
All this came after Friday's publishing of a GLA report into London's 'cycle parking crisis'. It comes up with 11 recommendations on how to identify parking needs and fulfill them.
Some interesting figures from the 40-page PDF:
1. If the fanciful target of doubling today's figure to 1 million bike trips per day by 2025 is to happen, we'll need 100,000 extra cycle parking spaces. Only 50,000, at most, is budgeted for.
2. Around 70,000 bikes are stolen every year in London.
3. 70 per cent of cyclists rate London's bike parking as poor.
4. Charing Cross station has 0 bike parking spaces.
5. Bike parking in new buildings should be provided for 30% of staff in offices, 130% in residential.
Compared to that irritating, what-about-me, stampy-foot woman in the consultation, the report is well supported with facts, thorough, objective, and comes to sensible, workable conclusions.
Now, which do we think will get their own way?