Hackney's controlled parking zones: a memorandum

Well, the mayoral election has been and gone, but in the course of the campaign I wrote this letter to Vincent Stops, who I know to be a happy Hackney cyclist. (I should hasten to add that he is in no way a sectarian). Of course, he had to field a fair amount of flak from the great general public as the scheme went in, so I thought the least that I could do was send him a letter of support..."

To: Cllr Vincent Stops
Chair, transportation committee
c/o Members' Room
Hackney Town Hall
Mare Street
E8 1EA 10 October 2002

Dear Vincent,

It was good to meet you at the recent hustings for Hackney's mayoral candidates and to have the opportunity to discuss the recent local implementation of the controlled parking zone.

As I explained to you, both and I my partner are strongly in favour of the scheme, though, of course, like any new initiative, there are one or two tweaks that would make it better.

To briefly summarise our reasons for supporting the scheme: Before the scheme, parking in the vicinity of Navarino Grove, Navarino Road, Graham Road and Wilton Way seemed out of control. Vehicles on these streets are very often parked right up to, and on the corners of the junctions, and were tightly packed together. This had a number of important adverse effects:

  1. safety Movement of any vehicle at these local junctions was often dangerous because sightlines were obscured by parked vehicles. This particularly affected us on our cycles, as we turn both right and left at the junction of Navarino Grove and Navarino Road.
  2. access Larger vehicles often have difficulty negotiating the turn from Navarino Road to Navarino Grove because of corner parking. This affected us adversely this summer when we were having some building work done. A Travis Perkins truck was unable to turn the corner to deliver our bricks because of vehicles parked on the corner. As a result, 4 men stood idle for a day, and we incurred a 45 redelivery charge for the bricks to be reloaded onto a smaller vehicle for delivery the next day. The council's own refuse collection vehicle often has trouble reversing up the street for the same reason.
  3. difficulty for pedestrians and cyclists Vehicles were often parked so close together that it was difficult to get from the road to the pavement.
  4. difficulty for cabs A friend of mine was assaulted as he got out of a minicab on Navarino Road on his way to visit me. As the road was parked solid, the cab had to stop in the one remaining lane, blocking the road, and delaying the car behind for a minute or so. The driver behind grew frustrated, got out of his Range Rover, and swung a punch at my friend.
  5. abandoned vehicles The new scheme makes it easier to identify these vehicles and have them removed.

    We were aware of some of the grumbles of our neighbours about the new scheme, who of course had a good old moan about paying for what had previously been free.

[continues] I have challenged them on this with the following arguments:

i) Land prices in central London A car parking space occupies about 16 feet x 7 feet in residential Hackney. If I wanted to buy a house with additional bedroom that size round here, I'd have to find another 50,000. This reflects the scarcity of space in inner London. Why should you just be able to occupy it for free just because you bought a car? I heard a story that a construction business in Stoke Newington, instead of looking for new premises to expand, just bought a couple of large white vans, beefed up their security, and parked them on a residential street for additional storage. Without parking controls, how are the local authority going to deal with this sort of behaviour?

ii) Pay up for an easier life If you do pay the charge, you benefit from reduced parking, and therefore ease of parking. Before, if you had a car, then drove off, you might find it hard to return. Residents' parking reduces that difficulty.

iii) If the roads are for travel, why do we give priority to stationary vehicles? Most parked cars sit doing nothing but getting in the way for more than 90% of the time. If the council favoured car clubs and increased car sharing we could remove 3 out of 4 private cars from the road, freeing up that space for leisure and two-way travel.

In fact, grumbling has rapidly subsided as residents appreciate the benefits outlined in point ii) above.

Some possible improvements

a) the name is unfriendly. "Controlled Parking Zone" sounds rather authoritarian. You should adopt the designation "Resident Priority Parking" or similar.

b) the charge is too low at present. As I outline in my argument above, 80/year in no way reflects the land prices prevalent in this area. Additionally, the provision of car parking attracts environmental hazard, namely abandoned vehicles. It seems fitting that the costs of this should be met from parking charges. If the council is serious about meeting its obligations to reduce motor traffic and thereby achieve European targets for air quality, it will need to control parking. Making parking more expensive is a good way of doing this. The council should consider holding an on-line auction to determine the true value of an annual parking permit to local users.

c) the detailed implementation of the scheme was of low quality. The painting of the double yellow lines was not completed close to the corners of Navarino Grove and Navarino Road, ironically, because vehicles were parked there at the time. The completion of the water mains works at the end of this month should offer an opportunity for this to be completed.

d) enforcement should be improved. We still have abandoned vehicles clogging up the streets. I have yet to see a warden issuing a ticket. Vehicles are still often dangerously parked on street corners.

e) the scheme should be implemented on a 24 hour basis, not just from 7am-11pm.

Overall though, I think, the scheme is a step in the right direction, and within the modest limits it has set itself, a success. The problems outlined in points 1) - 5) above have been considerably alleviated since the implementation of the scheme.

Yours sincerely,

Douglas Carnall MB ChB MRCGP


Copyright: All rights reserved 2002. dougie@carnall.org

License: You may freely reproduce this verbatim text in any way provided this copyright notice is also preserved.