Awards, Design, a Scraped Car, 30%, and “Brexit’ (Again)


Awards, Design, a Scraped Car, 30%, and “Brexit’ (Again)

So another year, another British Parking Awards bash. For the last hundred years, I have been one of the judges, and this has meant that I have had the dubious pleasure of driving round the country, usually in appalling weather, to look at the latest batch of hopefuls’ new and refurbished carparks.

It always surprises me just how many so-called designers just simply missed the memo about what makes good design; indeed, what makes a carpark fit for purpose in the 21st century.

“The memo”, which I helped write, was published by the prestigious British Institution of Structural Engineers in 2011; it carries the portentous title “Design Recommendations for Multi-storey and Underground Car Parks,” and pretty much tells you everything you need to know about designing a good, easy-to-use modern carpark. Internal columns – NO; wide enough ramps – YES … and so on.

If this is too hard to follow, the European Parking Association has an EPA Standard Award that sets out a basis for assessing a carpark design; and, yes, I part-wrote this as well.

Despite this, I still found garages that had door-obstructing bits of concrete on the parking decks and, memorably, one that was so bad that despite three attempts, I still managed to scrape my car getting on to the ramp.

It’s not rocket science, but some people still do not understand that designing for an “average” car means that half the vehicle fleet will struggle to fit. Give me strength.

Anywho, this year I was “stood down.” On the one hand, there was the very human disappointment of not getting the call, but, on the other, relief at not having to make a grand tour of the entries, hoping for good things but knowing that all too often I was going to be disappointed.

One of my fellow former judges made a couple of very telling comments about the outcome for this year: One, the judging seems to have very much focussed on the external appearance of the entrants, rather than their utility as a carpark; and two, no one on the revised judging panel had any design experience.

On a similar subject, our Glorious and Beneficent Leader, PT’s JVH, surprised me at PIE by announcing (a) that he was having a competition for the best booth(s), and (b) that I had been appointed its judge!

I felt like the new vicar in an English Village who gets volunteered to judge the cake-making competition at the village fete. The one thing that he can be certain of is that the moment he pronounces the winner, he has made one friend and a hundred enemies, especially if old Mrs. McGonagall has won it for the last 20 years, and he has presumed to give the nod to an incomer who just happens to be a Le Cordon Bleu chef. Tar, feathers and pitchforks could be in his future.

Anyway, I did my best at PIE 2017, and hopefully the ones I chose were happy with my choices. For the other hundred or so of you, sorry!


I have been having a very interesting conversation over the last few weeks about just how many cars can get through a parking barrier and into a carpark in a given period of time. The spur for this is a site where the manager thinks (but doesn’t know) that they get up to 600 vehicles an hour trying to get in.

There seems to be pretty broad agreement that a car can transit a barrier — that is, stop, pull a ticket and drive through — in about 10-12 seconds. The differences arise when this is translated into a realistic hourly flow figure.

The literature here suggests a figure of 360 vehicles per hour, which I think is a little optimistic, and so I work on a “safe” 300 vph, which means that, for my target site, two barriers will cope and three will make sure it still works when one breaks. The problem is that the site manager is wedded to a maximum flow of 240 vph, which one or two colleagues also suggest is sensible. That needs four lanes to work, and there isn’t space.

Now, when Moses was a child, I had a book published by the Eno Foundation (1956, it was), which, if I remember correctly, suggested that a manned barrier would pass something approaching that number. I just cannot believe that 60 years of development have taken us no further forward.

If anyone has an opinion on this, or information that they would like to share with me, please do get in touch.

I have always been a bit unhappy with the oft-quoted “one-third of traffic in an area is circulating looking for a parking space,” because, not to put too fine a point on it, I think it’s BS. People quote this and look wise and knowing without, I suspect, ever thinking about what they have actually just said.

Every car on the road is destined for a parking slot, and at any given point on the road network, the proportion of “circulating” traffic depends entirely on how you describe your “area” and how you define “searching.” If I am driving down a road following a sign to a carpark at the end, am I searching or have I found somewhere but just not got there yet? If I am searching, does my status change to “passing through,” if my area boundary is moved a foot away from the carpark entrance?

There is an issue, and that is concerned with just how efficiently and reliably people can learn about the location and availability of parking close to their destination. The advent of so-called “smart city” solutions will help disseminate such information and make journeys more efficient, but I don’t think making up stuff helps.


I live in one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, and recently I noticed a rather interesting phenomenon. Sadly, as our economy slowly takes a nose-dive off the cliff that is “Brexit,” more and more people are having to depend on handouts to get enough to eat. A major national supermarket chain has introduced collection boxes for customers to contribute to local food banks.

About 5 miles to the north, at the rich end of town, the box is typically half full. About 5 miles to the south, where poorer people hang out, the same company has another store. They have two boxes there, and they are always full to bursting.

Just saying.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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