How to be a Jerk


How to be a Jerk

First a bit of background: chateau Guest is a 1930s “Tudorbethan” detached house built on a 90-degree, and therefore blind bend, on a narrow street. We are cursed with a nearby school and so, twice a day, parents leave their brains at home and park their cars anywhere and everywhere to drop off and/or pick up their devil’s spawn. 

All round the corner, fine. Across or on my driveway, “what’s your problem, I have to pick up Tarquin/Ophelia? You can catch the next train.” It’s intensely annoying and often downright dangerous, but appears to be one of the intractable parking problems that, short of an armed intervention, has no solution. Now we are just about to have a municipal election and candidates are out on the stump seeking votes. 

One of the aspiring candidate’s supporters knocked on my door with a flyer that, interestingly, listed your man’s number one priority as parking. He got my attention and then, just as I was about to sign up, his candidate pulled up in a car and parked right outside my house, and right on the corner, in the most dangerous possible position! Talk about self-inflicted wound.

Some of the councillors in Liverpool appear to have gone one better than this in public credibility by having parking citations canceled because, well, it seems because they are, or rather were, councillors. Not at all inappropriate, honest.

I think that one of the big unresolved issues in road transport today is whether or not we are going to routinely see fully autonomous vehicles on the road any time soon. The implications are enormous. Accidents will just about disappear, as will speeding. Road traffic pollution will drop dramatically, regardless of the fuel used. And it will affect our industry, particularly garage operators because parking spaces can be smaller when there is be no need to allow space for car doors to be opened. 

I know that there are those who are absolutely certain it will never happen, but they are wrong. Like it or not guys, it is happening inch by inch, baby step by baby step, albeit with many trips and stumbles along the way, I am sure. Last year I wrote about some experiments in Abu Dhabi with self-driving taxis that worked between fixed points in part of the city. This seems to have been quite tentative with back-up chauffeurs sitting in the cars “just in case.”

The Abu Dhabi project seems to have gone quiet, but just the other day I saw an article about Cruise Robotaxi and Waymo trials in San Francisco. These trials are heavily constrained, both geographically and, for Robotaxi regarding operating hours, but they do seem to be working, at least according to the BBC. So much so that both companies, who I believe are operating “converted” conventional cars at present, are planning to deploy purpose-built six-seat vehicles in the near future. It’s certainly not job done yet, but I think that it’s now pretty certain to be when rather than if.

Meanwhile, over here, in the next few weeks Edinburgh, will launch a fully autonomous bus service onto the City’s streets. This is part of a £81m government initiative which will see buses and goods vehicles take to the roads in seven separate trials across the UK.

From a personal point of view, as someone who has reached an age where a long-term future as a driver is becoming questionable, the idea of being able to simply get into a future vehicle and say “take me to the pub/shops/whatever” and leave it to the car is becoming daily more desirable.

Sometimes, living in Britain feels like being an extra in a living museum experience. It seems that every building and tree and even blade of grass is imbued with some historical or even mystic value that means it must be preserved in perpetuity. But when people start talking about old car parks this way, I feel that a sanity check is past due. 

Rupert Street car park in Bristol, check it out on Google Earth, that was the first continuous spiral car park built in Britain, about 60 years ago. Whoopee do. To The 20th Century Society, it’s a pioneering design worthy of preservation. To me, it’s just an old tired building that really isn’t exceptionally exciting and probably will require an ever-increasing budget to keep it in good order, if indeed it can be kept in use as vehicles get ever larger and heavier. If Bristol needs parking there, knock it down and build something modern and fit for purpose.

The press over here is widely predicting the demise of the pay and display machine as a way of paying for parking. It seems that the machines rely on 3G mobile phone technology to operate and, as the phone companies are starting to switch this service off, some local authorities are planning to replace the machines with mobile phone apps, even although they recognize that this will exclude some users. 

To use a mobile phone app, one must have both a smart mobile phone and a credit card, neither of which is a legal prerequisite to own and use a car. Now here’s the problem, in the UK we have a thing called the Equality Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone, particularly for a public service. So, how can providing a statutory public service which is designed at the outset to exclude people ever be considered legal?

And finally, I was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of my good friend Pierre Koudelka. I had the great good fortune to work with Pierre when he was with Walker Parking Consultants during their unsuccessful attempt to team with the UK consultancy the Hill Cannon Partnership, where I was then a partner. 

Despite the failure of this venture, Pierre and I stayed in touch and I was devastated when he told me that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Initially the treatment seemed to have been successful, but the cancer reappeared. Pierre was very philosophical towards the end, and when the inevitable happened, his wife Sandy was kind enough to give me the sad news. One of the good guys. RIP JP. 

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest, Parking Tales from Big Ben
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