The Plaque


The Plaque

For two years or more I have been a good citizen. Isolating, social distancing, mask wearing, not going out. I have had my three vaccines and feel fairly safe. The government is now giving very mixed messages. All rules and restrictions have gone, and yet they advise that we should perhaps/maybe/if you wouldn’t mind, still wear masks, etc. Very English. So, it’s the British Parking Association’s 50th anniversary, and as a past president I am invited, and off I go, for my first social outing for a while. 

And, yes, you guessed it, ten days later I have Covid! Now we have the National Health Service, so everything that I need is just a phone call away for free. Then it all turns into a very English farce. I do the responsible thing and report my infection to the NHS web site. This generates an email from the NHS giving me a code to use to report my infection to the NHS website. What? In order to do this, I have to download an app that my virus protection blocks. What, what? 

Then I get a call from a different part of the organization offering me an oximeter to check my blood oxygen levels. That makes a sense; I am old and therefore vulnerable. The meter arrives with very clear instructions: level 1, you’re OK; level 2, you should contact your doctor; level 3, call the ambulance. Thankfully, I am level 1, no worries. 

Now a third message from Oxford University. Because I am old, there’s an antiviral drug being tested, and I could qualify. So, I call the number on the email and get through to an answer machine and leave a message. I never get a reply. I look at their web page and see that I can register online. I try and immediately directed to a 22-page document that I must read before even attempting to register. 

Now, remember this is explicitly targeted at sick people over 70, not the most computer savvy group in society. My symptoms are slight, and I just give up at this point, but not before finding that although I am old, I don’t meet the other qualifying criteria for the test, which they knew before they contacted me. The NHS is the most valued state organization in Britain. The nurses and doctors who work so hard and selflessly, even at the risk of their lives, are our heroes. Sadly, they are very much Lions led by Donkeys, and a cull of senior management could only improve the service.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s talk about parking. I watched a program on television the other day purporting to be an objective view of “why electric vehicles are the future”. It was tosh; no challenge to the government policies. No address of the real issues over charging in those parts of the inner city where people cannot park off street. 

The producers visited a street where the small number of electric car owners have set up an informal arrangement to share the charging point, so everyone gets a chance. The chances of that working when all the cars in the street are electric and the guy from the next street over plugs in and then goes away for the weekend? Not even touched on. No mention that there is not yet a uniform single charging connection. 

Imagine going to the gas station and finding that half the time the pump nozzle wouldn’t fit into your gas tank. And of course, the chargers have to work. Our fearless reporter drove into multiple public charge stations and paid for watts of power that the equipment just didn’t deliver. This seems to be an increasing problem with recent reports suggesting that something like 18 percent of home chargers have already developed faults. It’s not looking good.

I have said quite a lot recently about the new book that I am co-writing that deals with future car park design. The previous volume was published in 2011 and “The Car” has evolved so much in the last decade that a building that relied on this guidance simply would not be fit for purpose going forward. 

I was very interested to read about a new facility, built at a hospital just outside London that rehearses many of the new recommendations that will be contained in the new guidance. The 1,455-space structure has a roof. In our climate this makes perfect sense. We seldom get snow, but have rain and winter ice and without a roof waterproofing the structure there will be issues. And keeping it waterproof is a cost and a constant problem. The roof may cost more initially, but it extends the life of the structure and is way cheaper when taken over the whole life of the building.

The roof is covered with solar panels which will continuously generate power, which can be used both to power the electric vehicle chargers in the car park and to support the hospitals energy needs; very green. The car park is linked to the hospital by a pedestrian bridge. The site is undulating, and this will remove the need for pedestrians to walk up a steep hill to access the hospital. All too often car park designers switch their brains off at the door and fail to go that extra mile to properly integrate the car park with the buildings that they serve. 

Finally, the site has 100 EV charging points. A little short of the government’s new, and largely random new rules, but a lot better than the handful that are installed in other contemporary developments.

From May, English councils that enforce parking will also be able to take powers to issue tickets for minor traffic conventions like making a banned turn or driving in a bus lane. All these offences will be penalized by remote observation normally using CCTV or similar, leading to a ticket in the post, though the councils have no powers to stop and ticket drivers. What will this mean? A lot more fines as the councils will directly benefit from the money, unlike the police where fines go to the exchequer. 

Police will absolutely not deal with these offences any longer, why would they? For sure if you knock a granny over making a banned turn, they may add it on to the list of offences, but otherwise it goes off their radar. Local authorities will have a duty to check things like signs and markings to make sure that they are clear and adequate, but there will be no mechanism to check that they do this. All that will count in the end is the bottom line for hard-pressed councils and no one will actually care that the local parking team’s death threats go up another notch. 


Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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