No Parking, The “Times,” Electric Scooters
Another day another story, or two, to hopefully keep you amused, and this time I have a couple of “hot off the press” articles that will warm the cockles of dear old Professor Shoup’s heart.
First off, last month I pointed out that my dumb local council managed to put a designated parking space and an entryway “no parking” marker on the same length of curb. It did not surprise me, they kind of make it up as they go along and then bluster when they are called out.
Now, they have gone and surprised me again, by doing something totally radical and sensible. Who would have expected it? We are all supposed to keep 2 meters (6ft-ish) apart for the foreseeable future and that is hard if the footway is, in fact, just about 2 meters wide. Even harder if the old lady walking her pooch decides that the canine has to be on the side away from you, pushing her to within about 1 meter.
Many people react by walking into the road, into the curb side parking space to keep away from the diseased hag. Well, I went to the local shopping center the other day and, what a surprise! The Council had suspended the curb side parking spaces and erected barriers widening the footway to around 3-4 metres.
So, parking spaces are given back to pedestrians, all good. Now, in normal times this would create a major issue as the shop keepers would howl that no parking means no business; but right now, the parking demand is so low that the few parking spaces left seem to be more than adequate.
Just this morning I opened The Times, that’s the real one, The Times of London, not some ersatz mimic from New York, India or wherever, and saw a report of a study by property agents Knight Frank reporting that the public sector owns some 35,000 parking spaces in surface lots, and this doesn’t include parking structures and another 68,000 surface lots owned privately.
The report posited that many of these sites, which are “in town centers, near shops and railway stations” could be developed into desirable places to live.
The article went on to give regional breakdowns and waxes lyrical on the potential to build over 2 million new houses, equivalent to seven years’ supply at the government’s never achieved, current target of 300,000 houses a year.
And of course, being as the author is a property expert, the author points out that selling off just 15 percent of the stock could raise over 7 billion dollars and allow 110,000 new apartments to be built.
Now, superficially, this sounds like all good news. Here is an asset ripe to be exploited, it helps to build new housing, a target the government has never been able to meet and, perhaps, would prove to be a disincentive to car use.
And what’s more, it would generate some desperately needed cash flow as the state hemorrhages money dealing with Covid-19.
It begs one or two questions though. Car parks in town centers near shops and railway stations, who would have thought it, I wonder why? Could it just possibly be that this is so the citizenry can get to said shops and stations to, well, shop and travel?
Now, for sure, I have done many studies where I have demonstrated that councils could get better use of assets if they were to develop some car parks commercially and use the money generated to build parking decks on the other sites, but that doesn’t appear to be what is being said here.
There is no mention of either replacing the lost surface parking with decks, or perhaps, heaven forfend, by expanding public transport to allow an alternative way to travel. The implication seems to be that using land to park cars is literally, a waste of space, and if it is simply put to another use there are no consequences. So, guys, it looks like we are all wasting our time. I think not.
My favorite pet hate, electric scooters. They have been resisted here for a very, very long time. I suspect this was by technocrats like road safety specialists, who could see all the disadvantages, but struggled to find too much positive to say about the project.
Notwithstanding that they were illegal, people started to sell them and use them with, frankly, an underwhelming response from the authorities. Anywho, earlier in the year, the government, after intensive lobbying by those wishing to rent the devil's spawn, announced that they would allow limited and carefully monitored trials in 2021.
Then Coronavirus happened. Public transport is way more important here than in Trumpzania and this created a problem. Relaxing lockdown and getting people back to work was stymied since maintaining social distancing on buses and trains reduced capacity by 90 percent, which in turn meant that running buses and trains was not financially viable.
So, a cunning plan was hatched. On July 1, the government announced that from July 4 on, any council could apply to run a scheme. Now it’s all a bit last minute bodge up. Thousands of people have bought scooters but none of them will be street legal. Only hire-company supplied scooters from the likes of Bird and Lime will be allowed. Not sure why that is.
Just this week, they announced that Police would be responsible for enforcing mandatory face mask wearing, very quickly followed by the Police representatives saying “no way.” Even if the Police were to take the task on, there is no way of either identifying a particular scooter, or knowing if the user has a license without challenging them. Similarly, if someone has a problem with, say a scooter on a footway, what do they do?
The first trial is scheduled to go ahead in the fair town of Middlesbrough in the North East of England. Unfortunately, the attendant PR to accompany this announcement showed shot after shot of scooters being ridden in pedestrian areas! Middlesbrough is an industrial town on the banks of the River Tees and I can’t help but think that if the local community doesn’t take to the way the scooters are used many will find their final resting place in said river.