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What else? The Pandemic and E Scooters, too

June 25, 2020

Peter Guest

Do you remember the old Western film, where the tumbleweeds roll down main street? Well, it’s a bit like that here, no traffic on the roads, no planes in the sky; the occasional dog walker heading into the park. The air is definitely cleaner. I was looking up into the sky the other night, there was supposed to be a meteor shower. I didn’t see any meteors, but loads more stars visible than before the pandemic.


I suppose that the only real parking action of any note is that, up and down the country, towns and cities have suspended their parking charges. Now, I am not at all clear why they have done this since most shops are closed for the foreseeable future and demand has fallen off a cliff. 


Take my local shopping center. It has about a mile of retail frontage all together. Right now, there is one small supermarket, a pharmacy, a butcher and a baker open. Just four shops, and yet all the parking meters are switched off. Not that there are more than six or seven cars parked anyway. I suppose that it’s a gesture to help people at a time when most are in reduced circumstances, as my grandmother used to say, and it takes the enforcement staff off street, so one less group at risk. 


Some Councils are being much more proactive with their parking people helping to distribute food to the elderly and others who are housebound. I wonder how much credit the “Parking Nazis” will get in the mainstream media when all this is done.


Speaking of the elderly, when me and SWMBO, got back from New Zealand, we had to go into quarantine for two weeks. Towards the end of our quarantine, just as I was wondering if any of my neighbours needed any help, my doorbell started to ring. Two of my neighbors had come over “to see if the old couple at number eight were OK or if they need anything?” 


I was mortified - in my head I am still about twenty, but to our neighbors we already have one foot in the grave! Oh, how others see us! Thank you, Ian and Alan, you are right, of course, after 40 years here we are just about the oldest people in the street. And it was very kind of you to be such good neighbors.


The one piece of news that none of us want to hear just now is that one of our friends or family has succumbed to Coronavirus, but sadly one of the founding fathers of the British parking industry passed away recently, at the age of 103, after catching Covid 19. Ron Frampton was one of the early innovators in parking over here and whilst at Oxford City Council he developed the first purpose-built Park and Ride site. The logic was simple, build a car park outside the city center and transfer drivers on to buses that would access the city center quickly via priority bus corridors, thus reducing road congestion, atmospheric pollution, and the need for expensive city center parking structures. 


It worked beautifully, and the city was quickly surrounded by a ring of P+R sites on all the main approach roads. Even today there are relatively few parking spaces in Oxford and now just about every large town and city in Britain has its own necklace of edge of town car parks linked by high-speed buses. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Ron, rest in peace.


Not an original thought, I am sure, but I wonder if, looking back, we will see this time as the period when cash pretty much died, killed off by Coronavirus? Like many people I use(d) a mixture of cash and card in my daily life, pretty much buying small stuff, like a cup of coffee, using cash; and bigger things, like the weekly shop or larger items with a card. Come Coronavirus and the few shops that are open absolutely definitely do not want your, literally, filthy money. It’s dirty, it’s been touched by multiple people and IT WILL KILL ME! 


Of course, this is England and so we never say “No”, we say, “We’d rather not” and pretty much all retail is using electronic money. I wonder if it will become the new post Covid-19 norm and finally cash will be reduced to a historical footnote used only by kids, the old (see above) and the poor? 


Trouble with this view of the future is that even today, a small but significant proportion of our population still does not have a bank account, or a card and lives in a cash only world. I was talking about this with a new friend in New Zealand and I think that we too easily project our world view, our norms, onto the world and say and think that, if it’s OK for us, then it will work for everyone. 


That’s a very normal and understandable part of the human condition, but when we roll out our normal to become the only acceptable world view, especially in a service industry like ours, we risk first excluding a segment of our customer base and secondly literally cutting off a group of customers whose income we need. Remember, everyone has the legal right to access cash. The banks decide who gets to use cards.


Those of you who have bothered to read my dementia-fuelled ramblings before may have worked out that I am not a great fan of e-scooters. A danger to pedestrians on the footway and a danger to everyone in traffic. 


We have resisted them up to now, although the government has just started a public consultation on whether or not to allow a few limited trials in a few named cities, strictly for use on the roadway. 


Now suddenly, they have announced that, more or less immediately, trials will be allowed in any place that wants them. Forget the consultation, no longer needed as these are supporting the need for people to travel at a time when social distancing reduces bus and train safe capacities by up to 95 percent. 


The “solution” is just not thought through. The speed will be restricted, they won’t be allowed on footways, riders will probably be required to wear helmets, might have to carry insurance blah, blah, blah. 


However, there will be no mechanism and no police resources to enforce the rules whatever they are. So, ride on a footway, run a red light, hit a car or pedestrian? Unless a policeman is on the spot there is no way to penalize. 


Given some of the places that are being considered, I can imagine that a fair few scooterists, there, I just invented a new word, will be subject to summary justice if they misbehave.


I saw that John has resorted to an illegal act recently. He got a haircut. Horror shock - lock him up and throw away the key! I last got my hair cut in early February before attempting and failing to fly round the world. 


SWMBO has offered to do it, but since her badly thought through proposal to save on the cost of my vasectomy, I don’t let her near me with sharp objects. Until the nice French lady up the road reopens for business, I am going to embrace my inner hippie.


Stay Safe.



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