New Chislehurst CPZ

Bromley Council is pushing ahead with a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in central Chislehurst. According to a letter they have distributed from a survey they did of residents 77% supported the introduction of a CPZ and they now plan to extend the area covered to even more roads.

As we have repeatedly said in the past, CPZs do not solve parking problems, particularly when it is resident’s own cars that are filling up the roads (as in the picture above of Albany Road). See this page of our web site for more information on CPZs: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/parking-traffic-offences

Of course as always the Council has a financial interest in promoting CPZs. Residents will be paying £100 per annum initially but no doubt more in future as once in place the charges always go up over time.

Bromley residents can see the wide area to be covered and respond to the public consultation here:  https://www.bromley.gov.uk/parking/proposed-chislehurst-controlled-parking-zone-cpz

Roger Lawson

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Profiting from Parking

The London Borough of Bromley have published proposals to raise parking charges and scrap all “pay and display” parking machines. It will be discussed at a Committee Meeting on the 22nd November. These are some of the key points:

  • Significant rises in both off and on street parking charges are proposed. For example for on-street parking charges might rise from 60p per hour to 80p per hour, a 33% increase. Charges do vary between locations and can be considerably more than that. The increase is to offset the reduction in the usage of parking no doubt because of the pandemic and increase in internet shopping. Parking charges were last reviewed four years ago so some increase may be justified to cope with inflation.
  • The increase in permit parking charges is very substantial – up from £50 to £80 for a resident’s permit – a 60% increase
  • Note that on-street parking and permit charges should not be used as a revenue raising measure as firmly established in legal precedents which the Council seems to be ignoring. These increases will result in substantial and unjustified surplus income over administration and enforcement costs. This paragraph from the report makes the motive clear: “In summary the various changes on this paper can potentially bring about savings/income of approx. £967k by 2024/25 to the Council which currently has significant budget pressures and a budget gap to fund in 2023/24 onwards”.
  • It is also proposed to remove all pay and display machines. The only way to pay for parking will be using the RingGo service via a smartphone. The justification for this is that the cash machines are subject to vandalism and also use a 3G sim card which will cease working in 2023 and replacement is costly. Also the machines are unreliable and reaching the end of their useful lives so need replacing which would be very expensive. A number of other London councils  already have “digital only” parking and 90% of people have a smartphone. You can see therefore there is some justification for this change but it will also raise parking costs. The minimum fee for one hour parking via RingGo is £1 while a cash payment is 60p – a 66% higher fee at present. I suggest some pay and display machines be retained and replaced by new models. Most of them have already been removed much to the inconvenience of residents.

In summary the Council should not be trying to fill its budget shortfall by raising parking charges and making payment less convenient. If car park usage is falling then raising charges will reduce usage even more so that is not a sensible answer to the problem of reduced income.

The Council is even proposing to introduce charges for the Sundridge Park car park which is currently free. The last time this was done the commuters who parked there promptly moved to the surrounding roads to the great annoyance of local residents and resulting in a financially unviable car park. Council employees seem to have short memories.

You can read the complete policy in Agenda Item 13h of the meeting (see link below). Parking provision should be a service for residents, not be used as a cash cow. This is unfortunately a spreading problem in all London Councils which should be condemned.

Environment and Community Services Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=7373&x=1

Roger Lawson

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Pay By Phone Parking – Simply Inconvenient

The Guardian have published an interesting article on the problems of pay by phone parking instead of the use of cash machines. The former are now beloved by local councils but many people have difficulty paying that way for various reasons. It does not help that different councils use different systems and other car park operators can also offer different systems. So you can turn up at a new location and find you have to waste minutes downloading a new App and recording credit card information.

As the Guardian article says: “All summer, exasperated motorists have been jabbing at their phones, trying to download and install yet another parking app. Then follows the interminable chore of entering card details and number plate, which may ultimately be derailed by poor phone signal or a glitchy app”.

But Councils say using Pay By Phone saves the authority money and reduces incidents of vandalism and theft at pay machines.

Comment: It might save local councils money but it causes great inconvenience to motorists. The ability to pay using cash should be preserved. It’s just another attack on the use of cars by making life difficult for their users.

Guardian article here: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/aug/27/rise-of-the-parking-app-makes-the-rich-richer-as-motorists-struggle?

Roger Lawson

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Greenwich Transport Policy – Have Your Say

Greenwich Transport Policy – Have Your Say

The London Borough of Greenwich is conducting a public consultation on future transport policies using the Commonplace platform. To quote: “The council has ambitious plans to make the borough greener, healthier and more connected, with a particular focus on how walking, cycling and public transport can be improved”.

They say this in the published Transport Strategy document: “Having declared a climate emergency in June of 2019, this strategy supports the Royal Borough’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and supporting a green post-pandemic recovery. Transport is the second biggest source of emissions in the borough. The Royal Borough has recognised that to become carbon neutral it is necessary to work to: a) reduce the number of journeys made by polluting motor vehicles, and b) enable people to walk, cycle and use public transport wherever possible”.

In other words, the use of vehicles will be attacked in the name of addressing the climate emergency. Is there a climate emergency and will reducing vehicles make any difference to the climate? The simple answer to both those questions is NO.

Just because we have had a slightly hotter and dryer period of weather this summer does not mean there is a climate emergency and emissions by vehicles in Greenwich cannot have any significant impact on the climate even if you accept that carbon emissions might be influencing the climate.

The whole of the UK produces less than 1% of worldwide emissions so any reduction in Greenwich alone will have a negligible impact.

In reality this is just another unnecessary and unwelcome attack on the use of cars.

How do they propose to discourage vehicles? By introducing more Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs), more Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and more School Streets.

Reading the detailed report shows how Greenwich is failing to meet the Mayor’s targets for active travel, improving road safety and reducing emissions – see page 26. A particularly telling statistic is that the percentage of people killed and seriously injured (KSI) in collisions in Greenwich is on average lower compared to adjacent boroughs but a high proportion of such collisions are made up of people who are cycling (17%). Given that people cycling in the borough makes up less than 2% of the mode share, this demonstrates how dangerous cycling is in reality.

Make sure you respond to this consultation by going here: https://royalgreenwichtransport.commonplace.is/

Meanwhile Mayor Sadiq Khan has committed to spend £4million on making London a greener and more climate resilient city despite him being desperately short of money to keep TfL afloat. This includes funding more LTNs in Hackney and Enfield but it will also include rain gardens and tree pits (rain gardens might replace parking spaces and help to absorb excess rainfall which we are not exactly overwhelmed with this year).

Planting more trees and generally greening the environment may be welcomed but spending more money on non-essential projects at this time of economic difficulty is surely unwise.

More details on the Mayor’s expenditure here: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/4m-announced-to-aid-future-climate-resilience

Roger Lawson

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Using PCNs to Raise Council Funds – It’s Unethical

With local Council budgets under severe strain, they have looked at raising money by maximising PCNs being issued. These can be issued for breaches of bus lanes, no entry signs in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), infringement of yellow box junctions, illegal turns and for a number of other reasons.

Many millions of pounds are now being raised by some London Councils in this way, totally unethically, particularly by those Councils who are prejudiced against motor vehicle use. The number of fines issued by the London boroughs and TfL in 2020-2021 are given in this document: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/_files/ugd/84d4d3_2184322bb2af44c18e1a16ce65e3fbf6.pdf

You can see that the worse London councils are Croydon, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Islington, Lewisham and Newham with a large number issued by Transport for London (TfL) also.

In Lewisham for example, after the LTN was introduced in Lee Green the Council issued 87,443 PCNs for infringement in Dermody Road between August 2020 and January 2022. These would have been picked up by camera enforcement systems. There were also 5,462 issued in Ennersdale Road, 12,002 in Manor Lane and 19,961 in Manor Park.

The campaign group One Dulwich also reported these figures: “More than £6.6 million paid to Southwark in fines. An FOI to Southwark has revealed that 123,853 fines were issued in 2021 to vehicles going through the timed closures on Burbage Road, Turney Road, Dulwich Village and Townley Road, raising a total so far of £6,623,517. Once all fines are paid (calculating 123,853 PCNs at the lower rate of £65 each), the total will be more than £8 million. With this kind of annual revenue, the financial benefits of continuing with the Dulwich Streetspace scheme must have been part of Southwark’s thinking”.

You can see now why Councils are so keen to install camera-based enforcement systems – they are actually money spinners because the money they generate exceeds the cost of installation and operation.

A recent example is a proposal from Lewisham Council to introduce up to five yellow box junctions in a recent “Budget Reductions Report” to the Sustainable Development Select Committee. The capital cost would be £100,000 but the first-year rate of return is given as £150,000, i.e. there is a payback in under one year. It’s a highly profitable measure! But there is no evidence that such box junctions actually improve the flow of traffic.

In summary, LTN schemes enforced by cameras are not about reducing vehicle use, improving road safety or improving the environment. They are about generating money in a totally unethical way.

The approach by local councils and the number of PCNs issued very much depends on the policies set by Councillors. Please bear that in mind when voting at the forthcoming May Council elections.

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TfL Closing Station Car Parks – New Petition Against

I have reported before on Transport for London’s plans to redevelop station car parks into housing. For example at Cockfosters and Arnos Grove – see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/01/19/building-on-station-car-parks/

There is now a new petition on Change,org against the removal of this valuable facility. Although there may be a demand for more housing, this is surely more about TfL crystalising the value of the land and increasing their profits while ignoring the needs of their customers.  

The new petition emphasises that car parks are essential resources for women to get back safely at night to their home in the quiet suburbs of London. Likewise, the station car parks are essential for older people and people with disabilities (not just blue badge holders, but also the many hundreds of thousands of people that have disabilities, but do not hold a blue badge) to be able to access London’s transport network.

Please sign the petition here: https://chng.it/J5sFCNgt28

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Would Micro Cars and Cargo Bikes Help?

Two initiatives that might help to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in big cities are the promotion of “micro” cars and cargo bikes. The former take up less space on the road and the latter might remove a lot of trips by LGVs to deliver goods.

Micro cars such as the BMW/Isetta or Messerschmitt KR200, otherwise known as “bubble cars” at the time, were popular in the 1950s as they provided very cheap transport with a lower tax rate. From my personal experience of a ride in one they were uncomfortable and very noisy – like sitting in a metal can with a motorcycle engine next to you. But at least they carried more than one person and enabled you to get out of the rain.

Japan encouraged the production of very small vehicles by lower taxation on “kei” cars that had limits on engine capacity – more latterly 660 cc. These proved very popular in Japan and a few other countries but not in western economies with a few exceptions. One such exception was the Suzuki Cappuccino (see photo above) which my wife owned for a time. It might look like a full size car but in fact was less than 11 feet long. Leg room was OK but otherwise the cockpit was cramped for those of even average size.

There are now some new vehicles being sold that attempt to meet the need for very small vehicles. These include the Citroen AMI which is available in France but not the UK.  With a battery under its floor (it’s a BEV electric vehicle), the Ami weighs 485kg, has a range of 43 miles and a regulated top speed of 28mph. But it looks like a brick.

A similar vehicle but somewhat more stylish and which is available in the UK is the electric Renault Twizzy (see photo above). It has a range of up to 56 miles but typically somewhat less. It does not get great reviews in the motoring press and is rated as expensive.

There are competitive vehicles such as the petrol-engined Kia Picanto,  Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen up! plus the battery-powered VW e-up! (range up to 159 miles) and SEAT Mii Electric. My oldest grandson just bought a Picanto as his first car having recently passed his driving test and it’s very impressive in terms of facilities. It looks like a conventional small car.

Another possible contender in the market is the Microlino (not yet available in the UK). This is an electric vehicle which is similar in styling to the old BMW/Isetta and with a good range. 

The pricing of extremely small vehicles tends not to be much less than more conventional vehicles which may be one reason why they have never taken off in the UK. They may be seen as good for driving short distances in big cities but in reality they can be tricky to pilot in heavy traffic where there are much larger vehicles such as buses and HGVs who may not see you.

The countries where they have taken off have been those where there are substantial tax benefits or other fiscal encouragements. In the UK these have been missing. For example, vehicles such as the Renault Twizzy qualify as a “light quadricycle”. Such vehicles have to weigh less than 350kg (not including batteries if they are electric) and have a top speed of less than 28mph. But there’s no plug-in grant money available from the government for the Twizzy because a) it doesn’t travel the required distance on electric power alone and b) in official terms, it’s a quadricycle, not a car; however there’s no road tax to pay. They will not be exempt from the London Congestion Charge after 2025 though.

There could certainly be more incentives to drive very small vehicles in the UK particularly in big cities where they would be environmentally better and ease the parking problems. But in London Sadiq Khan seems keener to discourage all vehicles and to raise the maximum in taxes from them.

Cargo Bikes

Another way to reduce traffic congestion and cut emissions is to promote the use of E-Cargo bikes. The Government has provided £400,000 via the Department for Transport in 2021/22 for the purchase of e-cargo bikes. Funding covers up to 40% of the total cost of an e-cargo bike, up to a maximum of £2,500 for two-wheel models and £4,500 for three-wheel models. See https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/grants-and-loans/ecargo-bike-fund/ for details.

Photo above is from the Energy Savings Trust’s document “Electrifying Last Mile Deliveries” which covers the benefits and applications of cargo bikes, electric vans and micro vehicles. There are certainly many options now available if people wish to dispense with the conventional “white van”. Whether they are easy to maintain and cost effective to run I think will only become clear after more user experience.

Roger Lawson

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Towing Away of Vehicles Was Not Illegal

I mentioned in a previous blog post the claim by the Daily Mail that charging for removing vehicles by Councils was illegal from 1991 (see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/04/05/towing-away-of-vehicles-was-illegal/ ).

I wrote to the London Borough of Camden on this issue and have received the following response:

“I understand, having read your letter, that you believe Camden’s powers to remove and charge for a removal were unlawful at this time [in 2005].

Following the publication within the daily mail, we approached the department for transport (DfT) to outline our concerns regarding the article and potential implications for us and other councils. Additionally we set out our reasons why we did not agree with the position in the explanatory note regarding the ability for local authorities to charge for vehicle removals, storage and disposal.  It was our belief that whilst sections 99-102 of the RTRA 1984 are not the simplest to follow, the legislation needs to be read as a whole to understand the full procedure and all aspects of the process that were covered.

We received a response from DfT that supports our view that local authorities’ powers to charge for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles remain and were not inadvertently removed and that Sections 102(2) and 102(2A) still exist.

Specifically they stated that section 102(2) RTRA by section 68 Road Traffic Act 1991 were largely undone by the changes subsequently made to section 102(2) by Paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 11 to the TMA 2004. None of these changes as far as they can see had removed a local authority’s power to charge for removal, storage or disposal of a vehicle.

In light of this, it would appear that the explanatory note on page 19 (paragraph 83) is incorrect with respect to borough powers.

Therefore, I do believe the removal of your vehicle was conducted lawfully at the time”.

Having looked at the relevant legislation, which is exceedingly complicated and difficult to understand, it is certainly not clear that there was any intention to remove the power to charge for vehicle removal.

I have therefore accepted Camden Council’s explanation.

Roger Lawson

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Towing Away of Vehicles Was Illegal

The Daily Mail has reported that for many years the removal (towing away) of vehicles as part of parking enforcement operations was not covered by legislation. They say: “An incredible legal gaffe could result in millions of motorists launching appeals against parking penalties handed out over the past 30 years. Enforcement powers relied on by police and local authorities were accidentally deleted from the statute book, the Mail can reveal today. Powers to charge motorists for removing and impounding vehicles were introduced in 1984 but were ‘inadvertently removed due to a drafting error’ in 1991 – and no one noticed until now”.

Some London boroughs such as Hackney and Camden (Hackney towed away 14,673 vehicles from 2011 to 2015 alone) were very active in using this procedure.

As someone who suffered from this pernicious practice in circa 2005 – towed away for slightly overstaying in a parking bay – I have sent the London Borough of Camden a letter requesting a refund of the several hundreds of pounds in charges. I will advise any result in due course.

This practice has been abandoned by most councils except for extreme situations such as causing an obstruction, but it was always a very dubious procedure. In my case the tow company also caused damage to my vehicle which they denied doing.

See https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9431497/Millions-towed-away-drivers-claw-fines-laws-left-statute-book-30-years.html for the Mail article.

Roger Lawson

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Profits from Parking Continue to Rise in London

The news blog MyLondon have reported on the continued rise in the profits made by London Councils from car parking. They report that in 2018/19 the profits were £454.4 million. That compares with about £300 million that we reported in 2010 (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/_files/ugd/84d4d3_78919c9384614f919b3bd24fe4b29511.pdf ). 

Councils are legally not supposed to make profits from on-street parking but that law is widely ignored. However they can from off-street parking –this is one reason why Westminster is the top earning borough in London with profits of £58 million as they own or operate a number of off-street car parks. But other high earning inner London boroughs have no such excuse.

With council budgets under pressure, increasing parking revenue is seen as an easy way to generate more income. Hence the increases in charges being made by such means as introducing emission-based parking charges and extending CPZs (Controlled Parking Zones). For example, Lewisham has the stated intention to have the whole borough covered by CPZs. This is what Councillor Sophie McGeevor said recently on twitter: “Any surplus from parking revenue is completely absorbed by concessionary fares for public transport. This year we’ve committed to roll our borough wide CPZs. Increased income should mean we can reinvest in cycle hangers & public realm. Totally get that cheap safe storage is key”. Clearly she thinks that permit parking charges are a source of income when legally they are only supposed to cover administration and enforcement costs.

Any surplus from parking charges is supposed to be spent on transport provision but it is typically currently used mainly to subsidise the Freedom Pass and other Concessionary Fare Charges that TfL passes onto local boroughs. But why should vehicle owners be paying for public transport fares rather than the general population?

Want to find out how much your local borough is making from parking charges? Use this template letter to do so:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Parking-Letter-Information-Template.pdf

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