It is all too easy to rubbish Eric Pickles … I suppose I should simply just stop there … But I meant it is all too easy to rubbish Eric Pickles’ scheme to allow motorists to park on double yellow lines in town centres in order to save to save the world as we used to know it.
Double yellow lines were brought in for a purpose – namely to make sure that congestion was reduced and through traffic continued to flow. They were controversial and for many retailers there is still a sense that they lose out on passing trade due to the inability to park outside the shop and “nip in”.
So cue Eric to the rescue with a plan to allow motorists 15 minutes grace period to do their “nipping in”. There might be a few problems – it is likely to impede traffic and increase congestion and frustration. When does allowable illegal parking become dangerous or unallowable illegal parking? When do my 15 minutes start? And who is going to monitor this 15 minutes – will it mean an expansion of traffic wardens, or one on every corner, or is it going to be self-policed (and we can guess the result). Many of these issues and a whole host of others can be found in today’s papers and Twitter and so on.
But let’s look beyond the headlines and the easy targets. Did double yellow lines become the “latest fad” at some point? Like pedestrianisation, every high street seemed to have to have one or the other, or in some bizarre circumstances both pedestrianisation and yellow lines. But things have changed and town centres have moved on. The competition from out of town and the internet means that we should be rethinking what we do, and doing things in town centres for a reason and not simply because we have done it for years.
So are double yellow lines fully merited in all places they occur? I doubt it? Can we devise a system where limited short-term free on street parking could be allowed and policed? I suspect we could. Would this work in every place – undoubtedly not; there are good reasons in many places to keep traffic flowing and to put the parking behind and not in front of the shops. But in some locations, might freeing up the parking be worth a try?
Will it save the high street and the town centre? Not likely. But might it, as part of rethinking how councils and others manage and encourage use of places, have some merit in some places? We won’t know until we try. And if it doesn’t work then we can always go back and paint the town yellow again.
People have to want to go to high streets and town centres and we have to make it easy (or perceived to be as easy) as going out of town or sitting in front of a computer, or if we can’t make it as easy, we need to make it more interesting or rewarding. Car parking is part of this, but not the only part.