I was recently reminded of two of my biggest pet peeves / bugbears / aggravations / vexations / annoyances. Sorry, a bit too much fun with the thesaurus there.
First, petrol leaf blowers. Despite the unusually mild weather, leaves have been falling, and I was out walking with the family when we passed someone using one of these loathsome machines. The nuisance as well as the noise, air and climate pollution makes me grit my teeth, although also thankful I no longer live on a managed estate where the contracted gardeners used them about once a week this time of year.
Second, pavement parking. For my well-being and sanity, I force myself to ignore all but the most egregious examples, so ubiquitous they are. Even then, I am often walking with my children when we are forced into the road by an obstructive vehicle, so I grit my teeth and refrain from swearing. In one recent case, a delivery driver must have seen my face and actually apologised! Although he was technically unloading, not parking.
But the real reminder of how much pavement parking winds me up came not from a chance encounter, but as I was drafting a response to an academic query. I was reminded that it’s been almost two years now since the government’s consultation on banning pavement parking outside London closed. At the time, I argued in a blog that it was important to have a full, enforceable ban as the default. Traffic Regulation Orders, and all the red tape they involve, should not be required to forbid pavement parking on certain streets but to permit it in special circumstances.
Yet since all those responses, no new legislation has been passed. Not even a summary of the feedback to the consultation has been published. I have heard that it is regularly discussed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking, who know how important it is to activists (and I hope ordinary pedestrians!). Even a quick internet search suggests that some action has been regularly expected and anticipated, including by automotive groups.
However, with the government in constant disarray and a revolving door for Secretary of State for Transport, will they do something soon? And once they do something, will it be a complete ban or will more red tape be needed to stop obstructive parking? And no matter which, are our local Councils, highways officers, and civil enforcement teams ready to take action? The answers to all three of these questions are cause for concern.
Many motorists think they have a right to park outside their home, even if that means they block the public footway. Or rather, they simply take it for granted, usually without thought. When parking is removed or threatened with removal, it is often politically contentious. Policies to increase the regulation of parking would probably be up there with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in terms of generating controversy, if it weren’t for the fact that such policies are so rarely debated and any action so often delayed.
Thus, although banning pavement parking would be an inexpensive and impactful way to improve the environment for active travellers, discourage often obstructive car use, and potentially even raise money to spend on other transport improvements, the government may continue to demur and delay.
I hope they don’t. I hope they realise that any public protests and bad press are driven (pun intended) by a vocal minority. I hope that one day I can walk around my neighbourhood and only be bothered by the occasional electric leaf blower for a couple months a year, rather than by pavement parking every day of every month.