Every summer my good friend ( yes I am joking) Eric Pickles comes out with something so absurd that you know that it totally incapable of implementation and is designed to appeal to the outer reaches of loony conservatism – a constituency that Eric knows and loves so well. This year it is the idea of allowing motorists 15 minutes to park on double yellow lines before they get a ticket.
Superficially that doesn’t sound too bad an idea. In fact if ‘nipping in for something’ were already legal it would be the most common way of dodging a ticket. In practice it just won’t work.
Take my own ward for example and the busy Allerton Road District Centre. Already people are in the habit of ‘just nipping in’ to Tesco to buy some things. Last week as I walked by 4 vehicles had drivers doing this at the same time. The effect of this is to totally obstruct a double bus stop which is the busiest bus interchange in Merseyside that is not a bus station. Buses were forced to stop in the road itself constricting other drivers and people had difficulty in seeing which buses were coming as their view was obscured because two of the vehicles were vans. This created a situation which was dangerous for bus users and dangerous for other traffic. And we want to condone this?
In fact recently we got the council to look at the double and single lines along Allerton Road. We decided that some of the yellow lines were unnecessary and had them removed thus opening up a legitimate parking area. We also decided, however that some of the double yellows needed better signage and repainting. We also agreed a joint campaign with police and our own parking staff to enforce them. We did that because we are trying to cut down on danger to drivers and pedestrians alike. And we want to ensure that people are able to bring lorries in close enough to shops to unload them so that they actually have something to sell.
Most people agree that yellow lines are needed in places. In fact we have just completed a consultation exercise over 9 months and will be putting more down near a school (did you know that children are more likely to be in a car accident within 250 yards of a school than anywhere else). If they are needed we cannot pick which we enforce or do not enforce. 15 minutes here doesn’t seem too bad but 15 minutes there is a no-no. It would make all parking law unenforceable in principle because the appeals against arbitrary decisions would be massive and in practice because we would need an army of traffic wardens with stop watches to enforce the none-law.
If a set of yellow lines cannot be justified on safety or other reasons – remove them – just as we did in parts of Allerton Road.
Doing this enables local decision making to take place. This is a principle which Mr Pickles talks about a lot but fails to deliver in practice. We took those decisions on Allerton Road in discussion with local traders and residents and with the professional help of traffic engineers and the Police. The decision making was done by people who knew about the area and cared about both residents and businesses.
Eric, Lad, that is localism in action. Decisions being made in the right way for the right reasons. Not arbitrary pronouncements being made in the silly season by a silly man to garner a few headlines whilst everyone else is on their holiday!