Michael Bond: A new approach to parking controls in Cambridge

At Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee on 6 February 2014, Mr Michael Bond called for parking controls on commuters using streets in Chesterton.  Here’s the text of his letter to the committee:


North Area Committee 6th February 2014

A new approach to parking controls in Cambridge

  1. There has been an increasing problem of long-term commuter parking in the City as the Controlled Zone has been extended outward from the City Centre. The only tool being used at present is to introduce Residents Only Parking zones with limited short term pay and display for occasional visitors.
  2. There is a clear benefit to the County and City Councils from the present situation as they can collect revenue from car parking charges and the issue of residents’ parking permits, the latter with no obligation to ensure that supply is matched to available Residents Only parking space.
  3. The recent extension of “Residents Only” parking into the de Freville Estate was controversial and has resulted in commuter parking being pushed east into East Chesterton and further north across Milton Road. The area beside Elizabeth Bridge lately dominated by commuter parking is now mostly empty as E1 an hour is more than anyone is prepared to pay.
  4. With the advent of Chesterton Sidings Station commuter parking is expected to come to areas of the City where the streets are simply too small to handle any significant levels of additional on-street parking and the introduction of Residents Only parking is likely to reduce the available road space for parking for residents as it has to comply with specific installation standards that limit which stretches of road can be used for parking bays. The addition of pay and display short-term parking will further limit the space for residents.
  5. We therefore propose an entirely different approach: the creation of No Commuter Parking Zones that can be policed by residents and enforced by existing traffic wardens or PCSOs on application from residents for action on a persistent commuter parker.
  6. The designation of a No Commuter Parking Zone would be indicated by signs at entry points to estates with repeater signs as and where necessary. Once in place residents would be able to note the appearance of commuter parking by noting the time of arrival and departure of cars that are left all day. These car numbers can then be checked against DVLA records to identify the keeper and if found to be a non-resident the vehicle can be ticketed on its next appearance with a warning that any further all-day parking will attract a fixed penalty notice.
  7. It is expected that the message will get through quite quickly so there will be a brief and very active period of action followed by occasional flurries as new people try there luck and test out the system. By placing the initiative with local residents supported by statutory authorities we expect this to prove a simple and effective system that can be applied to other parts of the City.
  8. The corollary to such a system is that there should be sufficient commuter parking provision to cater for actual demand. This will require a radical change of approach to parking by Cambridge City Council and the recognition that public transport is often non-existent or badly located for some of our growth areas.
  9. We consider that adequate parking provision is essential for shops, offices and other premises offering 24/7 services and ensuring that such provision is made available for very short term needs by waiting time restrictions of 15 minutes for on-street parking for local shops and multi-level provision for larger complexes to conserve limited building space within the city.

Michael Bond
26 January 2014


As ever, parking is one of the most talked about local issues.  At the same meeting there were repeated requests for the police to act on pavement and verge parking, which they refuse to do.

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Redesigning Riverside – fast!

Riverside in Cambridge is a very busy walking and cycling route, an important commuting route to and from the city centre, and it could also be a fantastic leisure walkway connecting the city to Stourbridge Common and further afield.  It used to be an industrial area with the town gas works situated there amongst other uses, now it’s bordered by homes but the highway remains in a poor state with narrow pavements, poor drainage and a lumpy road surface.  Prompted by a ‘2014 wish for Riverside’ on Shape Your Place I investigated how we can improve things quickly.

As local councillor Richard Johnson points out, rebuilding this stretch with a boulevard is a long-term project, not least because of the cost.  However the city of New York is transforming its streets into places for people using the mantra ‘do bold experiments that are cheap to try out‘.  Let’s do that on Riverside by summer 2014.

What?

Diagram of some quick changes to Riverside between Priory Road and Riverside bridge.

Diagram of some quick changes to Riverside between Priory Road and Riverside bridge.

Let’s improve the next 300m from Priory Road (the end of the existing scheme) to Riverside bridge.  We can quickly create a continuous walkway to make Riverside better for people walking and cycling.

The layouts below are just an example, go to Streetmix and try out some alternate layouts for yourself!

Section A – As built

Section A, as built

Section A, as built.

The southern end of Riverside was rebuilt in 2011 with a wide boulevard/walkway.

The southern end of Riverside was rebuilt in 2011 with a wide boulevard/walkway on the left adjacent to the river. Credit: Klaas Brumann via CycleStreets

For comparison this is what has already been built: the walkway has a clear area 3m wide and the driving lane is 3.6m wide.

Section B – Priory Road to Saxon Road

Proposal for section B, Priory Road to Saxon Road.

Proposal for section B, Priory Road to Saxon Road.

Riverside is wide here so more parking could be created on the right with the temporary walkway extending from the left out to the dotted white line.

Riverside is wide here so more parking could be created on the right. The temporary walkway would extend from the left out to the dotted white line.

In this section a portion of the parking is changed from parallel to the kerb to perpendicular to provide more spaces.  The existing narrow pavement is widened by 2m and there is still space for a wide lane for cars and cycling.

Section C – Saxon Road to River Lane

Proposal for section C, Saxon Road to River Lane.

Proposal for section C, Saxon Road to River Lane.

With no pavement on the left people walking mix with cycles and cars in the road. By relocating car parking, the temporary walkway would use half the entire width here.

With no pavement on the left people walking mix with cycles and cars in the road. By relocating car parking, the temporary walkway would use half the entire width here, roughly continuing the dotted line in the right foreground of the picture.

The space is very limited here and there is no pavement on the river side.  By relocating the parking to the other side of Saxon Road this section of the Riverside can be closed to motor traffic and the walkway can continue uninterrupted.

Section D – River Lane to Riverside bridge

Proposal for section D, River Lane to Riverside bridge.

Proposal for section D, River Lane to Riverside bridge.

Riverside widens out again and by removing parking the walkway can be widened.

Riverside widens out again and by removing parking the walkway can be widened.

The existing parking on this section is removed so the walkway can be widened by 2m while keeping a wide driving and cycling lane.  The bollards could be moved forward from the bridge to the bottom of the path up to Newmarket Road/Tesco.

How?

The as-built scheme cost in excess of £300,000 for about 200m and took about nine months to build. I want the next 300m to be tried out quickly and cheaply. We can do this using only paint and planters or bollards both of which are inexpensive and easy to remove.

The street on the right of the triangular junction was improved (below) as a trial using paint and planters.

The street on the right of the triangular junction was improved (below) as a trial using paint and planters.

New York City is testing out new schemes quickly and cheaply as this 15 minute TED Talk by Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner of New York City, explains.

So let’s use paint and planters to try a continuous walkway on Riverside.  I don’t know what this would cost; suppose it was £10,000?  The County Council and the City Council’s Area Committees all have money they can allocate to small schemes like this, so how about a split between the County and the North and East Area Committees?  I think they could each find £3–£5k for this trial.  The changes could be made within a few weeks, so let’s have them in place by summer 2014.

Some people will say this scheme isn’t possible because of the removal of parking or because closing a portion of Riverside would cause problems, and that’s exactly why we need a trial: to see how it will work and what problems there might be.  And remember that the paint and planters can be easily removed.

The trial won’t fix the dodgy paving, the poor road surface or the bad drainage but it will improve Riverside for people walking by giving them more space and it could largely eliminate the contention between people walking, those on bicycles and in cars.  It will mean we have a rough design so when money becomes available we can start building it.

So how about it councillors?  Can you find the will and a small amount of money to start the transformation of Riverside?  Can you ‘do bold experiments that are cheap to try out’?

Update: One week on we have some commitments!

Update 2: On 25 March 2014 a motion from Ian Manning was passed by Cambridgeshire County Council with all but one councillor in favour.  It calls on the County to deliver projects using this fast trial approach.  The motion gives some very good reasons for doing this.  I congratulate Ian Manning on getting the motion passed and thank councillors for their support but most of all I look forward to faster, cheaper, better changes to our streets.

Parking versus traffic flow

You can’t please everyone, so just how important are the views of a small number of residents compared to the potential benefits to other road users?

This evening I was at one of two consultation meetings about the proposed changes to Histon Road and it looks like there will be the usual divide between local residents opposing any change and those using the area.

The proposals are fairly unexciting: to make a small improvement to bus reliability parking bays will be removed to be replaced by narrow cycle lanes so that buses and cycles can pass.  According to bus operators and  Bob Menzies (senior executive at Cambridgeshire County Council) buses get stuck behind cycles on this busy route into the city.  About £40,000 is available for the scheme with some money from the national Better Bus Areas fund and some to improve cycle safety at the Gilbert Road/Histon Road junction.  With only £40,000 available this is mainly a paint and signs scheme plus some traffic signal timing changes but the key part is the removal of parking to provide more space.

Parking on Histon Road via CycleStreets.

Parking on Histon Road via CycleStreets.

35 residents’ parking spaces will be removed and this should improve the traffic flow for the 21,000 vehicles, 200 buses/coaches and uncounted cycles that use this road every day (figures for 2011 from Cambridgeshire County Council).  Displaced residents’ cars will go to the Canterbury Street area, which is less subscribed than other parking areas in the city, but not by any means empty.

Traffic flow is not an end in itself and a clear road could increase traffic speeds which could lead to more collisions or more serious injuries.  It is hoped that the cycle lane markings will visually narrow the road and encourage good behaviour.

In essence the vehicles parked on the highway are causing an obstruction.  There is no right, in law, to park vehicles on the highway although it is accepted practice these days.

So on one hand we have the residents who live on a main road and will be very vocal.  On the other hand we have the many more people using the highway for its intended purpose who may not even know about the proposals.  If you use this route you should speak up.

This is where we need strategic thinking from the councillors who will make the decision on this scheme.  You can’t please everyone but you can please the thousands on the highway.

Cycle parking in Kite

Is cycle parking a ‘problem’ in the Kite area of Cambridge and should car parking spaces be replaced by cycle parking?  This is what Cambridge Cycling Campaign asked the County Council election candidates and from their responses there is limited support for this.  Ed Cearns, the Liberal Democrat candidate, thinks there is not a problem with cycle parking because “a number of properties have railings and many other residents have secured loops on the front wall of their property” (he also supports more cycle parking across the city).  Simon Sedgwick-Jell, the Green Party candidate, points out that the “parking of bikes in [the] street [is] a crime problem”.

Informally parked cycles on Victoria Street. Cycles can obstruct the pavement.

Informally parked cycles on Victoria Street. Cycles can obstruct the pavement.

On this wide pavement on Parkside cycles are out of the way.

On this wide pavement on Parkside cycles are out of the way.

There are some 200 cycles parked on the pavement in Kite, I wonder how many of these Mr Cearns tripped over while canvassing the area?  For able-bodied people with normal eyesight a little more care is needed but unfortunately cycles parked against railings and walls in terraced streets are a hazard to those with impaired eyesight (amongst others) in the same way that wheelie bins and cars on the pavement are.  Obstructions and trip hazards caused by cycles are a problem for anyone trying to walk in the streets of Kite.

While many of the cycles are secured to special hooks and railings as Mr Cearns points out, not all are.  Those not secured are at risk of theft with some 163 cycles reported stolen in Market ward in the three months to March 2013.[source]  Due to a concerted effort by Cambridgeshire Police neighbourhood teams cycle theft is falling.  Obviously with many thousands of cycles parked in the city centre theft is not only from residents in Kite.  There are also probably more thefts that have not been reported.

Cycles are not welcome on these railings on John Street.

Cycles are not welcome on these railings on John Street.

The City Council has approved a project to create up to 710 additional on-street cycle parking spaces, in addition to continuing to look for a location for a third cycle park.  However none of these on-street spaces are in Kite.  Market LibDems’ residents’ parking update newsletter says that some new residents’ car parking bays will be added, but there is no mention of cycle parking.

I believe we need some cycle parking for residents in Kite (and other areas of the city).  This parking needs to be convenient and secure.  By providing cycle parking we remove obstructions from the pavement, help reduce the opportunity for crime and make it easier for those who choose to travel by bike.

Cycle parking counts by street

On Saturday 27 April 2013 at around midday I took the following count:

Warkworth Street 36
Victoria Street 27
Parkside (east side, excluding police station) 23
Earl Street 19
Eden Street 19
New Square 18
Grafton Street 17
Warkworth Terrace 14
Orchard Street 9
Clarendon Street 7
Parker Street 6
Prospect Row 5
James Street 4
City Road 4
Adam and Eve Street 4
John Street 3
Elm Street 2
Eden Street Backway 1
Napier Street 1
Total 219
Just a few of the 36 cycles parked in Warkworth Street.

Just a few of the 36 cycles parked in Warkworth Street.

I did not count on East Road, Burleigh Street, Fitzroy Street or the Parker’s Piece side of Parkside because these are more likely to be cycles visiting the area.

The count includes cycles in front gardens as well as actually on the street because I want to estimate the demand.  Note that some properties in the area have internal cycle parking and some have garages that may have cycles in them.  So the total number of cycles parked in the area is unknown but is at least 219.

The vast majority of the cycles counted will be those of immediate residents however we cannot be sure of this.

Update: I did not count formal cycle parking (hooped stands) or car parking.  There is some cycle parking in the area, particularly at the edges, and yet hundreds of cycles are parked on the street.  It has also been pointed out that some bikes may have been abandoned.

Motorism in the County Council elections

Candidate's leaflets, nothing from the Green Party yet.

Candidate’s leaflets, nothing from the Green Party yet.

What is the most important issue in the forthcoming Cambridgeshire County Council elections? The £2,000,000 per year interest charge for the Misguided Bus that may never be recovered? No. The £1,000 per pupil funding shortfall for secondary schools? No. How Cambridge will expand over the next decade? No, it’s residents’ parking.

There's a demand for residents' cycle parking in Kite, and other areas.

There’s a demand for residents’ cycle parking in Kite, and other areas.

Sheila Lawlor, the  Conservative candidate in Market Ward, makes the astonishing statement that she will ‘Take whatever action is needed so residents can park.’ I would imagine she is talking about car parking, which is a shame as there is considerable demand for cycle parking too.

Meanwhile Ed Cearns, the Liberal Democrat candidate, believes he can ‘…make the city centre an even better place to live by easing parking problems for residents…’

Labour’s Dan Ratcliffe supports the upgrading of the A14, which is likely to ‘set back a long way‘ public transport, cycling and walking in the city centre according to Tim Bick (leader of the City Council).

This motorism, addiction to motoring, is odd since the lack of cars and traffic is part of what gives the city centre its character.  It’s also odd as we may have reached Peak Car so this expansion of parking is beginning to look like a policy from the last century and not one for the future. The candidates also seem to be re-enforcing the idea that residents own the piece of tarmac outside their house.  It’s not the County Council’s responsibility to find you a place to park your car any more than it is their responsibility to find space for your 42″ TV.

It is also surprising as the March 2011 Census tells us that 40% of households in the Market area do not have a car or van.  So who’s going to represent those against the privatisation of the public highway?

Your Council Tax is £0 – finding a value for a parking space

A young man in an inexpensive suit knocks on a door in John Street.  The householder answers.

Man in suit: Good morning.  Are you concerned about the cost of your monthly bills?  Would you like to save £132 a month?
Householder: Ah, yes.  Are you from the electricity company?
Man: I’m from the City Council.  If you give me your residents’ parking permit then we will pay your Council Tax, that’s a saving of £1593 a year! Sign here and save money right away.
Householder: But where will I put my car?
Man: We have a special offer on, if you sign up now I can give you free membership of the car club and two thousand driving miles.

After listening to the Freakonomics podcast Parking is Hell I began to wonder about the price of car parking in Cambridge city centre.  The podcast describes that in some cities a significant proportion of cars are cruising for parking and not actually going anywhere.  Economists and academics have suggested that the price for parking can be adjusted to ensure there is always one or two empty spaces so there is no wasteful cruising for parking and drivers find parking more easily. A project called SF park is trying this out in San Francisco.

If you ask people what they want in a suitcase they say ‘lighter’ but even a light suitcase filled with 15kg of clothes is still hard to move. The solution was adding wheels to make the suitcase easy to move. The moral is listen to people’s problems and think laterally about solutions.

In the Kite area of Cambridge there are continual moans that there are not enough residents’ parking spaces and yet there is anecdotal evidence that many of these parked cars don’t move from one day to the next or sometimes week to week. Local politicians seem keen on providing more spaces too [Source: Market Liberal Democrats newsletter April 2013]. Although people are asking for more parking spaces I’m not sure that this is actually what they want, here’s why:

  • 30 parking spaces + 0 free spaces = unhappy resident 😦
  • 50 parking spaces + 0 free spaces = unhappy resident 😦
  • 29 parking spaces + 1 free space = happy resident 🙂

Perhaps the price for this value resource isn’t right? Perhaps some people would respond to a financial incentive to give up their permission to park so there is room for others? But what is the value of this (notional) parking space?

What is the value of this parking space?

What is the value of this parking space?

In my post on city centre parking prices we saw that residents are charged £0.11 for all day parking whereas parking in the Grafton East car park would cost £24 for the same period – quite a difference! At £24 per day a residents’ parking permit would cost over £8,000 per annum, wow! But that comparison is too simple because the car parks do not have a utilization of 100% and you might expect a discount for bulk buying a year’s parking, etc.

Cambridge City Council got a revenue of £1,574 per annum per space in the Grafton East car park and more than £2,000 per space in the Adam and Eve Street car park in 2011/12 [Source: Cambridge City Council, response to Freedom of Information request 2142].  So theoretically the City Council could change residents’ parking spaces in to on-street pay and display spaces and receive an additional income of £1,500 per annum. The Band D Council Tax for 2012/13 is £1,512. Hmm.

Would you give up your residents’ parking permit in return for paying no Council Tax?