Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Fathoming February

As I write this post parts of the UK are experiencing problems with flooding, notably in Yorkshire and Wales on this occasion. The rainfall figures are quite striking, though what is being reported as extreme weather in that it is severe and unusual is now happening with increasing regularity - in this sense extreme events are becoming more 'normal'.

It is the purpose of this piece to illustrate how unusual weather is becoming increasingly usual, just as the scientific evidence on climate change said would happen. I could delve into the details on the current UK weather to illustrate my point but an even more striking example is last month, so I will be fathoming out the February 2019 weather.

For the first time ever the UK recorded temperatures over 20 degrees centigrade during February 2019, breaking the record two days in succession (see here). Understandably this attracted positive comments from people who enjoyed the warmth and sunshine. Amongst the media reporting was the front page headline 'Fabruary' in The Sun. However, is it really fab that humans beings have such a huge impact on Earth's systems that weather extremes occur with increasing frequency? It is clearly not fab, as considering farming and food, wildlife, air quality and the global picture straightforwardly confirms. 

If you are a farmer you rely on having certain kinds of weather for your crops and animals at certain times of the year, so when the weather is extreme or unusual there are consequences for yields, profits and survival in business - and therefore for our food prices and food security. For wildlife, temperatures are a stimulus to action: plant growth; emergence from hibernation; whether to migrate or to stop and seek food, water and nesting sites following migration...but what was in sync goes out of sync when climatic and wildlife systems change at very different rates. Our food production depends on healthy insect populations, not least for pollination of crops and for natural control of pest species.
Take a look at this photo showing the air across London on the 26 February 2019 when the temperature record was set and you will see a lovely blue sky and a clear sunny day. You will also see the haze of air pollution that is causing climate change and affecting our health due to its toxicity.
 
 
It's not just in the UK where temperature records are being broken at this time.  It is winter here but summer in Australia - and they have just has the hottest summer ever recorded (see here). This has meant increased hospital admissions due to the heat, more bushfires threatening lives and forests, power blackouts due to the rise in air conditioner use - and mass deaths amongst wildlife, including horses, bats and fish. It's not fab, it's a matter of life and death.
 
 

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Reviewing my reading

1.What is economic progress and success?
Interesting development I thought...and then I read the phrase 'promoting sustainable economic growth'. You can't sustain growth on a finite planet so the phrase is a contradiction in terms. So much of what has claimed to be green in Bristol has failed to recognise this.
 
A former Maplin store that has stood empty since the company went into administration last year is to be transformed into a £1.5m sustainability hub.
 
2.Wildlife and animal welfare: There used to be ten million elephants roaming across Africa, now there are less than half a million - and this is the kind of decision now taken.
 
A report by cabinet ministers in Botswana has recommended lifting a four-year hunting ban and the introduction of elephant culling.
 
3.Food and health: If you go vegan or vegetarian beware of unhealthy, inaccurately labelled, processed, pricey food options.
 
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said many products are being identified as "healthy" because they are vegetarian, vegan, free from certain ingredients, or have fewer calories. But, it said, many have high levels of fat, salt or sugar, and are highly processed.
 
4.Human environmental impacts: Human food increasingly eaten by wildlife causes harmful changes including in their DNA,  in their general health due to vitamin deficiency and increasing the possibility of disease spread from pets to wildlife.
 
Animals are what they eat. It is one of the subtle but important biological changes associated with the fact that domestic livestock, food waste and even our pets are becoming integral parts of the diets of some species.
 
5.Species protection: Excellent news for a species that is very good for biodiversity.
 
Beavers will become a protected species in Scotland from May, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has said. The long-awaited and controversial move - opposed by many farmers - follows extensive wrangling over how their numbers should be managed.
 
6.Habitat protection: You wouldn't want to dump tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef would you? But it's been given permission.
 
Australia plans to dump one million tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef. Despite strict laws on dumping waste, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) gave the go-ahead.
 
7.Air pollution: How can we have confidence that the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees is really committed to getting clean air that is healthy & unpolluted when this keeps happening? It is the poorest, most vulnerable in society who suffer most from air pollution.
 
Bristol’s Green group has condemned the Labour-led council for missing a second deadline to provide a clean air plan for the city.
 
The plan was supposed to be written by the end of 2018 and the authority was given until 21 February to respond. In a letter sent to the environment minister on Thursday 21 February, elected mayor Marvin Rees said the date had "regrettably not been met".
 
8.Biodiversity and interdependence: Seems to me that we are cutting off our nose to spite our face by destroying and reducing biodiversity vital to our food supply and livelihood.
 
The plants, animals, and micro-organisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline, according to a UN study. If these critical species are lost, the report says, it "places the future of our food system under severe threat".
 
9.The importance of verification: A piece on the economic and environmental pros and cons of Bristol Airport expansion - with properly checked figures - written in response to a Bristol city councillor who favours both the expansion of the airport and a zero carbon city.
 
I totally respect the fact that people (especially politicians from different parties) are entitled to hold different views. However, when those opinions are written down, for example in an article for this publication, then they really need to be fact-checked before the author goes to print.
 
10.Climate change: To go zero carbon we certainly need to be doing this - and sooner than within 6yrs if possible. (If we are to tackle climate change on the timescale scientists say is needed ALL our homes should be zero carbon not just new homes).
 
New homes should be banned from connecting to the gas grid within six years to tackle climate change, UK government advisers say. They want new-build homes in the countryside to be warmed by heat pumps - and cooking done on induction hobs, rather than using gas boilers and hobs. In cities, new housing estates and flats should be kept warm by networks of hot water, says the report.
 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Building sustainability requires processes of change that are sustainable.

In my zero carbon Bristol by 2030 post I referred to having the practicalities in mind when setting targets and timescales, particularly when these are about radical, fundamental changes. I'm saying if we don't first have an intense period of  public engagement and the building up of two-way social learning about the actions needed to tackle climate change then there wont be ownership of the problems and potential solutions . If we don't first have engagement and ownership then targets and timescales will be commonly seen as imposed, they will generate a significant backlash and action on climate change would be enacted by fewer people and organisations. Action would be slowed and less effective.
 
In addition to targets and timescales consistent with moving towards sustainability we need a process of change that is sustainable.
 
My experience over several decades of campaigning tells me we need engagement throughout society in particular to:  
 
  • Avoid or minimise situations where politicians and their parties aren't fully aware of the implications of what they have signed up to 
  • Eliminate or reduce signing up to targets and timescales just for short term political gain, with little/no intention to act to achieve them 
  • Avoid the adoption of contradictory, incoherent policies and actions 
  • Generate good levels of public awareness of and active support for the kind of measures needed, with their associated costs and benefits
  • Avoid plans, documents and agreements that do not address the fundamental drivers of unsustainability
  • Establish an ongoing, flourishing process of two-way social learning about the actions needed
  • Cooperatively form and enact plans and actions as well as their ongoing monitoring and adjustment 
Really engaging means: open exchange of ideas; establishing mutual understanding; providing effective, timely information; promoting trust; highlighting decision-making processes; dealing with complex, possibly controversial issues; obtaining unique insights; serving each other.  The best engagement  develops a common view, a sense of purpose – and allows communities to take control and set agendas. This is the way to learn to live better lives and take us towards sustainability in a sustainable way.
 
I'm referring to widespread engagement throughout the whole of society, to a level that creates a critical mass to keep change going. I applaud anyone who gets involved and tries to make a difference, especially the school pupils and students striking recently. However, we have to go well beyond protests and marches that are sadly not representative of the public in general and have engagement involving individuals, civil society, business and the state the like of which we have not seen before. The kind of 'consultations' currently conducted by local and central government are not genuine and certainly not what I am referring to. If there was a critical mass to tackle climate change on the scale and at the pace needed it would already be happening - but it is not and so we need to focus first on getting it.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Zero carbon Bristol by 2030: how?

I'm all for ambitious targets and actions that get to the root of problems, consistent with the scientific evidence, especially when they are as serious and urgent as climate change. I know that when targets and timescales for change are set however, it is very important to have the practicalities uppermost in mind. Setting targets and timescales that are not smart, not achievable and not realistic can be counterproductive. I have mixed feelings about the plans to make Bristol carbon neutral (net zero carbon) by 2030 and the Green New Deal in the United States, which includes the radical step of decarbonising the US economy in ten years.

One particular concern I have is that politicians and their parties aren't fully aware of the implications of what they have signed up to. Or that they are aware and have signed up just for short term political gain, with little/no intention to act to achieve the target and timescale. Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and Greens all support making Bristol net zero carbon by 2030 but this is a very short timescale and the city certainly does not have the powers and the money to achieve it at the moment. Nor can Bristol achieve net zero carbon on its own - significant, coherent, coordinated action is needed across all levels of government, business and civil society. 

It is far from clear that there is public awareness of and support for the kind of measures needed to achieve a net zero carbon city (by which I mean net zero for all carbon emissions, direct and indirect, from production and consumption). There have been plans, documents and agreements in Bristol in the past eg Green City in the early 1990s, Bristol Local Agenda 21 developed during the mid 1990's and launched in 2000, winning European Green Capital 2015 status. None of this has stopped Bristol having an ecological footprint approx. three times its land area or addressed the fundamental drivers of unsustainability. 

So, would I not adopt the target of achieving a net zero carbon Bristol by 2030? Not exactly. I would adopt the target after an intense period of genuine and widespread public engagement about it, if public support for it was clearly demonstrated and an ongoing process of two-way social learning about the actions needed was clearly going to flourish. I would then cooperatively form and enact plans to build a conserver city (details here). Any plans and actions will need ongoing monitoring and adjustment.
 
 
Where does the leadership of Bristol stand? On the Sunday Politics West of 3 Feb 2019 Elected Mayor Marvin Rees strongly & publicly committed himself to both a zero carbon city and to expanding Bristol Airport. Supporting Bristol Airport expansion on the scale proposed means a lot more carbon emissions and sends out all the wrong signals to the public, to businesses and to politicians. Mayor Rees was backed by Bristol Conservative Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate Mark Weston and this consensus only adds to my concerns. That Bristol has been threatened with legal action by central govt for not submitting plans to tackle air pollution on schedule subtracts from my confidence that we will get social, economic and environmental action on the scale and pace we need too. 
 

Relevant links:

http://bristolgreencapital.org/bristol-carbon-neutral-2030-ambition-nov-2018/

https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2018/11/14/bristol-greens-declare-climate-emergency-and-bring-citys-co2-emissions-target-forward-20-years/

https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3066475/bristol-and-manchester-unveil-fresh-plans-to-tackle-climate-emergency

https://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/action-needed-for-bristol-to-be-carbon-neutral-by-2030

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/en/

https://www.c40.org/press_releases/global-cities-commit-to-make-new-buildings-net-zero-carbon-by-2030

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47198581

http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/city_footprint2.pdf

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Rudolph the Reindeer threatened

Where are we on tackling climate change? Judged by actions taken we are not even close to achieving the scale, pace and scope of the changes needed according to the best available scientific evidence.
 
Judged by words spoken and 'agreements' reached (in Katowice recently; in Paris previously; and on many previous occasions going back for at least 30 years) we are on our way, with common rules on how carbon is to be cut, how finance is supplied to less economically developed countries and how the monitoring of any actions taken will be done.
 
Am I impressed by the greenspeak? Not at all. What was agreed to in the Paris climate pact: was far too vague; much of it was not legally binding; and would not keep climate change that much below 3 degrees of warming even if fully implemented. In any case what was agreed there has often not been implemented - since the words were spoken carbon emissions have increased further.
 

The recent climate talks in Katowice nearly failed altogether at one point. A great deal of time has passed since the best scientific evidence told us that we need urgent, large scale and wide ranging action to tackle climate change. Yet only this year, decades on, have common rules on cutting carbon emissions, providing finance and checking on whether commitments made are being adhered to, been agreed.
 
Legal liability for causing climate change has not been agreed, even though we have continued causing more climate change long after it was known to bring huge problems, whilst storing even more problems for the future. Issues where disagreement persists, such as the rules governing carbon markets, have been kicked down the road to future talks.
 
Disagreement on how to regard the scientific evidence still persists: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United States all thought it was wrong to welcome the recent UN report which pointed out that far from being on the road to achieving 1.5 degrees of warming (included in the Paris climate pact as an ambition) we are instead heading for 3 degrees. 
 

Commitments to cut carbon emissions are still entered into on a voluntary basis. The commitments currently made would not cut carbon deeply enough or rapidly enough. Urgency is lacking. Plans are insufficient.  Actions are even more insufficient - or are making things even worse.

The signals that need to be sent to the public, to all levels of government and to the markets, are not being sent. They needed to be sent some time ago.

As things stand we are set to get 4.5 degrees of warming if we take no action. Following our current policies results in 3.5 degrees of warming - and implementing current voluntary commitments results in 2.9 degrees. None of these scenarios will lessen or prevent the serious and large scale consequences of climate change.

 
The consequences of climate change have already been impacting us seriously, from: huge and increasingly frequent forest fires in the United States; to droughts in and accelerated human migration from Africa; to flooding in Somerset, Gloucestershire and elsewhere; to the health impacts of heatwaves in Australia; to the reduction in the minimum extent of Arctic sea ice from 7.7 million square kilometres in 1980 to 4.4 million in 2018; to the reduction in Arctic reindeer numbers by more than half in the last twenty years. Climate change impacts are everywhere.
 
If there is a Rudolph the reindeer living somewhere in the Arctic then he is threatened by climate change - with some herds becoming 90% smaller over the last two decades. Why is this happening? Less food energy in, more food energy out, in short. 
 
Reindeer like to eat lichen. A warmer Arctic climate has resulted in taller plants which outcompete the low growing lichen. In addition there are drought conditions in some parts of the Arctic. In other places there is more rainfall which freezes on the snowy ground, creating a hard layer that reindeer cannot push through to get at the lichen. All this means less reindeer food is available and more time and energy is spent looking for and digging around for it. Warmer conditions also mean higher bug populations which plague the reindeer, who use up a lot of energy trying to get them off or finding places with fewer bugs around.  
 
Further information:
 
The Paris climate agreement:
 
The Katowice talks on climate change:
 
Arctic Reindeer number cut by half:
 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Arctic Report Card, tracking recent environmental changes:  

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Safe Wells Rd Crossing


I have signed the e-petition here calling for a safe crossing on Wells Rd in Knowle between Somerset Rd and Marston Rd. I urge others to sign it, to help in increasing the pressure for safety and security at this location. Here is the full text of the e-petition:

We the undersigned call on Bristol City Council to put in place a safe crossing point on the Wells Road between Somerset Road and Marston Road.


This area of Wells Road is home to several nurseries, a school, care homes, churches, and a GP surgery. It is a natural crossing point for families living on both sides of Wells Road to get local schools and nurseries, parks and other amenities. Currently there is no safe crossing point between the traffic lights at Totterdown shops, and the traffic lights next to Broadwalk Shopping Centre.

The Wells Road has two lanes of busy traffic, as well as a bus lane at this point. There have been several pedestrian accidents and near-misses involving both adults and children, the latest involving a 4-year-old who was hit by a motorcycle in October. We ask the council to act now to improve safety and to prevent other serious and fatal accidents.
To find our more:

Facebook:
You can also help by taking part in survey about known pedestrian accidents and near misses on the Wells Road: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/safewellsroadcrossing
Started by: Ben Smith
This ePetition runs from 05/11/2018 to 31/03/2019.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

What is truth in an era of fake news & post-truth, post-fact, post-reality politics?

This blog post is about truth (and thus, perhaps, falsity?). Its purpose is to provide an overview of current theories of truth, given that some say we are in an era of fake news and post-truth, post-fact and post-reality politics. Terms such as true, fact and reality are being used in ethical and political debate by many - including those claiming to be liberal-minded - as if they are straightforward, beyond debate and a matter that can be definitively settled by certain experts or authorities. 

Is it not rather lazy thinking just to assert that the truth is the truth and fact is fact (?) as well as really not telling us much at all about what this actually means? I'm for a more practical approach in relation to matters of truth, falsehood and uncertainties - an approach which roundly considers: verifiability; warranted assertability; accuracy; success; and good technique & best practice that takes us towards the truth, rather than truth in some absolute, either/or sense based on an 'objectively' perceived 'real world'.   

Why is this important? And why an overview? Its important because of the centrality of truth in debates. Additionally, truth  is a very large subject. It’s also a very varied subject, raising many issues. Truth has been discussed in its own right and in philosophy for thousands of years and is always current. Many issues raised bridge from theories of knowledge to theories of reality. What are the problems of truth? What are truths? What, if anything makes them true? Is there a deep, difficult, discarnate problem of truth?

Lets cut to the chase and consider paradox.Truth seems to denote a property, expressed by the affirmation is true. But if this is so, of what is truth a property? What are the primary bearers of truth? Is it the case that a statement is false if and only if it is not true as two-valued logic (bivalance) tells us?. There are problems here, including: vagueness and uncertainty in the world and our multiple perceptions of it; incompatibility with constructivism; semantic paradoxes eg the liar paradox where a liar says they are lying or that everything they say is false, posing the conundrum that if liar is lying, then they are telling the truth, which in turn means means they are lying.  

Are there greys in the black and white, true or false scheme? Or other ways of thinking about true/false? The principle of bivalance (two-valued) in classical logic says no. But consider the implications of a statement such as 'Don't believe a word I say'. If you don't believe a word I say then you should not believe the statement saying you should not believe me, in which case you should believe me, which means you should not believe me...See the similar example in the image. It appears that there is more to truth than not being false, so what theories of truth are there and what advantages and disadvantages do they have?

Neo-classical theories of truth group into three main types: Coherence theory; Correspondence theory; Pragmatist theories.

Coherence theory of truth: the truth is when a proposition coheres with others ie it is a member of a well defined body of other propositions (consistent, coherent, possibly with other advantages). We commonly test our beliefs in the light of other beliefs, including perceptions; and cannot step outside our own best system of belief. But what does cohere mean? And don’t some propositions have to be assigned a truth-value independently?

The correspondence theory of truth: when what is said about the world is true it depends on how the world is. Propositions are true if and only if they correspond with the facts (or something equivalent). This theory - perhaps the most prevalent one -  has these advantages: it is simple observation based; it has strong intuitive appeal. But we have no access to facts independently of the statements and beliefs we hold: so what is our fix on facts? Whose facts and reality and interpreted from what perspective? Facts and their interpretation are often nothing like as straightforward as they seem - especially in ethics and politics.

Pragmatist theories of truth: the focus is the usefulness and practical value of accepting a proposition (James/Peirce); truth is the end of inquiry (Peirce). A precise, settled, definitive view of truth within pragmatism is perhaps more difficult to pin down than for correspondence and coherence theories.  However, we can say that there is a strong connection with accuracy, success, good technique & best practice…making meaning through use possible. But this perhaps raises the question of whether there are false things it might be useful to accept and true things that it wouldn’t be useful to accept (though this assumes just two categories, true and false - and most of science can be regarded as taking us towards the truth rather than being true in an absolute sense).

Slogans used in reviews of the theories of truth sum up some of what I've said so far. A belief is true if and only if it corresponds to a fact (correspondence theory). A belief is true if and only if it is part of a coherent, consistent system of beliefs (coherence theory). Truth is the end of inquiry; truth is what it is satisfactory to believe (pragmatist theory).

Lets turn now to contrasting correspondence and coherence theories. Correspondence: seeks to capture intuition; there is a content to world relation; there is object to world pair up with true propositions;  it tends towards a realist metaphysics, though not all adherents take this stance. Coherence: not content to world but content to content or belief to belief; tends to anti-realist metaphysics, though not all adherents take this stanceReification, making something real or concrete, is an issue for both correspondence and coherence theories of truth however - because some noun has a use then they assume there must be something to which it refers either in the world or within a system of beliefs. Having a noun does not have to mean having a distinct topic and a whole lot of deep, difficult and discarnate metaphysics theory to go with it. 

But can the problems posed by paradoxes be overcome? This brings us to Tarski and the semantic theory of truth. He was concerned to overcome semantic paradoxes that occur in natural languages. He said truth can only be defined for a language that does not contain its own truth-predicate. Tarski defined truth for an object language, a natural language, in an appropriate metalanguage. His theory finds quite broad-based positive evaluation mostly though not only from adherents of correspondence and/or deflationary theories of truth (see later). It provides a useful toolbox for philosophers to use but it is controversial just how legitimate the appropriation of Tarski’s ideas is eg for giving a semantically sound description of natural languages.

In broad terms each neo-classical theory of truth is related to a particular metaphysical stance: realism or anti-realism.

Features of realism: the world exists objectively, independent of how we think about or describe it; our thoughts and claims are about that world; tending to unrestricted use of the principle of bivalence. One can generalise about realist metaphysics but its complicated by a variety of possible subtleties and stances. Realism is associated, though not exclusively, with adherents of correspondence theory. Issue: how can realists make or refrain from making statements whilst fruitfully mounting a philosophical gloss on what they are doing as they make the statements (a point well made by verificationists, some pragmatists, and minimalists). How can humans objectively know and make claims about the world independent of themselves?

Features of anti-realism: rejection of bivalence (two-valued logic); claims are correct subject to verification; identification of truth with warranted assertability; has idealism as its most radical form. One can generalise about anti-realist metaphysics but it is complicated by a variety of possible subtleties and stances. Anti-realism is associated, though not exclusively, with coherentism  (and some pragmatism). But is it not an obvious fact that we do not create worlds but find ourselves in one? Perhaps but we cannot make claims about the world completely separate from our thoughts about it and our observations of it - objectivity is at the least a problematic thing.

Truth pluralism: proposes that there are multiple ways for truth bearers to be true (depending on the domains of discourse a correspondence, coherence or pragmatist approach may be best; Wright). The implication, it seems, is that there are multiple concepts of truth or that the concept true is ambiguous (this is debated). An interesting pluralist development (Lynch) talks of the functional role of truth and of truth be realised in different ways in different settings (multiple realisability). Making claims about material objects for instance may be very different from making moral, ethical and political claims.

Deflationism (in brief): redundancy and minimalist theories of truth, as opposed to the substantive theories: correspondence; coherence; pragmatic (though the division is not always that clear cut).

Truth and language relate closely. The key issues and concepts here are - what are the primary truth bearers (beliefs, propositions, sentences, utterances…)? What conditions must the world meet if the statement is to be true (truth conditions)? For many approaches to truth, a theory of truth is a theory of truth conditions. Positions taken depend on one’s metaphysical stance (or lack of any significant metaphysics in one’s stance). 

Theories of truth that are theories of truth conditions can be seen as part of a theory of meaning (Glanzberg). But how do we get from sounds, inscriptions…to communications and understanding? How is meaning related to what we know (if it is)? Study: noises; grammatical sentences; saying something meaningful; what is done in saying things; effects on hearers…Issues: loss of confidence in determinate meaning (see postmodern and Quinean critiques).

Finally to the matter of assertion. Platitude: Truth is the aim of assertion (asserts Dummett!). But surely many speakers don’t aim at truth? There’s more behind the platitude than is first apparent though (assertion as a practice in which certain rules are constitutive; the point of the concept of truth or what it is used for).





Sources:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/

https://www.iep.utm.edu/truth/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth

https://www.iep.utm.edu/par-liar/

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The case for bespoke, co-designed, residents parking schemes

Residents parking schemes are a way of regulating and controlling parking in particular places where a need is established. In cities especially they are one key part of the jigsaw of sustainable transport along with walking, cycling, trains, buses and safe speeds in residential areas.

There are clear indications of demand in parts of Bristol for a new residents parking scheme to be established (as in Totterdown, where a Labour Councillor has expressed his frustration with the current process). There are also clear indications that some existing schemes should be expanded (as in Southville, where Green Councillors have worked for this but have been thwarted). Yet Bristol's Mayor Marvin Rees (who halted the residents parking scheme roll out planned under previous Mayor George Ferguson) and Council have made it clear that the onus is on local councillors to demonstrate overwhelming demand - and have provided obstacles rather than support.

South Bristol Voice, March 2018
Controlled parking gives residents and those who visit them a greater likelihood of being able to park close to their home through the issuing of permits eg for those living close to and in shopping areas or places attracting traffic seeking to park for other reasons. Residents parking schemes are particularly justified where there just isn't the space for those living in an area to park. This may be due to current restrictions. It may be due to significant take up of parking space by visitors or commuters parking. 

In addition to prioritising parking for residents and those who visit them, residents parking schemes need to take account of a range of other factors.  These include: the requirements of pedestrians, people with disabilities and cyclists; customers to shops & attractions; essential business users; visitors to community facilities; loading; discouraging of long stay commuter parking on street; managing dangerous and inconsiderate parking; reducing congestion; encouraging more & better public transport.

These are the sort of criteria that need to be generally satisfied to begin to design a scheme: a majority of residents have parking problems; parking spaces are regularly taken up by extraneous vehicles; less than half of residents can park off the road (in conservation areas this guideline might be relaxed); the area concerned is mostly residential; there is genuine engagement by the authorities with locals and plenty of reasonable opportunities for a wide range of people to be involved; traffic management needs are met; schemes will be implemented via suitable Traffic Regulation Orders.

When designing residents parking schemes (best done in close collaboration with each local community ie co-design) the rationale should involve providing for a variety of residential, retail and other businesses, education, community facilities and visitor attractions. In the past Bristol's approach has worked to have: permit-only bays where predominantly residential; pay & display around retail & employment centres; shared bays where mix of retail/business & residential; safety and congestion related waiting restrictions.

Types of parking permits made available can range widely beyond residents and visitors such as relatives, to business, education, medical, traders and more. Many variations in number of permits, registrations per permit, free permits to meet particular needs and vehicle types, cost of permits for different categories and more are possible. Areas covered and the times within which rules and charges apply can be varied. There is a lot of flexibility and local authorities should be able to offer everyone support, information and advice on travel and parking.

Residential parking can and should be co-designed with communities and neighbourhoods to establish bespoke schemes to meet local needs.  I worry that due to some of the history of the implementation of residents parking schemes in Bristol we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater - we need a lead from the Mayor, Council and MPs to enable a democratic and strategic approach.