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.

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