“Provide Parking!”?

The simple solution to the death of the high street touted by Internet bores* but barely mentioned by “TV retail Expert, Mary Portas”, in her recent report is free parking. Portas focuses instead on silly “use-category” legislation and other red-tape, while suggesting the high street must adapt to an environment where Online becomes the dominant channel, perhaps by allowing retail to retreat to a “core” town-centre, allowing shops to be converted into homes on the edge of the CBD.

I have had many arguments online, but none more heated, vicious and personal than when trying to get car-owners to admit to the externalities caused by car ownership. Any attempt to make the motorist pay for these externalities (most of which, such as congestion, only affect other motorists), is seen as an evil attack by shadowy forces in the “war on the motorist” or a “nudge” and therefore an anathema to the “Libertarian”. It isn’t a nudge, but just an attempt to get a market solution (something libertarians are supposed to support) to the problem of insufficient capacity on the roads. Motorists just can’t accept that even as expensive as it is now, the Car is ridiculously heavilly subsidised, and few if any externalites are charged at anything like their true cost. By far the most obvious and pressing is the issue of town-centre parking.

Why don’t councils simply provide more parking spaces? Well land is costly, and motorists are unwilling to move more than about 200m (in practice it’s often more like 50m) from their car. In fact, they want to park directly outside the shop, and they don’t want to pay for it. Yet parking spaces are extraordinarily expensive: several tens of thousands per space at ground level, more above ground, and hundreds of thousands per space below. Put the demand for free parking another way: motorists want to enjoy exclusive access to a piece of town-centre land with hugely expensive, single use, physically ugly infrastructure, for “free”. Of course, by “free” motorists mean they expect the retailer to pay for the pleasure of the motorists’ custom by providing these facilities out of their profit margin.

This is why councils are keen on Park & Ride. Land is cheap on the edge of town and a shuttle bus is cheap to provide. Generally speaking, given the amount of time spent circulating to find a space, most motorists would be better off driving to a park and ride and taking the bus. The problem is motorists hate being more than 200m from their car. Time spent looking for a space is ignored. Time spent on the bus isn’t (perhaps with good reason). Even if successful in the search for a space, you’re still imposing costs on others. The externality of parking outside a shop is to be found in the prevention of someone else doing so, and in the increased congestion as that person then circulates to find another parking space.

I wonder whether a variable pricing solution has any merit. Basically parking spaces should be costed on the number of free spaces in the immediate environs. If there are lots of spaces free on the street, or on that section of car-park, the price falls. If there are few free spaces, if you want to park at the supermarket’s front door, or take the last bay on a street for example, you pay much more. Set the algorithm, and let the punters decide. I would always park where it was cheapest. This could also be viewed as an efficient fat-tax as the obese always fight hardest for the most convenient spots for them to waddle fatly towards their doughnut emporium.

This is, of course a “nudge” and therefore unacceptable. Only providing what the motorist wants, free of charge (they pay “road tax” don’t you know?) is acceptable. Of course a retailer, who has to pay rents on the shop and rates for all that “free” parking, passes it back onto the customer in the form of higher ticket prices on the goods he sells. In response the motorist enjoys shopping as a leisure activity, browses the goods, has a coffee, and then goes home and buys whatever it was he was looking for, online. Thus the Motorists’ demand for free parking is contributing to the coming dominance of online retail.

The other reason that councils don’t provide unlimited free parking is that were they to do so, life would be made unbearable by congestion, as everyone wants to use the facilities at the same time. Roads have limited capacity and cannot get the people who want to park to and from their spots sufficiently smoothly. There’s a balance between road capacity and parking provision – there’s no point increasing parking capacity beyond that of the roads to sustain it. That capacity is limited by pinch-points, which in urban areas are often medieval centres with narrow streets. no-one is suggesting turning Cambridge into Milton Keynes are they?

Larger big-box stores will continue to carry the cost of high-street locations, but accept they will be mere show-rooms for delivery or eventual online order. The Greengrocer, butcher & fishmonger were killed by the supermarket, who provide the same service, cheaper and more conveniently. The town-centre shop is going to be (broadly) killed by the website. Just as there are a few butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers left, catering to a niche of foodies who demand extremely high quality and value the personal touch, it seems likely that the retail industry will be dominated by out-of-town for those who demand to drive, relegating the High-Street to specialist shops, many of which will operate significant online businesses. Here, e-bay is the shopkeeper’s friend, and the catchement area of the shop is expanded by the Internet. Ultimately, the High street will become a leisure and social destination dominated by specialist shops with wide catchement areas, often locaed in clusters, coffee, alcohol, food, and possibly entertainment and culture rather than retail. It will be up to imaginative town councils to find a way to keep the whole thing alive. Portas is right. Cutting the red-tape, expanding markets, and altering use rules to make them more flexible is a better solution than concreting over more of the countryside, or building more multi-storey car-parks.

Research suggests that retailers consistently over-estimate the importance of motorists and parking to their turnover, and underestimate the importance of users of other forms of transport. In particular, Motorists don’t spend any more than other customers, but they prevent users of other forms of transport getting to the shop, which could generate higher traffic. The fact you can park a dozen bicycles outside a shop more than makes up for any lost revenue due to “anti-motorist” policies such as pedestrianisation or shared-space schemes. Users of public transport, Cyclists and pedestrians can also enjoy a drink with their retail-therapy, motorists can’t.

The fact is the demise of Town-Centres as retail dominated spaces is absolutely inevitable unless people can be persuaded to get more than 200m from their car. If you value the high-street, as most people claim to do, you have to use it, and pay to park your car. (Or take a bicycle). Me? I’m not fussed. I like the Internet and never saw shopping as a leisure activity. I find ‘poundland’ which appears to be replacing Woolworths on in every town-centre depressing, but that’s a mere statement of taste. Meh.

*I am aware of the crashing hypocrisy.

42 replies
  1. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:

    Sorry this is complete bollocks.

    If you want me and my business in your town you have to make it viable for me to get there. Simple as for your total nonsense about costs, bah

    I OWN the land MY office car parking is on yet I'm charged £600 PER SPACE per year rates.

    Lets see you get an IKEA flat pack home on your stupid bike

  2. ndru
    ndru says:

    Woolfiesmiff – what you don't get is that there are many more people who don't drive than those who drive. So perhaps you should go to an out of town centre while people on bicycles, foot or getting there via public transport can benefit. Also if you want to carry good on a bicycle perhaps you want to google cargobike.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Wolfiesmiff: Any challenge to the Motorists' right to do anything for free, is taken as "complete bollocks". "let's see you get an Ikea flat-pack on your stupid bike". Fuck that, I'll have it delivered.

    It's the sheer lack of immagination, that there's no other way to the car, the complete blindess to the externalities, the willful ignorance, the special pleading, the loss aversion.

    Motorists: No better than benefits claimants. http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2012/01/entitlements-ratchets.html

  4. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:


    Wrong, I do understand it still doesn't make the bollocks talked by bikers right. No one said anything about non drivers. Why do you dribblers always look at everything as either or? what happended to both? In my towns ( the 1 i live in and 3 I have High st businesses in)non drivers are catered for by park and ride schemes, car-sharing, pedestrianisation, (empty) bus services and bicycle lanes ( i have to drive a half mile out of my way to get to my office because the road in is for buses, taxi's and cycles only.

    Yes of course my 80 year old mum is going to bring home a new table on a cargo bike. Jeez what a nob!


    You are wrong too, my mate was stopped on his bicycle on the way home from pub, breathalysed, failed and was banned.


    No fella its you ONE answer jockeys that are the problem, just in case you never read it above it is against the law to be over the DD limit on a bike.

    You are a knob too how the fuck do you think it will be delivered? Tandem?

  5. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:

    It is an offence under Section 30(1) to ride a bicycle, tricycle or cycle having 4 or more wheels whilst under the influence of drink. Pursuant to Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872, it is also an offence to be riding a cycle or to be in charge of any carriage, horse or cattle when drunk.

  6. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Wolfiesmiff. You're calling ME a "one answer jockey"?

    That shows a level of self awareness below that of an amoeba. No-One is suggesting banning the car, just making drivers pay to park according to demand. Only in a society totally dominated by one means of transport would this be controversial.

    This is about allowing you to fat about in your fat mobile, and me to keep out of your way in a propler cycle lane. This gives multiple options to all, to select the most appropriate vehicle for the journey, in a free market for transport solutions.

    I.E Properly costed and priced (by a market) options. It is NOT a one solution system. You'd think I was advocating shooting motorists, the way you carry on.

    Read what I say, apply thought, then speak. At the moment, Wolfiesmiff, you're SpeAking You're BrAnes.

  7. KevinWard76
    KevinWard76 says:

    If people should park outside of town centres, where, as you say, land is cheap, it also makes sense for the retailers to relocate there too…

    …which is exactly what the Portas report is getting at.

    Furthermore, I don't think the report suggests creating more spaces, just providing free ones.

  8. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Exactly: If you feel you cannot be more than 200m from your car, you have no place in a town centre. Go to the retail park. Have fun.

    Portas barely mentions parking. Most councils charge sufficiently to keep the roads flowing and the shops occupied, you see the market works.

    No-one provides unlimited free parking, except milton keynes. You want to live there.

    My point is that free parking is just NOT a viable solution for the reasons I laid out. Of course this is just part of an idealogical war on the motorist.

    Motorists argue against what they think my motives might be, not the facts laid out in front of them.

  9. Mark S
    Mark S says:

    @Woolfiesmiff – Have we hit a nerve?
    As Jackart has said it's not about banning cars it's about making sensible choices and allowing people to decide on how they want to get around. Your example with the Ikea flatpack is just stupid and a really good knee-jerk response. IIRC it would be doable (for a small extra fee) as Ikea do offer a delivery service (as does Iceland for your grocery shopping, free I think if spending over £50 I think) so you visit the shop by bike, chose your products and have them delivered 🙂 Either that or actually drive there and play silly buggers waiting for one of the bulky item loading bays to come free….

    But then this is the car-centric United Kingdom, who are we to suggest that those who pay so dearly to own and run cars should leave them at home once in a while and try alternative means of transport?

  10. FrFintonStack
    FrFintonStack says:

    "Woolfiesmiff said…

    It is an offence under Section 30(1) to ride a bicycle, tricycle or cycle having 4 or more wheels whilst under the influence of drink. Pursuant to Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872, it is also an offence to be riding a cycle or to be in charge of any carriage, horse or cattle when drunk."

    The act goes on to define "drunk" as 'demonstrably not in control of the vehicle.' Police inform me this is taken to mean unable to cycle in a straight line, unable to observe road signs etc. You *can* be prosecuted for being drunk on a bike, but you need to be really quite pissed. You're not going to be prosecuted after a couple of pints of bitter.


    Sorry, you're talking nonsense. The police cannot demand breathyliser tests from cyclists, nor can they infer anything from a refusal to provide one (although courts will sometimes allow one to be submitted in evidence in court if provided voluntarily). Prosecution for drunk cycling must be based on observed drunken behaviour, which cannot be deduced from BALs. More importantly, since cyclists don't require licenses, there's no mechanism for banning them from the roads, even if convicted of drunk cycling (except possibly an ASBO, I suppose, but that's pretty unlikely for one-off offence).

  11. FrFintonStack
    FrFintonStack says:

    Apologies Vigilante, the "nonsense" comment was also supposed to have been address to Woolfiesmiff.

    The fact he's made a patently untrue assertion on the issue of his "mate"'s drunk cycling casts some doubt on the rest of what he has to say, don't you think?

  12. Woodsy42
    Woodsy42 says:

    I tend to disagree. Yes I do walk 200+ yards, but may not want to when buying something large or heavy.
    I do pay road tax, and petrol tax, and local council tax.
    Somewhere in those thousands of pounds of tax I would have expected the occasional use of a space in town to park and spend money without being fleeced further.

  13. WestfieldWanderer
    WestfieldWanderer says:

    @Woodsy42: Tax is defined as a "compulsory unrequited payments, where unrequited means that the payer does not receive anything directly in return."

    In other words, just because we pay a tax does not mean we are *entitled* to *anything* at all in return.

    (Ref: "Box 1" in this link: http://bit.ly/yF1nGt)

  14. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Woody, the main argument is if parking isn't priced, the main loser is YOU the motorist as too many people try to cram too many cars into too small a space.

    We can either abandon town centres entirely, in favour of out-of-town malls & bleak windswept retail parks, or we can price appropriately.

    Your call. If you're that averse to paying to park, you soon won't have the option.

  15. Bill
    Bill says:

    I don't know where any of you folks live, but in most decent-sized towns one must already pay to park anywhere near the town centre. In a few smaller towns near where I live (including the one I live in) there is free time-limited parking (enforced by traffic warden) in the town centres, basically as a mechanism to keep locals spending locally, rather than taking themselves off to the nearby main town where town-centre parking (in mainly multi-storey above- and below-ground parking) is charged for, although there is some on-street parking charged by ticket-issuing machines. I really cannot understand what this article is about. Whilst I don't agree with everything "Woolfiesmiff" writes by any means he writes a lot more sense than most others here including our host "Jackart" in this instance – in my area (the north of Scotland) parking is already charged for in those towns which have heavy traffic pressure. The exception in our area is the local main hospital where parking is free (it used to be charged for) now for political reasons, resulting in town-centre workers using it to park all day and getting to/from work using the frequent bus service, and making it difficult for those visiting patients in hospital to find a space – in the old days when it was charged for one could normally find a place eventually (and I was happy to pay), but that's Scottish "socialist/SNP" politics for you , unfortunately.

  16. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Woody, the main argument is if parking isn't priced, the main loser is YOU the motorist as too many people try to cram too many cars into too small a space.

    We can either abandon town centres entirely, in favour of out-of-town malls & bleak windswept retail parks, or we can price appropriately.

    Your call. If you're that averse to paying to park, you soon won't have the option.

  17. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Bill, the question being asked is "why do councils charge". Not "why don't councils charge".

    Of course the free competition between towns has resulted in a near optimal pricing model. London is absurdly expensive, and only a moron would take a car into it, towns vary according to the desirability of their shops and the space available.

    Milton Keynes is free.

  18. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:

    No Jackart it IS definitely you.

    1) This whole debate is about re stimulating the High Street in Towns

    2) All the cycle/bus/pedestrian stuff is valid but NOT the issue here

    3) The ACTUAL issue is that our High Streets are being deserted for out of town shopping centres who on the whole offer free parking

    4) What we as small TOWN retailers are asking for is for the ability of shoppers to pull up outside our shops and pop in and buy something or collect goods

    5) No one said ALL parking should be free

    6) Typical of you one eyed urban types that you never consider the rural areas where we don't have tubes, trains, or even buses in large numbers of our villages

    7) There are also HUGE numbers of people for whom cycling/walking/buses are NOT valid options and they need a car

    8) Just admit you and vigilante were wrong about DD

    9) This is the man that writes whiney blogs about white van drivers nearly killing him on the roads and then boasts that the answer is home delivery ( by white vans) very joined up thinking

    Have you ever been to a small country market town? Have you ever thought about the range of people and lifestyles that need to be addressed, no of course you haven't cos you're an urban dweller who doesn't like cars.

    You are such a dullard that you cant see the wood for the trees ALL the people that don't drive cars cant get to the out of town retail parks, but increasingly their in town High Streets are no longer providing for them, that's the fucking point.

    I can name you at least 5 rural towns that have begun to remove parking fees to encourage people back into towns. Margate ( one of the major focuses of Portas's report) is debating ending parking charges at its next council meeting, for selected areas/times

    Mark S and Frinton

    No you haven't hit a nerve, the PUBLIC when surveyed in OUR shops tell us its what stops them coming to our independent shops, stores, cafes and restaurants. We as retailers are trying to respond to our customers needs.

    It is illegal to ride a bicycle under the influence of alchol, get over it its no more beneficial to pub goers to ride a bike as drive a car which was the sneery point made

    So to recap

    Those of you that want to be in a town centre and buy stuff, hang out eat or be entertained rather than be in a giant out of town retail/leisure park increasingly are unable to get that because more and more retailers are unable to survive due to 2 primary things

    1) Decreasing footfall
    2) Extortionately high business rates.

    So I would guess that as cyclists not many of you really would enjoy going to Bluewater or Lakeside by bike, but you would enjoy going to Tunbridge Wells or Esher or some such place, what we are trying to do is make those places sustainable for all and that means footfall.

    Do you see you're cutting off your nose to spite your face unless you live in a major city, in which case this report is the wrong arguement

  19. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Woolfiesmiff, I grew up in a big county town, and I live in a small market town, and I work in the country. I do not own a car. I do hire one from time to time.

    Most town centres as Bill suggested DO allow people to "pop in" there is usually a super-market near the center which offers free, or near free parking to customers, but charge the longer stayer proportionally.

    It is YOU who is one-eyed, seeing ONLY the car as a solution, and any other solution as a threat to be opposed.

    It is YOU who is misreading the post, projecting your own prejudices, not me.

  20. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    And your point about councils scrapping parking charges. MARGATE? Hardly an endorsement. More a desperate mark of failure.

    If you have retail people want, hell even in Milton Keynes, you have to charge for parking. I've been to Margate. Poundshops and amusement arcades and the whole place smells of chip fat. You'd have to Pay ME!

  21. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:


    You are just plain wrong and you know it, I have not at any time suggested that the car is the only way. I have told you what our customers are telling us.

    And you call me single issue, whereas YOU a survey of one chooses to not own a car and cycle and the rest of the population are supposed to fall in behind you.

    Once again I'll remind you that this report was ABOUT towns like Margate and REGENERATION, that was the whole point, how to get away from run down, poor town centres.

    I can name places within 20 miles of margate that don't need any of these solutions ( ie Canterbury with its 7 million visitors per year) but that wasn't what this was about

  22. Mark S
    Mark S says:

    @Woodsy42 – You don't pay "road tax" it hasn't been road tax since 1934 when Winston Churchill abolished it for this very point – motorists thought it gave them some sort of entitlement to the roads. It's called Vehicle Excise Duty and is based on emissions, if you chose to drive a heavily polluting vehicle you pay more, chose a more economical vehicle and you pay less. Chose an electric car and you won't pay at all. Unfortunately that simple concept was also lost on the clueless blonde the BBC chose to show on their recent article about London parking who seemed to think her "road tax" entitled her to find a parking space in Central London whenever she wishes…

    Jackart – I think you've hit the nail on the head with Woolfie, all to happy to yell down all others without suggesting any alternatives to the almighty car!

    As a cyclist and father to 6 I fully understand the need for a car, it's certainly the easiest way to get around and move large loads but that doesn't mean it'll be our default travel option. We can walk to our local shops if we are getting some easy shopping or even larger loads thanks to the hand trailer we have. The train station and bus stops are a similar distance away which provide a fairly reasonable way to get around further out. I suspect the whole reason your surveys are showing that people would use local shops more if there was free parking is more symptomatic of how car-centric our society has become and is beyond the scope of this parking discussion. Our roads don't encourage your average shopper to consider the bicycle as a viable alternative and certainly don't provide the safe conditions so that people from 8-80 could ride, as such it's left as a minority activity with only the more "hardcore" cyclists using their bikes for trips such as this.

    The solution itself is rather complex and there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, what works well in one area won't necessarily work very well in another – look at Bills example with the hospitals, showing how selfish some drivers can be when offered "free" parking. Parking is a effectively a service and it has to be financed from somewhere, out of town retail parks and their business models are designed around people coming there and spending high amounts on large items whearas you don't "really" need a car to drive to your local town centre to visit the butchers. I'd imagine the majority of those who have "no alternative" to the car will usually be registered disabled at which point their blue badges will allow them to use parking bays/yellow lines for free.

  23. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:

    I agree not every town has to be a shopping heaven, there are other issues too such as zoning and planning. A lot of towns would be better off building residential on brown field and allowing easier change of use. Once again though I bring you back to the point the Portas report was commissioned by Dave to "fix" the problem of 1 in 5 retail premises being empty and run down in large numbers of our towns.

    You are also the first, and rightly in some cases, to bemoan car congestion. That's why in my opinion lots and lots of small desirable destinations rather than one big fuck off place on one motorway junction is more likely to ease overall congestion, standard network queuing theory.

    The simple fact is that under Labour politicians declared war on cars, with severe parking restrictions and charges, insane circular one way systems and dangerous shared space schemes as well as speed humps and the rest ( a lot of these things adversely affect cyclists as well as cars).

    People stopped going to their local High St and started going to out of town malls.

    You have to do these things one step at a time. In order to attract more desirable shops, cafes, theatres etc you need access and footfall. Once you have people coming to towns all sorts of options open up.

  24. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:

    Mark S

    You're talking bollocks. Nowhere have I suggested that the car is the only option, what I said if you could be bothered to read and understand is that car access and parking is one of the major things holding back retailers from opening stores in some towns. There are schemes in all the towns I have businesses in ( currently 4 and soon to be 5) for park and ride buses, pedestrianisation, cycle paths, taxis etc, repeatedly though the thing CUSTOMERS tell us is that its the parking/access issue that puts them off. I guess you think we should ignore that and investigate roller skates or some other novel thing.

    Sorry chap, you might like your bike but in a free market I listen to my customers or go out of business and NO ONE asked for anything other than parking/access. Even the bus service criticism was about the cost of parking and the time limit ( I kid you not)at the park and ride car parks.

    In my towns the park and rides all stop at 5pm. What do you suggest if we want to have dinner in a town centre restaurant in the evening? We all get on our bikes and cycle in? Yeh right.

    Pot kettle black you don't have any solution at all other than some fit youngish blokes ( and not many of them) like cycling. Jeez how short sighted do you want to be. There's a reason the car is ubiquitous in our society, simple its the best alternative we have for the largest number of transport needs.

    Until Jackart gets his driverless cars its the best we can do

  25. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Agree with all your last points. And by giving proper facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, who take up MUCH less room than cars can lead to GREATER footfall.

    Point is Portas barely mentions parking. It just isn't an issue paying a fiver when you're going to spend some money in town. The central thesis is that free parking isn't the panacea that many pub bores think it is.

    I agree with her about zoning, land use etc…

    But I make a broader point. We have for 50 years been designing towns for the Car, but before that, for 5000 years, towns have been built around people. Pedestrianisation works because motor vehicles with noise & fumes make shopping as a leisure activity unpleasant.

    So broadly more cars isn't the answer.

  26. Weekend Yachtsman
    Weekend Yachtsman says:

    Couple of points:

    1. A bike and a car are not equivalent; try carrying a week's groceries for a family of four on your bike and you might begin to understand this.

    2. Supermarkets provide free parking AND lower prices, so your blanket statement about higher ticket prices due to rates etc is simply untrue.

    3. We DO pay road taxes – God know how many squinty-bazillions more than what is actually spent on the roads.

    4. The High Street is dying because people have found more efficient ways to go shopping. Canals died; rail freight hardly exists; buggy whip manufacturers all went out of business; telephone switchboards no longer need operators. These are all examples of progress, as is the disappearance of small shops that don't stock what you need, are not open when you'd like to use them, are too hard to get to, and charge too much. So what? Who cares?

  27. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Weekend yachtsman

    1) no-one said they were, but I manage, quite easily to carry a week's groceries for 2 on a bike. Just requires ingenuity.
    2) Supermarkets in many towns don't provide free parking, or redeem a nominal charge at the till, especially if they are in a town-centre location.
    3) They're not "road taxes". You pay VED, mainly to ensure you're MOT'd and Insured, and you pay fuel duty to cover externalities. It is NOT a hypothecated fund for the road. The most obnoxious effect of VED is that motorists think it means they "own" the road. Nothing will get a foot through your window and into your face quicker than suggesting a cyclist has no right to the road because he pays no tax. He does, probably more than you.
    4) That's what I say towards the end of the post.

  28. Mark S
    Mark S says:

    Weekend Yachtsman
    Just a couple of items to add to Jackart's comments:
    1) There are plenty of additions to bikes you can get that would allow you to carry loads, including racks and panniers right through to trailers that allow for carrying children, pets or shopping. You can also buy purpose built cargo bikes that provide increased load carrying capacity. Unfortunately they aren't very common in the UK. Using a car to drive 2 miles to town to pick up a couple of items of shopping is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.
    3) Visit ipayroadtax.com then feel free to come back and retract that statement.

  29. Woodsy42
    Woodsy42 says:

    Yes Jackart, WestfieldWanderer and MarkS. I am aware that paying a tax does not provide legal entitlements. However council tax in particular does provide a moral expectation of fair treatment, particularly in respect of the local authority making the town accessible and useable to rural borough residents.
    I also realise that parking management is essential or would be blocked solid.
    So let me describe an alternative.
    Last summer we spent a day in Lisieux. The Basilica, a short distance out of town has free parking (as do almost all 'rural' French tourist sites and most rural towns). But Lisieux is a large town, yet go down to the town centre and there are large areas of on-street and town square parking, in the centre and along outside the shops, at a Euro for 2 hours. Enough to ensure spaces are turned over, dissuade time wasters and pay for the ticket machines.
    It works. The town is thriving and packed full of people. Compare and contrast with Longton Stoke on trent near me, a despairing dead and alive run down mess of a place that charges £1 an hour and £5 a day.

  30. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Woody, that's a cum hoc ergo propter hoc error. Parking charges are not what drives people to and from a town. They are not what drive people to out of town centres, or at least not the primary reason.

    Parking charges are deeplyu unpopular, because most of the time, they're inconvenient, requiring exact change and arbitarily enforced, with penalties massively exceeding the crime. £60 for overstaying by 2 minutes? Grotesque. This is changing, as well it should.

    However I am not saying what SHOULD happen, but why "FREE PARKING" as a solution to dying town centres is an idiotic shout.

    If too many cars come, raise parking charges to encourage some to come by other means. If you have perpetually empty car parks, drop parking charges or build something else on them.

    If the majority of cars in town-centres come from less than a mile away (and they do), encouraging some of those onto other means of transport leaves more room for those who feel they NEED to be in a car.

    I am not anti car, but I am anti car-for-everything.

  31. Woolfiesmiff
    Woolfiesmiff says:

    Dear Jackart & Mark S

    There is one fucking great big herd of elephants baring down on your arguments and that is there is NOTHING stopping people cycling, jogging, walking or skipping into town other than THEY DON'T WANT TO.

    We are car centric for the simple reason that the car does the best job of all the transport needs that people have and until that changes the car will be in prime position. The bicycle is NOT and never will be the answer other than to a small band of enthusiasts and young boys.

    Oh and Jackart before the car our towns were clogged with horses, donkeys, oxen, chariots, wagons, carts and carriages and knee deep in shit.

    For the last time as well fella you've got to get your head around this point. No one is suggesting that ALL parking should be free EVERYWHERE. In Canterbury parking is extortionate but it isn't deterring visitors. The whole fucking point of Cameron spending our money on this was looking at RUN DOWN town centres and how to encourage businesses and jobs into them and one of the major answers is to make it easy for large numbers of people to visit and therefore worth a punt starting up a business there.

  32. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    And all I'm asking for is cycling infrastructure which makes roads a little less hostile to cyclists, so more people might want to cycle (whch would help ease congestion)

    Apparently this is a war on the motorist.

    You're really missing the point.

  33. Mark S
    Mark S says:

    Nothing stopping people cycling? Well I guess that is one way to look at it but as Jackart and myself are trying to point out there isn't really much of an encouragement is there?

    If you want to get all medieval I'm guessing it would be worth mentioning that it's due to cyclists that we have the higher quality roads as they where the ones who campaigned for proper roads instead of the horse tracks that existed before. Cars in essence are the Johnny-come-latelys to the transport mix.

    I think we just may have to agree to disagree on this as we both clearly have different visions for how best to solve this. One involves accepting the status quo and the other involves a massive cultural stepchange beyond the simple issue of providing parking.

  34. Mark
    Mark says:

    There clearly are two widely disparate points of view that have been thrashed to death (I'm with woolfiesmiff for what its worth).

    Who is to "encourage" cycling? Government presumably. Lets say they do provide the "infrastructure" (whatever that actually involves).

    Then you ride your bike basically as a result of their munificence. You will be grateful and then you will be taxed and regulated with all that entails.

    And you know, you won't have a leg to stand on (or get much sympathy from millions of motorists and probably as many pedestrians).

    Seriously, if the infrastructure you want actually comes about there will be a price and it might not be one you want to pay.

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    the fact is that in most city centres where there WAS parking, the councils have 'improved' it by building bus stops that extend into the bloody road, replaced parking spaces with bloody pavement and built bloody huge pedestrian islands in the middle of roads.

    The end result is nowhere to park cars, where previously there WAS space.

    And, narrower roads with obstructions that slow all traffic and make it more fucking difficult for everyone – and more dangerous for bloody cyclists.

    Councils like to fuck everything up in the name of improving infrastructure. Cue closing shops on the fucking high street.

    Fuck it All. And fuck the conversation about motorists saying there's a cunting conspiracy, the fact is politicians and councils are fucking idiots whose priorities over the last two decades have been driven by fucking whinging interest groups of cyclists and hippies.

    I attended a business breakfast, a presentation was made by some prick in charge of road and bus infrastructure, everything focussed on the fucking environment and the problems caused by cars. Fuck all said about the fucking shops who pay his fucking wages.


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