Monday, October 18, 2010

Merton Pavement Parking

Merton have an unofficial policy of tolerating pavement parking in certain roads. I have that on good authority, but it's also obvious to anyone who walks along Lower Downs Road (below) or Arterberry Road, to give two examples.

This practice tends to start if you have a lot of traffic along a narrow road where parking is allowed. Vehicles come from opposite directions and try to sequeeze past each other. Inevitably, you get minor scrapes  and collisions with parked vehicles. Word gets around the neighborhood and one or two people start parking with one tyre on the kerb, to give their pride and joy a little extra protection. Everyone else who parks in the road has to follow suit, or their vehicle will stick out into the traffic flow and be more vulnerable. But this widens the road, which increases vehicles speeds. If it becomes clear the council aren't enforcing against pavement parking, rather than park with one tyre on the pavement, vehicles will then start to occupy more and more of the pavement in their retreat from the 'danger zone'. So you have the situation you see above, where an 8-foot pavement has become a 4-foot pavement.

Now imagine you're a mum with a baby in a buggy and another young child walking. If the vehicle above has to reverse to get out of its parking space, they won't see a child that is close to the rear of the vehicle. Think if you're sending your little sweetheart to school at the nearby Dundonald Primary. If your child is walking on their own to school, they will face the twin hazards of vehicles manoeuvring on and off the pavement, and because children are forced to walk in a narrow corridor close to the garden walls with the parked cars on the other side, it will be difficult for cars in driveways to see them.

Now if Lower Downs Road were a major route, the current situation might be understandable. But the bottleneck is the tunnel under the railway, which is strictly single-lane. So having a nice wide road simply enables vehicles to get to the bottleneck quicker, where everyone gets very cross because it's a single lane where no-one has priority. What also happens on a regular basis is an overheight idiot get stuck in the tunnel causing chaos. Lower Downs Road was never designed for high volumes of traffic.Merton Council have allowed it to become a rat-run between Kingston Road and Worple Road to the detriment of the local community.

So what are they going to do about it? Merton Council are investigating punching a hole through the railway embankment, making a new tunnel to improve conditions for pedestrians 'and cyclists'. This would cost a fortune, and while it would improve conditions for pedestrians for about 10 yards, they will still have to walk along a busy rat-run with a footway unpleasantly narrowed by parked cars. It certainly won't do anything for cycling as cyclists will have to leave and rejoin the main carriageway at either end of the tunnel. I swear to you - Merton Council don't live in the real world. Thank goodness they'll have less of our money to waste in the coming years.


  1. The GLC's 1985 Greater London pavement parking ban offers a fascinating example of how an anti-car piece of legislation was subverted.
    In the first place, the legislation was very badly drafted. It failed to provide any statutory protection for pedestrians in terms of minimum footway widths, only advisory widths. Secondly, it allowed exemptions to the ban, but again without setting out precise figures. The result was that Tory boroughs simply ignored the ban, while Labour and Lib Dem boroughs subverted it by allowing huge numbers of exemptions.
    The 1985 ban was supposed to put a halt to further pavement parking. Ironically the legislation is now used to extend and increase pavement parking. It's a classic example of how every single London borough is in the hands of car-centric transport planners who loathe pedestrians just as much as they are indifferent to cyclists. Mostly able-bodied car driving males on car allowances, their outlook is one through a car windscreen, and is devoted to smoothing motor vehicle flow and creating as much car parking as possible. The number of London streets where pavement parking has been created since 1985 runs into the thousands, or possibly tens of thousands. Nobody knows for sure because no one has ever bothered to find out. London is a profoundly car-sick city, as hostile to walking as it is to cycling.

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