Civic Society puts case for Bristol parking zones

June 04 2013

John Frenkel, of Bristol Civic Society, puts the case for residents' parking zones in the city

The case for RPZ falls into two distinct parts, local and strategic.

Local:  The pilot, Kingsdown residents’ parking scheme operates from 9am–5pm Monday to Friday. It prioritises parking for residents, businesses and their visitors, whilst also providing short-term pay and display parking to enable access to shops and other local amenities. Parking sign

Before the scheme, parking In Kingsdown was intolerable.  Vehicles parked on the pavements and across corners; they blocked delivery, cleansing and emergency vehicles.  Every year incrementally aggravated the problem.  The scheme’s introduction in 2012 changed the quality of Kingsdown residents’ lives.  Those who voted against the scheme now support it.  Kingsdown residents say that their scheme gives them these benefits:

Most residents can park near their homes in the daytime.  A commuter does not immediately block every vacated space for the rest of the day.  However, parking competition continues in some parts of Kingsdown in the evening.  Some residents would like the city council to extend the scheme.

The scheme transforms the appearance of the streets and modifies driver behaviour.  Because a car parked on a pavement stands out, drivers observe the marked parking bays and pedestrians no longer have to squeeze around cars that block pavements. 

Carers can park near their clients and do not waste allocated ‘care time’ finding somewhere to park.  Residents have up to 100 day permits to allow their visitors to park locally.  Before the scheme, some tradesmen, fed up with the parking problems, treated Kingsdown as a ‘no-go zone.  The visitor parking permits solve this problem. 

Each business located within the RPS area can apply for two business permits and five customer permits.  There are loading bays close to business premises.  Time limited pay and display bays replace the free on street parking that sterilised all available street parking.  The retailers and businesses find that the turnover of vehicles dramatically improves their customers’ access. 

The city council has a flexible approach to parking schemes.  It says that the needs of residents, visitors and businesses will produce different schemes in different arrears. The council made several important changes after a six month review.

Strategic: Controlling parking controls congestion. Every car on the road is only there because it expects to be able to park at or near its destination. Remove that expectation and the journey will be made by other means.

Bristol has been held back in the 1980s by the refusal to deal effectively with the transport issue. Other cities realised then that the numbers of people that they wished to access the city could not all bring a car with them. By steadily removing the cars while improving the public transport they have not merely maintained but increased their prosperity by bringing in more people who are in turn attracted by the quality of life on offer once the pollution of cars is reduced or removed. Progressive cities are seeing reducing per capita car ownership and viewing this as a mark of pride. Bristol has one of the highest per capita car ownerships. Far from this being a mark of prosperity it is a mark of shame for the local authority and a clear sign of the long term failure to implement a modern strategic transport policy.

Provision for commuter parking has been made but its operation has been crippled by the availability of extensive free parking around the centre. Bristol city taxpayers subsidise the park & ride services and the car parks because they are underutilised.

Well of course they will be so long as there is a free alternative! Bath by contrast, by virtue of its RPS, does not.

Costs: Much has been made of the costs of implementing the scheme and its associated permits.

Taking permits first, the cost for a car does not equate to an average single tank of fuel. It is entirely probable that this will be saved by the elimination of the daily 1st and 2nd gear crawl around looking for a space. Set against the cost of ownership (tax, insurance, servicing, depreciation and the annual fuel bill) the net will not be noticeable. It is also worth noting that 25% of households have no access to a car so if you do you are not at the bottom of the financial tree.

The cost to the council will be paid for by the scheme charges (as the law says they must be) but the reduction in the subsidies mentioned above will be available to reduce the pressure on the budget for other services.

Summary: The experience both here and in comparable cities is that the overall quality of life for residents is greatly improved by RPZ. Increasing the attractiveness of the inner city is essential as the costs, both financial and environmental, of commuting continue to rise beyond general inflation with increasingly negative impacts on daily life.

People are right to be concerned that the fine details of the scheme must be as right as they can be in each area and council officers must greatly improve their record when it comes to both obtaining local input and acting on it or explaining why in any instance they cannot.

However no scheme can be perfect at first and it is better to get a reasonable scheme in place then adjust on the basis of experience, as has happened in Kingsdown, than endlessly arguing about the supposed effects beforehand.

John Frenkel

Bristol Civic Society