If someone asks you what you do for a living, your answer: “I work in the parking industry” is likely to be met with a blank look or a pitiful glance. Certainly, it will not provoke a clap of the hands and a squeal of excitement. And yet, when you mention the word ‘parking’ in a general conversation, you are likely to get a strong reaction. This could be anything from disgust at a parking ticket received to a monologue on the evils of the new car parking restrictions on the high street.
Transport and Parking in the UK
The UK has a population of more than 60 million people and that is growing. A large majority of people own cars and, despite the best efforts of public transport, a large proportion of the population choose to drive.
Over time, our transport system has evolved to cope with the number of vehicles on the road but inevitably, with the logistics involved, there has been a need for a growing number of regulations to ensure our road network runs smoothly.
Regulating for a reason
Traffic signs, parking restrictions, time limits, residential parking areas, and disabled badge spaces – all of these regulations are in place because without them our roads would be in a complete mess.
At the same time, we are becoming ever more aware of the need to investigate new ways of running our transport and parking systems. The level of pollution in our cities, the impact of millions of vehicles on the environment, the time lost in traffic congestion, the stress of getting from A to B during rush hour, the cost of fuel – all of these factors are important to the very fabric of our society.
Now take a step back and look at things from a different angle. What would this country of ours look like with no parking restrictions in place? Think of any city or town and imagine a parking free-for-all on the streets. Think of a venue such as Wimbledon, Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium or the NEC and imagine the streets on a day when there is a major sports event or a pop star is in town.
Our industry is much more than just the guys who issue tickets. Parking is at the very centre of society. Go to any dinner party or night out on the pub and we can guarantee that there will be a conversation related to parking. It will not always be a happy story, it will rarely show parking in a good light, but parking is an everyday issue that affects our environment, our economy and our health.
Keeping people safe
A huge driver for good parking management is safety. Again, imagine a world where motorists can park anywhere – the zig-zag lines outside a school are there for a single purpose – to keep mother and children safe. The yellow lines approaching junctions are there to stop parked vehicles obscuring another driver’s view. The narrow street is a non-parking zone so people can walk safely down it.
Just consider the row of shops where you pop to get your milk or papers. What if anyone could leave their vehicle outside the shop all day? Immediately there is a strong case in favour of parking enforcement. The shopkeepers want a constant stream of visitors to their shops, they will not get that if the customers know there is no parking. What about the old man who cannot walk far, but always buys his paper from the local shop because it is convenient; where will he go if there is nowhere to park?
And the parking industry has a role to play in other challenging areas. Our highly-populated towns and cities need careful management, otherwise they can become polluted and unattractive places to live. Making our urban areas healthier and more aesthetically pleasing takes a lot of joined-up thinking, but good road management can play its part.
Here are just three examples of how parking management can help reduce pollution:
- By providing easily accessible and sufficient parking spaces then we reduce the numbers of cars circling and seeking a place to park. Circling cars are both a hazard to other road users and cause higher emissions of CO2.
- A park and ride facility can reduce the number of vehicles in the town centre, lowering pollution and making the centre more attractive.
- Clear but not superfluous signage can make the streets more attractive and ensure vehicles get to their destination in the minimum time.
- Good parking policies can play their part in making the urban environment a much more pleasant one for visitors and residents alike.