Even after three years in office, the coalition can shock you with its idiocy. The Daily Telegraph reports today that Eric Pickles wants to relax parking regulations to allow motorists to park on double-yellow lines for up to fifteen minutes. The rationale – apparently to help revive ailing high streets.
It’s one of those ideas where you have to sit down for a moment to take in the sheer stupidity – it’s an almost virtuoso display of ignorance, idiocy and knee-jerk populism. Double yellow lines are not laid down by councils at a whim – they are tightly regulated and meet safety and traffic needs. They are designed to make roads safer, especially for vulnerable road users, and to allow traffic to flow more efficiently. They’re not an imposition designed to make life more difficult for car-drivers; they’re about the effective management of public space.
And allowing a grace-period is such an obvious nonsense. Who enforces? More parking attendants, at a time when councils are being forced to cut staff? More CCTV (admittedly one that fits nicely with the preoccupations of the political class)? It’s abundantly obvious that this will lead to a parking free-for-all in town centres, making traffic management more difficult and public space less public, especially for vulnerable motorists.
The idea that this will in some way stem the decline of the high-street is just laughable. This is a government that has presided over the sharpest fall in real wages for more than a century; and is happy to support planning policies that suck economic activity out of town centres (not to mention workfare, which is effectively a subsidy to big retail undercutting independent businesses). The idea that you can reverse this by allowing short-term parking in unsafe places would be laughable if it were not so typical of the contempt for evidence that lies at the coalition’s heart. And what about creating more attractive, safer urban environments that welcome pedestrians and cyclists, that create genuinely public space in which people can interact with one another rather than evading the noise and speed of traffic? This is at heart about a deep loathing of the collective and the public.
Eric Pickles no doubt thinks that this will be popular. It certainly plays into a culture in which the motorist is king of the streets and the rest of us simply have to get out of his way. But the fact that such imbecility is being offered as serious politics is a desperate comment on the state of our democratic debate.
Below are photos I took today in and around Brighton’s London Road (close to where I work) – a run-down retail area, clogged by traffic as the main route out of the city from the seafront, and with a horrendous air quality problem. If anyone can tell me how this street would benefit from people being allowed to stop on the double yellow lines for 15 minutes, I’d be really pleased to hear from them