Come Back Rita, All is Forgiven

I think I write a variant of this post every time I’m forced onto two feet instead of two wheels for extended periods around Bigtown and realise that it’s often actually worse for the poor beleaguered pedestrian than it is for us cyclists who can at least pretend we’re cars. Still, it’s my blog and I can repeat myself if I want to. And the subject has been on my mind for the past few days, partly because I’ve been taking part in a mostly pedestrian street audit, albeit armed with the biggest, baddest trike in Bigtown, and paying closer than usual attention to the all the things that make walking feel like a third-class means of transport: the caged in crossings and railings, the cracked pavements, and the endless wait for the green man.

bike at the butchers

It’s also been on my mind since I used this old photo last week to illustrate something for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign and realised I could tell it was taken a good 4 years ago (and not just because it was two panniers ago) – because the street in the photo shows people freely strolling down the street, happily checking out the nice independent small shops. Parking in Bigtown has always been a bit of a freestyle affair but ever since people have taken on board the fact that there really are no parking wardens in the entire county a small but growing minority of drivers have taken to effectively parking wherever they sodding well like. The street in the photo is still, officially pedestrianised, but a photo of it taken from the same spot today would basically show a linear car park. It’s a change that’s crept up on us so gradually that we’ve barely noticed what we’ve lost.

So on Thursday, in town without my bike for once, as an experiment, I tried just walking down the same street on Thursday as if it was the genuinely pedestrianised street it used to be. I think I got about two thirds of the way down it before the driver behind me couldn’t stand it any more and hooted their horn, to let me know that there was someone in a more important means of transport behind me, someone I must clearly not have noticed as I would otherwise have got out of their way. Confirmation, if confirmation were needed that the street has been reconquered by cars, all in the name of the God of Parking.

We’ve started trying to fight back – but I think it’s going to take more than the odd pop-up park. Traffic Wardens may once have been the most reviled officials in Christendom, but conversations I’ve had around town in the past week or so suggest they’re starting to be missed. There are complicated legal reasons* why the Coonsil can’t just bring back traffic wardens, but I do occasionally fantasise about the day when they finally do.  And as they turn the corner into the Vennel with their little notebooks in their hands (or whatever the modern traffic warden uses these days), their eyes lighting up at the rich pickings before them, I can only hope I’ll be there to witness the carnage that ensues…

* Anyone who wants an explanation, touching on decriminalised versus criminal parking enforcement and the implications of current Transport Bill going through the Scottish Parliament – feel free to ask in the comments because, sadly, I know …

12 Responses to Come Back Rita, All is Forgiven

  1. Mick Heath says:

    Great post. Very important

  2. Viviane says:

    I don’t understand. Either this street is pedestrian, or it is not. In case it is, why not set fences or other devices ?

  3. disgruntled says:

    @Mick – thanks!
    @Viviane – it’s supposedly pedestrianised, but access is allowed for deliveries so there are no barriers.

  4. Ok, I’ll bite… no traffic wardens? What?

  5. Way out west says:

    A bigtown coonsil area native here, I know the general narrative for why the wardens went, but don’t know the full story of what’s involved in getting them back…

    But it’s got something to do with double yellows versus regulated parking bays? Maybe?

  6. disgruntled says:

    OK, as you asked – chapter and verse are here but basically the Coonsil is not one of the Scottish local authorities which has applied to have Decriminalised Parking Enforcement so parking is the responsibility of the police, who have stopped funding the traffic wardens (the police themselves mostly have better things to do). Apparently, it would cost a fair bit of money to get DPE powers (I’m not entirely sure why but that’s what I’ve been told) – once the cooncil have them, they can keep the fines but they have to spend them on parking or improving public transport or the road network more generally.

  7. Charles says:

    Maybe the way ahead is to inconvenience your council with a bit of random parking in at the local council offices. In Bridgwater we have people in unmarked cars in some of the major car parks, if you leave the area to get into town as opposed to shopping at the supermarket in question you get a ticket. It’s free parking only if you use the supermarket concerned….at which point I started to boycott various supermarkets.

  8. Way out west says:

    “improving public transport or the road network more generally”
    -What a terrible incentive!

  9. […] put me in such a good mood, I didn’t have the heart to tweet this particular example of Bigtown parking at its finest (although, to be fair, I think it was probably more a case of ignoring the four-hour parking time […]

  10. […] town, and spent much of the rest of the time in an undeclared war with the illegal parkers of the supposedly pedestrianised street the shop is on. If a space does open up outside the shop, my job then is to dash round as fast as […]

  11. […] poor sods) that has in very unBigtown fashion taken over a couple of illegal parking spots in a nominally pedestrianised street to make a little beer garden, and we wanted to celebrate the fact. They have a wide variety of […]

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