Too many cars and not enough kerbside create an equation that is tough to solve.
More than half of the homes in our ward date back to the early part of the twentieth century when car ownership was practically zero. These properties are built in terraced rows, and many are ‘Tyneside flats’, meaning that the upstairs and the downstairs are separate residences. Population density is therefore high whilst street space is limited.
The rapid growth in car ownership has meant that for these streets, lacking any off-street parking provision, finding an on-street space to park up can be a daily battle. As a local community it’s one of the challenges that we have to live with and manage the best we can. There’s no silver bullet solution, which means that as a local councillor I find myself in ongoing dialogue with residents around the ward, looking into various schemes that might be used to improve things.
The two things I’m asked for the most are resident-only permit schemes and double-yellow lines. I’m happy to get involved in exploring both these options, but in so-doing I tend to also encourage people to consider more flexible options too. Resident-only schemes come with drawbacks, such as the problems they create for visitors such as relatives, care workers, delivery drivers etc. They seem to work better when combined with an hour or two of permitted visiting. Double-yellows are a very blunt instrument, taking kerbside out of use all-day, every day. This can sometimes be taking a hammer to crack a nut. Single-yellows, restricting parking at problem hours tend to be a better option.
In the years ahead we’re going to need a range of improvements. More car sharing within households will help reduce the number of cars on the street. Local car sharing schemes such as Co-Wheels could help with this too. Proper parking provision for people who work in the town centre will prevent the overspill of commuters onto streets in our ward. Better public transport links will help people get around without needing a car at all. Improved cycle infrastructre will encourage people to make shorter journeys on two wheels rather than four.
Finally then, and sticking with the cycling image, when it comes to solving our parking problems we’re basically working with what the elite cycling coach Dave Brailsford called “marginal gains”, making lots of individual adjustments that all add up to deliver a big improvement.