Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It makes you think… town centres

I have a twice-yearly job as a removals man.  Taking my daughter up to University and bringing her back. As she is up in Scotland we generally make a holiday of it. It is a long way up and a long way back. This time around we drove up in a day and then stayed in Dundee. We off-loaded her belonging and then stayed in the Lakes and with my Mother.

So we have been car-born tourists in three different locations. I was going to take my Brompton folding bicycle but in the end we decided to do some walking instead.

Now one of the items in the news was that Parking charges were set to be introduced at Cambridge’s park and ride sites.  I reckon it is a stupid idea.  The Cambridge County Council needs to bring some clarity into their thinking – they need to promote straightforward policies with clear goals. Then they need to deliver on it. They have stated challenges but whilst their officials might believe in them it looks as if the councillors don’t give a toss about them.

The politics of motoring seem to be so strong that motorists resent the thought of anyone getting something for nothing. Yet motoring adversely impacts our lives in myriad ways, but because it has been around for “so long” we get confused about its role in our lives. We moan about cars and the unfair costs (I do – every year when my car gets serviced) but we are blinkered to the issues caused by our countries short-sighted and haphazard transport policies.

So I was very disappointed, but not surprised to see that “£1 daily parking charge at Cambridge park and ride sites approved”.  All I could se was this was going to cause downside. Putting in the charging system would cost money, probably be late and break down and waste money being maintained. It would discourage park and walkers and park and cyclers into parking on the street. Lets face it people walk and/or cycle to get exercise and save money. Another £5 on the weekly transport bill is a lot of money. So there would be more congestion in the city and parking on residential streets.

So I was rather pleased (and amused) to see that the idea has been challenged “Cambridge park and ride charge ‘undemocratic’, say councillors”.  What does slightly niggle me is the way this all seems to align along party lines – those same councillors signed up to the transport strategy – why do they read it so differently. Perhaps they didn’t all sign up to it? Which reminds me I ought to write to my Councillor to give my views before their re-think.

So what has this got to do with town centres. Well when I was a tourist the thing that really drove me nuts was all the cars. Take Bowness on Windermere - a nice place to visit with interesting shops and restaurants, but trying to cross the road was a nightmare.  Tourists don’t like car-congested town centres – not because of the parking  but because they are so unpleasant and somewhat threatening. So to make towns better you need to get more people out of cars and onto bikes or walking.

For a better visitor experience keep cars out of town centres – Mr Pickles.

If it is £1 to park will they be charging 50p a kiss?

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