When consultation is a curse

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip, said the word ‘consult’ comes from a contraction of ‘to con’ and ‘to insult’. Perhaps he’s had experience of transport consultations.

Pavement parking is banned in London – although seldom enforced – but elsewhere in the country it is only prohibited for lorries. Antisocial pavement parking is dangerous and has been a blight for those with visual impairments, wheelchair users and parents with buggies for decades.

We find it profoundly regrettable that the Government has taken so long to take any action to deal with pavement parking. So said a report  last year by the parliament’s Transport Committee – a body appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Department for Transport. Their frustration was understandable. Five years ago the government promised to look into the issue of pavement parking in England. However, since then, consultations, round table meetings and internal reviews have failed to lead to any meaningful action.

pavement parking

The most recent consultation on parking was six months ago. It’s tempting to conclude that in this case the consultation is used to mask the fact that government is unable or unwilling to make a decision.

Consultation culture extends to the informal petition. Conservative-run Kensington and Chelsea council in London this week scrapped a popular cycle lane after opposition from only 0.2% of the borough’s population.

The cycle lane has been in operation for only seven weeks and 3,000 cyclists use it every day and yet the emails of 322 residents – out of a population of 160,000 – are cited by the council as the reason the piece of £700,000 infrastructure is to be removed. In 2019, Kensington and Chelsea council vetoed a flagship scheme for safer walking and cycling in London before a formal consultation had been completed. Kensington and Chelsea council use consultations – both formal and informal – a fig leaves for its idealogical opposition to cycling schemes.

Richmond park in southwest London is a national nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation – and, at many times of the day, packed with cars. Despite other world-class urban green spaces such as New York’s Central Park kicking out cars recently, Richmond Park has steadfastly refused to ban motorised vehicles, or even to reduce traffic by charging for parking. Until lockdown. For a few months this summer, the park fell silent. The air was cleaner. Birdsong was deafening. However, despite strong local support for a complete ban on cars, the park remains an extremely busy through-route for peak time traffic. The current consultation doing the rounds ducks the central issue: should cars be banned from the park.

Consultations that present a choice of viable options, with meaningful differences between them, and that stand an equal chance of implementation have value, but they often appear little more than a box ticking exercise.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Thirty years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurancebreakdown cover  and home insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

With ETA cycle insurance, however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model. Furthermore, every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future. No wonder The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be Britain’s most ethical provider.



  1. Gavin


    The very same Kensington and Chelsea council who went AWOL in the aftermath of a tower block going up in flames with multiple deaths… it exists for the rich – they’re filth!

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