How do you discourage drivers from using their cars for trips that could easily be done on foot, by bike or on the bus? Especially in a country like ours, where 25 per cent of car trips are under 1 mile, 71 per cent under 5 miles (most with only 1 or 2 people) and 4 million commuters travel less than 3 miles to work by car.
The one-year pilot scheme aims to tackle crippling congestion that residents have complained about for years.
Jurriaan Esser, a spokesperson for the council, told The Guardian: “We want the primary way of transportation to be your legs, and then the bicycle, public transport, and, last, cars,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t allow cars in our city: it means that if you have a short distance to travel, your primary way of transportation should be your legs. It benefits not only the environment but also travel times.”
Parking is the ‘third rail of politics’
The former London commissioner for cycling, Andrew Gilligan, may once have described parking as the third rail of politics – ‘if you touch it, you die’, but mayors around Europe are beginning to take a stand.
The German city of Tübingen increased parking fees to discourage the use of large and heavy cars. The city’s mayor, Boris Palmer, an outspoken advocate for liveable cities, posted the following on his Facebook account:
Dear car drivers, You didn’t pay for the roads. Neither do you pay enough taxes. Your favourite form of transport is massively subsidised as it is, by all other taxpayers and the next generation. If the prices were to reflect the real amount you should be paying, a parking space would have to cost not 30 Euros a year, but 3000.
When a local resident accused Palmer of “conducting a personal campaign against cars and their owners”, the mayor replied he was “only against people who want other people to pay for their parking space, and then go on to moan on top of that”.
Various local authorities around the UK now base their parking permits on emissions, but vehicle weight is an interesting alternative approach. Not only are heavier vehicles usually more polluting, but they pose a greater risk to other road users.
The pressure on parking space is most acute in large cities, despite these areas housing the highest proportion of people without access to a car. However, increases in parking fees always provokes a vocal minority.
| “It’s not my duty as mayor to make sure you have a parking spot. For me it’s the same as if you bought a cow, or a refrigerator, and then asked me where you’re going to put them.”
As cities around the world grapple with air pollution, climate change and road danger, an increasing number are unapologetic about the need to tackle urban car use. Miguel Anxo, Mayor of Pontevedra, Spain declared: “It’s not my duty as mayor to make sure you have a parking spot. For me it’s the same as if you bought a cow, or a refrigerator, and then asked me where you’re going to put them.”
Anxo has been re-elected four times since pedestrianising the city, air pollution down is 61 per cent and there have been no traffic deaths for over a decade.
The ethical choice
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