Please see this very good letter from David Rennie on behalf of the Sustainable Haringey Transport Group sent to Lynne Featherstone and also to all Haringey councillors.
30 minutes FREE parking in Haringey
You say this proposal is ‘to help shopkeepers’. But where is the evidence for that? Research over decades has shown that 'free' parking will neither help shopkeepers, nor the vast majority of shoppers and other people in high streets. Please study the summary of research itemised below.
The real problem and solution
Parking is not a central concern for more than a small minority of shoppers. The thing that deters most shoppers – who are pedestrians or bus users – is the domination of their shopping streets by fast, polluting traffic that confines them to narrow pavements and makes crossing the road difficult. Those are the things you and your local councillors should be addressing, rather than pandering to the already well cared-for motorists, who always protest in the UK as though they were an oppressed minority.
A policy worth pushing Government and Haringey to adopt is to reduce speeds in all those busy roads where there are many pedestrians, such as Muswell Hill Broadway. Reduce speeds initially to 20mph, and ultimately lower as is common in Europe. Some neighbouring boroughs to Haringey have introduced default 20mph limits.Shopkeepers vastly overestimate car shoppers
• Shopkeepers believe that about twice as many of their customers come by car as actually do. Research has always demonstrated this – in Edinburgh (2003), Bristol (2006), and nearly 20 years ago in what is now the traffic-calmed, shopper-friendly city of Graz in Southern Austria. In Edinburgh, fewer than 25% (and falling) came by car. In Bristol only 22% came by car, whereas shopkeepers estimated it was 41%. And car-users tended to be drive-through shoppers; whereas pedestrians and bus-users visited several shops, car-users were far more likely to visit one single shop. [SUSTRANS 2003 and 2006.]
• Also in Bristol, shopkeepers greatly underestimated (at 12%) the proportion of shoppers who live within half a mile, i.e. walking distance. The true number was 42%, nearly half.
One explanation for shopkeepers’ gross misconception of the proportion of their shoppers coming be car may be that car traffic is so dominant in their streets. Yet, in Outer London, only 19% in fact come to town centres by car. In Central London, where shoppers rated ‘Less traffic’ as their highest priority for improvements, only 2% come by car, van, or lorry. [TfL figures, in the London Councils report (see below).]
Car shoppers are not the best customers
• Transport for London research has found that walking is the most important mode for people getting to District centres, bus for Major centres and tube for Central Area of London. In all centres, walking has increased over the recent decade.
• Another TfL finding was that walkers and cyclists shop many times a week, public transport users many fewer times, and car-users by far the most rarely. Also, while car-users spent the most per visit, walkers spent 65% more than them per month and bus-users 25% more.
The quality of the shopping centre, not parking, has most impact on trade
• London Councils (the umbrella body and think-tank for the 33 London boroughs) published a review in Oct 2012 entitled The relevance of parking in the success of urban centres. Its conclusions echoed those summarised above. It also emphasised that the most important factors in attracting shoppers and visitors to town centres were a good mix of shops and services and a good quality environment. When asked to name the most important improvement needed, only 6% of visitors interviewed in Outer London called for more or easier parking.
• London Councils also reported that Camberwell residents who shop elsewhere than in Camberwell rated parking as the least important factor for not shopping locally. The range and quality of shops were more important.
• Research in Leicester in 1992 showed that shop vacancy rates increase as the level of traffic increases. A study of 6 Midlands towns in 1994 showed that ‘parking provision does not have an influence on whether shops close or remain trading’. The overall quality and attractiveness of the centres had more impact on trade. [SUSTRANS.]
• Groningen in the Netherlands pedestrianised a large part of its central area in the face of a barrage of ferocious criticism from business, but the area is now prized by shoppers. That is the kind of long term target we should pursue here.
There is no such thing as a FREE lunch
• The shopping guru, Mary Portas, in her 2011 review of high streets, advocated ‘free controlled parking…for town centres’. But the London Councils report concludes that a there is no such thing as FREE parking. Someone has to pay to provide, maintain, and enforce controlled free parking. 'Free' parking operated by councils, whether on-street or off-street, is paid for by council tax payers. 'Free' parking provided by supermarkets is paid, through the price of goods, by all customers, not just car-users. An act of parliament is needed to introduce fair car-park charges at all supermarkets.
• ‘Free’ parking leads to an increase in traffic. So, as well as its money cost, there is the cost born by all shoppers who are eventually on foot. And ‘Too much traffic’ is one of shoppers’ commonest complaints.
Sustainable Haringey Transport Group