Earlier this week I wrote up a few thoughts on the Spokes Hustings last week, where I commented on my memory of Cllr Gordon Mackenzie’s replies on the issue of Pay & Display parking in bus lanes and cycle lanes. Since then, Cllr Mackenzie has left a comment on my post to correct my memory and continue the debate. So I thought I would take the opportunity to write a new post.

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie wrote:


I didn’t say we couldn’t remove parking but I think the point I was making about local shops depending for some of their income on passing car trade has been covered by the first contributor. I read your comments about they traders in Gorgie but if you pop down to the shops near you on Newington Rd you will find that many recently suffered substantially from the loss of trade during the gas mains works in the area which removed quite a lot of the parking. I’ve no doubt several would go out of business if that became the norm. Similarly if you’ve been to a GP practice, like the one near me on Dalkeith Rd you’d appreciate that while many patients could do with a bit more exercise there are also a substantial number who have impaired mobility and a ban on parking would mean that they’d have to move practice or require more home visits.

However I wasn’t arguing in either scenario that we couldn’t change or improve the situation for cyclists, I was mainly highlighting the fact that it’s not as easy as saying ‘lets remove parking’. There would undoubtedly be significant consequences for many of those involved. Loss of trade could mean a business becoming unprofitable and a loss of jobs. Having to move GP could involve more travel, loss of a key relationship and additional costs to the NHS. These are not insurmountable obstacles but they’re not easy or cost free to remedy. That’s why I’m not sure that a parking restriction is always the best option.

Thanks for your comments, Gordon.

Interesting that you should mention the effects of the recent gas mains works on traders on Newington Rd. As I live nearby, I did go to some of these shops while these works was in progress. It was very noticeable at the time that pedestrian access was also hampered by the work going on. Firstly, all of the temporary traffic signs were placed on the pavement, causing obstructions to pedestrians (including wheelchairs, prams etc.). Also, the pedestrian crossing at Salisbury Place was not available because of the temporary lights which had no provision for pedestrians. There is a Pelican crossing 150m north on Newington Road. However, from experience, using this Pelican crossing was more hazardous when the works were going on, as drivers were choosing to ignore the red light and driving straight through during the pedestrian phase. I had a number of near misses and I know of other people who had similar experiences. Given these difficulties in pedestrian access, it is not surprising that there was a decline in trade during the gas mains works, and it can hardly be attributed to the loss of a few parking spaces alone.

Neither the GP practice nor the dental surgery I use have parking outside, yet both are busy. So, here again, parking is not the key issue that it is often made out to be. You say that a parking ban would impact on patients with “impaired mobility”, but Blue Badge holders are permitted to park on yellow lines, and disabled-only bays could easily be provided (as long as they were enforced). Since July of last year I have had to make regular trips to the Royal Infirmary, all of these I have made by bus, including the initial trip to A&E, to have my broken collarbone diagnosed. I have a friend who broke his leg playing football, he travelled to all of his outpatient appointments by bus, too. The suggestion that access to a car is needed in order to receive medical treatment really is a red herring.

People need to have a choice of transport, but the over-emphasis on making it easy to use a car, as the default, leads to car dependence and a closing-off of opportunities for active travel. International experience has shown that restricting parking is effective at increasing active travel, and quality of life for those living in urban areas. It is very noticeable that places which often are voted as being “the best place to live” are those where walking and cycling are easy and car access is restricted. This doesn’t mean that people living in these places own fewer cars or have less access to cars, just that they use them far less often.

If you are serious about reducing congestion and air pollution in the city, for the benefit of all, then you really do have to grasp the nettle and reduce car parking. Again, looking at international evidence of places where these changes have been applied, they didn’t always have high approval rating when they were first brought in. But after a couple of years when people had experienced the benefits of having more people-friendly streets, they have proved to be highly popular. To quote Jeremy Clarkson (I never thought I would find myself doing this) writing about CopenhagenThe upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat.” This is the way I would like Edinburgh to be!

With regard to the “Quality Bike Corridor”, there is no reason why drivers have to be able to park on the main road. They could be provided with a small number of short term Pay & Display parking bays in nearby side streets and walk the last few metres. If active travel is to become the default means of transport, it must be made the easier option, with driving being a less attractive option. Current policies are having the opposite effect, this needs to change for the benefit of everyone.