Painting a true picture of every car driver's parking problem
PUBLISHED: 20:58 26 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:58 26 September 2019
A trip to France has made Nick Conrad rethink how we drive - and park - in this country
It's when you visit a sparsely populated country that you realise just how crowded we are in Britain.
Last month I took a quick trip to Rodez, France, and left feeling slightly envious about how much space they appear to have. Driving on their highways was a much more sedate affair than Blighty. There was a distinct lack of traffic. Finding a parking space in the pretty Aveyron villages was a doddle. With the speed limit recently lowered, you travel at a snail's pace. The fastest you'll travel on many French A or B roads is now just 50mph! The Élysée Palace hope the policy will lead to fewer fatalities on national roads. On Britain's roads the problem is only set to get worse.
Two experiences on my return to the UK further highlighted the difference between our countries. On a recent trip to The Midlands I turned off the M42 joining the M6 Northbound. It took me half an hour to travel three miles.
Large juggernauts, vans and cars all puffing out fumes, turned this large road into a monster car park. At the time I assumed that an accident had occurred, or roadworks had held up our progress. Nope! This was a usual rush-hour occurrence.
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But similarly, to the French the presence of a hard-shoulder has disappeared. This makes me rather uncomfortable. I sympathise with the need to increase capacity on highways - however, it's not until you're travelling at speed on a motorway with no hard shoulder that you really start to feel vulnerable. What if something goes wrong? You've nowhere to go. The truth is we need to look at the expected levels of traffic growth on our roads and make plans to accommodate the extra cars. Though I'm no fan of losing the hard shoulder, it is a quick fix to a pressing problem.
But does congestion really affect us in Norfolk? Many of the historic issues have partially been elevated by the investment in the A11 and the NDR. However, parking does pose a sizable issue. Last weekend I needed to park on Cliff Road in Cromer to drop something into North Lodge Park. Driving up and down the nearby roads I was looking for an on-road parking space.
The saying about 'hen's teeth' springs to mind. Frustratingly, five cars were parked in a space that could have easily accommodated 10. Drivers are so reticent to get close to the car in front. If only we had a gentle guide to help drivers maximise the space available and allow a greater number of us to park. Filling these 'great chasms' would maximise the parking capacity, especially in our seaside towns.
I have a very simple, yet potentially effective, suggestion for Norfolk's parking woes. I'm tempted to leave my house one evening and creep around Cromer with a sloshing can of weatherproof paint. I'd gleefully daub the curb with little white markers. Each splash would denote the start and end of the perfectly sized car parking space. Not too generous, not too small - carefully accommodating those who struggle with spatial awareness. A couple of hours, some emulsion and a large brush could eradicate a sizeable problem. I jest, and of course I wouldn't put graffiti on the pavement... but I'm tempted.
It's clear that on our roads and in local car parks space is at a premium. Ultimately this issue will be exacerbated by development, without properly identifying how growth impacts on infrastructure.
The only way to help ease this issue is a combination of good planning, sizable investment in our roads, public transport and ultimately tempting people away from using cars. It is much harder in rural Norfolk to ditch our vehicles than it is for our urban counterparts. We need to maximise what we've got. I'm sure many of you have better ideas than my 'crude' pot of paint.