Westminster City Council’s decision to charge for parking at night and at weekends (parking outside of peak hours is currently free) kicked up the usual stink from motorists who feel it’s their right to leave their large vehicles on the public highway for little or no charge.
The Guardian’s normally quite sensible Simon Jenkins tied himself in knots when he wrote that Westminster’s parking charges were a "tax" and would penalise arch London motorists such as poorly-paid restaurant workers. Parking fees, he contended, were tantamount to "licensed mugging."
Without a shred of either irony or evidence, he wrote: "Predicting and then meeting forecasts of need may guide policy on railways or airports, houses or hospitals, but not roads. They are treated as a sinful luxury, and driving and parking cars on them even more so."
Commenters on the Guardian article suggested Jenkins take the bus or tube instead. No parking charges. Others suggested he cycle.
In the neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea there’s a campaign to get rich motorists out of their cars and on to bikes. Bikeminded is a £300,000, three-year campaign, 75 percent paid by an EU grant from Intelligent Energy Europe.
Kathryn King is the Road Safety and Travel Plan Manager for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. She said her department developed Bikeminded to promote cycling for very good reasons:
"As London grows, there is increasing demand for all forms of travel and we view cycling as an important means of increasing transport capacity to cater for this growth. Cycling has a very low environmental impact and we therefore invest in cycling to improve our local environment. It is a healthy way to travel and can help support residents in improving their wellbeing."
As well as Bikeminded, the Royal Borough runs free adult and child cycle training programmes, and according to King, "invests considerable sums into improving cycle infrastructure."
This includes improving facilities for cyclists at junctions, 500 extra bike parking stands, and making side streets more accessible for cyclists.
"We were the first Council in the UK to trial two-way cycling on one-way streets," said King. This has had "very positive feedback from cyclists."
And cycling is not Poor Man’s Transport any more. A video produced for Bikeminded – click above – shows an affluent guy leaving a plush house on an expensive Moulton bicycle and shopping at up-scale retailers, and not paying for parking.
"We did considerable research into which people are most likely to cycle in the borough in order for our limited budget to be utilised to the greatest effect. We found that educated men, aged 30 – 45, living in above average value homes and working in well paid jobs are most likely to cycle. Our research tells us that South Kensington, Earl’s Court and Notting Hill have high numbers of this target group."
Cyclist numbers are up all over London, including in Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
King said: "We are aiming to increase the number of people cycling as their main mode of transport by 14 per cent, from 3.6 per cent of trips in 2008/9 to 4.1 per cent in 2013/14."