The problems of urban parking management are well known. There are of course different arguments relating to the ‘fairness’ of such systems; particularly from businesses who argue that parking restrictions harm their operations. However, the crucial fact that is often overlooked in such political wrangling is that the responsibility of the Highway Authority is to keep the highway free from obstructions. In many instances parked vehicles are an obstruction. They throttle traffic flow, cause problems for cyclists, and often block footways too.
In the early 1990s, London introduced Red Routes. These are strictly enforced corridors where vehicles can only park in designated bays. Failure to do so sees heavy penalties and even towing away of the errant vehicle. However, at the time this option for regulation was restricted to the capital and it required special authorisation from the Secretary of State. For a long time they were unique but have had national awareness through their presence in Know Your Traffic Signs and the Highway Code.
Later trials saw them introduced in the West Midlands, although with varying degrees of success. A variant was introduced in Edinburgh, confusingly labelled as Greenways, as the bus lanes they were protecting were coloured green, despite using red lines.
In 2016, the use of Red Routes was finally freed from the requirements of special authorisations as it became a prescribed series of signs in the new TSRGD. Interestingly, one of the first towns to take advantage of this is Blackburn. It is due to the determination of a small number of engineers that the usual political hurdles and local complaints about parking management have been passed and, at the time of writing, the installation work for the first 1.5 mile length of Red Route outside of a metropolitan region has started.
The length of road in question has recently been widened to provide bus lanes and improved junctions as part of a £40m public transport investment across East Lancashire. Yes, I did quite a bit of road sign work for it. However, I did not sow the seeds for red routes in Blackburn; that dates back to 2009 before I was even a traffic technician in Halifax.
A repeater sign installed – at the time this was taken the lines had not been laid. Note the erroneous yellow lines in the centre of the road; these need not be there and I suspect they will be removed.
The parking bays are clearly signed too, although there appears to be a clearway symbol on the parking bay plates that I think needs to be covered up otherwise it gives the impression that parking is prohibited entirely outside the limited waiting times. Strictly speaking also such plates should be facing approaching traffic but the large size makes them legible from the driver’s line of sight so that is not as huge a concern as it may otherwise have been.
I am interested to see how this new system works in a town that is notorious for poor parking behaviour and political hostility to crack downs on it. There is a pervasive argument that parking enforcement drives away visitors to a town, when in reality the opposite applies; a free-for-all where streets are completely dominated by business parking (staff and commuters) means that visitors don’t get a look in and will go elsewhere. Red Routes are a hugely beneficial tool in ensuring this does not happen as the removal of observation time requirements mean that the risks of confrontation with entitled drivers and aggressive parking mentality are minimised. You stop on the red line, are spotted and that’s an instant Penalty Charge Notice. It would have been easier with vehicle CCTV enforcement but the difficulties in using that following the interference in transport matters by Eric Pickles are well known and documented.
So, it’s extremely early days yet but I am hoping to see positive results from this and maybe, just maybe, larger cities like Manchester might just take notice and tackle their own on-street parking problems too.