The Evening Standard disappears up its own fundament

On 18th January, Michael Howie and Jonathan Prynn of the Evening Standard wrote a piece about the alleged swiftness with which Westminster Council were converting single yellow lines around junctions in their borough to double yellows; their purpose, apparently, to hint at some subterfuge on the part of the Council.

Campaigners fighting a parking “stealth tax” today accused Westminster council of a suspicious “display of efficiency” in its rush to paint new double yellow lines in the West End. Borough officials confirmed the painting of five miles of double yellows on 199 roads, mostly in Mayfair, Marylebone and Fitzrovia, was “nearly done”. The last stretches are expected to be laid today.

… Workmen began converting the lines from single yellows, which are free outside peak times, on January 9. The change was agreed on December 23, less than two hours before Westminster City Hall closed for Christmas. It sparked fury among business owners, night workers and church leaders. West End restaurateur Richard Caring is planning a High Court challenge. John Griffin, owner of minicab firm Addison Lee, said: “They’ve rushed out this conversion of single yellow lines in world-record time. It’s incredible efficiency – just so they can grab some money.” Michel Roux Jr, chef of Le Gavroche in Upper Brook Street, said: “There’s double yellows everywhere in Mayfair now. They are having exactly the same effect as the parking charges.” Tony Lorenz, chairman of the Residents’ Society of Mayfair and St James, said: “It’s an unbelievably rare display of efficiency. I believe it’s defiance – ‘You’ve beaten us so far, so we’re going to take more [parking] spaces away.” Westminster claims only 132 “genuine” spaces have been lost as most new double yellows are at dropped kerbs or near junctions where people should not park. The lines are needed to improve safety, it says.

No voice was given to those local residents in favour of these changes.

Setting aside the preposterous claims of these ‘campaigners’ that double yellow lines are a ‘stealth tax’ – don’t park on them if you don’t want to be ‘taxed’, you stupid idiots – what is missing from this storm of outrage is a recognition that these new double yellow lines are, as the highlighted passage shows, almost entirely being painted in places where it was already illegal to park, at all times. What the campaigners claim to be a ‘tax’ is in reality nothing more than Westminster Council making it clearer where parking your car will result in a fine.

Highway Code Rule 243 is quite explicit –

DO NOT stop or park

  • opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
  • where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users and powered mobility vehicles

That is, the exact locations that correspond to where these double yellow lines are being painted. Westminster Council estimate that over 90% of these new double yellow lines are at locations where parking was already illegal, and liable to a fine. The Council could have issued tickets to vehicles that were parked in these locations in any case, in the absence of double yellow lines, so this policy really amounts to nothing more than doing motorists a favour.

Not content with merely giving free reign to this nonsensical ‘campaign’, The Evening Standard have now delved further into absurdity, with a piece published just two days later, on 20th January, again by Howie and Prynn. They now have a new theme – this time accusing Westminster Council of ‘double standards’. It runs

Almost four out of 10 West End junctions have paid-for or residents’ bays on stretches of road judged by Westminster council to be too dangerous for parking, official figures have revealed. The Tory-run authority has converted five miles of single yellow lines to doubles since the start of the year on safety grounds, mostly within 10 metres of junctions. But council leaders have been accused of double standards because they have left hundreds of parking bays – many generating revenue through charges – sited close to corners. In Mayfair almost half – 110 out of 233 – of junctions have bays within 10 metres.

The move has also infuriated businesses and residents who see it as a “backdoor” way of restricting parking after the council, headed by outgoing leader Colin Barrow, ditched plans for blanket evening and Sunday parking charges. The figures obtained by Westminster’s Labour leader Paul Dimoldenberg show that 254 of the 674 junctions, or 38 per cent, in the West End have parking bays within 10 metres of them. Almost half the bays are for residents, 30 per cent metered or pay and display and the rest a mix of spaces for motorbikes, disabled drivers, diplomats and doctors as well as taxi ranks and Boris bike docking stations. Mr Dimoldenberg said: “Westminster is happy to cite safety issues when it is getting rid of single yellow lines but doesn’t seem so concerned about spaces where it can charge up to £4.80 an hour.”

Of course, one implication of this new-found interest in ‘consistency’ on the part of the Evening Standard is that these remaining parking bays within 10 metres of junction should now be removed, and painted with double yellow lines. But of course this isn’t what the Evening Standard want at all – their interest in ‘consistency’ only seems to run one way; in allowing dangerous and illegal parking at all junctions.

The Evening Standard are also deeply confused. Referring back to Rule 243, we see that the Highway Code states that parking is not permitted within ten metres of junctions, except – and that is the key word – in authorised parking bays. The Highway Code doesn’t say that parking bays shouldn’t ever be within 10m of junctions, or that parking in a bay that happens to be within 10m of a junction is illegal. Parking bays can, and do, exist within 10m of a junction, quite legally.

In addition – and this should be quite obvious to anyone with half a brain cell – the mere fact that some parking bays in Westminster are within 10m of some junctions provides no grounds, whatsoever, for permitting parking outside of those bays by junctions or dropped kerbs. The two issues are quite separate. Nor does the continued existence of parking bays within 10m of junctions suggest that the Council should not make that prohibition explicit by painting double yellow lines.

Finally, the continued existence of some parking bays within 10m of junctions gives no grounds for suggesting that Westminster council are engaging in ‘double standards.’ This is for the simple reason that these parking bays are, in effect, an exemption to the 10m rule. Contrary to what the Standard is claiming, the continued existence of some parking bays within 10m of junctions doesn’t suggest inconsistency on the part of the council; it suggests leniency and generosity.

A case in point is the location used to illustrate the Evening Standard’s own piece on the 20th January – the corner of Balfour Place, and Aldford Street.

Here we can see a marked parking bay, to the left, within ten metres of the junction; a parking bay which any sane person can judge to have no bearing on the decision of the council to convert the single yellows here to double yellows. Note also that these double yellows are not a ‘new’ restriction, as the Standard’s erroneous caption suggests – they are  merely, given the corner and the dropped kerb, an explicit clarification of an existing restriction.

Now the logical implication of the Evening Standard’s attack on Westminster Council on the grounds of ‘double standards’ is that this parking bay should be removed, and the double yellow lines extended for ten metres from the junction. Indeed, not just at this junction; the implication is that all parking bays within ten metres of any junction in Westminster should be removed, resulting in the loss of far more than the (mere) 132 marked spaces that Westminster Council say have been lost as a result of their new double yellows.

Such a move by the Council would be greeted by screeches of horror from the Standard, doubtless far more strident than their current complaints. The obvious conclusion, as I said above, is that the only ‘consistency’ the paper (and the businessmen and women who are currently using it as a mouthpiece) are interested in is the liberty to park anywhere, at any time, even in locations (illogically) where it was already illegal to park, like at the junction of Balfour Place and Aldford Street.

It’s worth noting, further, that if Westminster Council really were interested in raising revenue, as the Labour leader Dimoldenberg claims, then they would be extending the parking bays right up to the junctions, and so gaining revenue from people paying to park in them. They certainly wouldn’t be pursuing their current policy of painting double yellow lines showing where people can’t park at all, for the simple reason that double yellow lines, in and of themselves, raise no revenue. The fact that some people are arrogant or ignorant enough to park on double yellows, and thereby attract fines, is quite obviously not the responsibility of Westminster Council. It is only this idiotic campaign that maintains that double yellow lines are some form of ‘tax’ that might lead people to think otherwise, and the Standard and the Labour members should be ashamed of themselves for going along with it.

I leave you with the point at which the Evening Standard finally disappears up its own fundament. The point at which it publishes, at face value, this kind of complaint –

Sophia Madden, 20, PA to Michael Charalambous, owner of Mayfair hair salon Nyumba, whose clients include Samantha Cameron and Jemima Khan, said: “People are arriving late for their appointments because they cannot find a space. A lot have to park at Selfridges. You don’t want to walk that far if you’ve just had your hair done.”

As these new double yellows are – to state again – almost entirely in locations where it was already illegal to park, the only possible reason the Nyumba clients ‘cannot find a space’ is that they, or other motorists, are no longer parking illegally in the vicinity – obstructing junctions and pavements, and so on – and are now using the marked bays. This fundamental shortage of space for parking cannot, and should not, be solved by allowing obstructive parking.

The desperate straits of a woman who has paid at least £175 for a haircut being forced to  walk 700 yards from Nyumba back to Selfridges is not going to persuade me otherwise.

Thanks to @johnstreetdales for provoking this piece

This entry was posted in Evening Standard, London, Parking, Walking. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Evening Standard disappears up its own fundament

  1. AJ says:

    Great post, and great example and explanation of how ridiculous this all is!

    This whole episode has made me despise the Evening Standard. Sadly, most people probably agree with their “campaign”.

  2. +1 on the good post front, maybe the paper should be renamed to the Evening Doubles Standards?

    I also can’t help but feel that all the fuss over the parking “taxes” are somewhat un-warranted. I know we are currently in a recession so every penny counts but if you are going to spunk £175 on a hair cut or god-only-knows how much on a tiny plate of Michelin Starred food then surely paying for your parking isn’t really that much of a problem? Heck you could even…heaven forbid…use public transport or leave the at home and get one of the “posh” private taxi’s to take you to your dinner/hair appointment/pilates class?

  3. Beth A says:

    Amazing! This comment has really brightened up my day!

    ‘Sophia Madden, 20, PA to Michael Charalambous, owner of Mayfair hair salon Nyumba, whose clients include Samantha Cameron and Jemima Khan, said: “People are arriving late for their appointments because they cannot find a space. A lot have to park at Selfridges. You don’t want to walk that far if you’ve just had your hair done.”’

    In fact I get my hair done then *cycle* home afterwards. mind you, I don’t pay £175 for it. No sympathy at all.

  4. Greg Collins says:

    Surely if they can afford the prices in that salon they should get a cab and put even more money back into the economy.

  5. James says:

    It is ironic that – since it became a free paper – the Standard is now almost exclusively distributed to public transport users at rail and tube stations.

    Surely its readers are the people least likely to want to drive into central London at night?!

  6. Don says:

    “It is ironic that – since it became a free paper – the Standard is now almost exclusively distributed to public toilet users at rail and tube stations.”

    Fixed that for you James 😉

  7. Kim says:

    Ah, but “people rely on their cars” is the new Tory mantra, even if it is totally detached from reality…

  8. Keeping junctions clear of parked cars might improve visibility, but it encourages higher speeds, so from the safety point of view it’s arguably counterproductive. Parked cars are a useful form of traffic calming. In London I cycle mostly (though I’ve just had my 7th bike stolen), but sometimes you need to drive, e.g. to move stuff. I’ve only had time for a quick visit, but do I detect quite a lot of resentment against drivers, especially well-heeled ones, on this site? I’m for live and let live, and merging in a merry mix. In my view, most traffic law is asinine, most traffic control counterproductive, and most parking enforcement mean-spirited.

    • Keeping junctions clear of parked cars doesn’t just help visibility – it helps people to cross the road. I’m not sure it’s a brilliant idea to allow dropped kerbs to be blocked by vehicles, or indeed to impede the movement of pedestrians across junctions. Do you?

      I’m also not sure we have to trade off improved visibility against lower speeds either – it’s perfectly possible to improve visibility and keep vehicle speeds low without permitting parking right on top of junctions – tighter junction geometry being one obvious example – pavement build-outs across the mouths of junctions being another. Using parked cars to achieve lower vehicle speeds through junctions is a little baffling, not least because they won’t always be parked there.

      Finally, I certainly don’t resent people complaining about having to walk a few hundred yards after a haircut. If I were to search for a noun, it would probably be ‘derision’.

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