The Evening Standard ties itself in double yellow knots

You may recall Westminster Council’s recent conversion of some single yellow lines in their borough to double yellow lines; principally, I suspect, for the storm of indignation that their decision provoked, rather than for the mundane reality of the changes involved.

That storm of indignation was, of course, given entirely uncritical voice by the Evening Standard, which joined in with this ‘campaign’ – a curious editorial decision for a ‘freesheet’ paper whose readership must be composed almost completely of public transport users who consequently have little or no interest in parking cars in front of dropped kerbs, or at junctions, in central London.

As I wrote at the time, the fever of protest whipped up by the Standard paid little attention to the facts of the matter, principally that over 90% of these new double yellow lines are at locations where it was already illegal to park, and where motorists would be liable to a parking ticket. With that context, the double yellow lines that have been painted are really nothing more than an explicit clarification of where parking is, and isn’t, allowed. This particular policy of Westminster Council amounts to doing motorists a favour.

The clear implication of the hostile pieces published almost continuously by the Standard both before and during the painting of the double yellows was that Westminster Council were out to ‘get’ the motorist by removing ‘free’ parking; that the policy was nothing more than a shameless way of raising revenue, by forcing motorists to use the marked bays – which of course have to be paid for. In one piece, the director of Addison Lee was allowed to state that the double yellow lines had been rushed out ‘just so they [Westminster Council] can grab some money.’

The Labour leader of Westminster Council, Paul Dimoldenberg, was also quoted in a later piece, stating that

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.

Mr Dimoldenberg implying here that the ‘free’ parking on single yellows (parking that would, of course, have been illegal and liable to a ticket – but never mind) is only being removed (or ‘removed’) in order to force motorists into marked bays where they would have to pay.

I have, of course, dismantled all this nonsense in that prior post. What is interesting, now, is that Westminster Council have issued the figures for tickets issued to drivers who obstructed dropped kerbs with their vehicles.

In the week starting February 13th last year – when, let us remember, these locations were marked with single yellows – 184 parking tickets were issued to drivers for this offence.

How many drivers were ticketed in the equivalent week this year, when they would have been parking on double yellows while obstructing dropped kerbs?

63.

Whether this drastic reduction is entirely due to the increased clarity about where it is illegal to park – clarity created by the new double yellow lines – is not certain, of course, but it seems highly likely. Assuming that Westminster’s traffic wardens are just as assiduous as they were in the equivalent period last year, the figures suggest that drivers appear to be far less inclined to park in these ticket-liable locations.

Drivers are therefore escaping fines that they might otherwise have got had they been tempted to park on single yellows. Lee Rowley – Westminster Council’s ‘parking supremo’ – estimates that the Council will be losing around £400,000 worth of revenue as a consequence of this clarification, a calculation that appears to be based, reasonably, on the 120 or so £60 fines that Westminster Council ‘lost out on’ over this week in February.

Naturally this makes the ‘revenue-grabbing’ line presented by the Evening Standard appear even more ludicrous than it did at the time (facts do, of course, tend to have that effect). What’s laughable is that the two journalists responsible for churning out that garbage – Michael Howie and Jonathan Prynn – are still at it, despite the fact that the rug has been pulled out from under their feet.

Having published a string of pieces which uncritically presented all the nonsensical arguments against the new double yellow lines, including those that claimed they were a ‘tax’ on the motorist, they have now written a piece which states that the Council’s policy on double yellow lines was a ‘mistake’.

This is all deeply confusing, because if one read the Evening Standard during January, one would have got the impression, formed from Howie and Prynn’s articles, that the new double yellow lines were a big mistake because they would result in more revenue being taken, unfairly, from motorists.

Howie and Prynn still think the policy is a mistake (without really saying why, beyond a bit of whining about the small cost of painting the double yellows) even though its actual consequence, as reported in their very own article, has been to take less revenue from motorists.

Make up your minds, chaps.

Just as peculiarly, the Editorial column of the Standard weighs in on the issue, writing that

WESTMINSTER council, trying to recover its credibility after the debacle of off-peak parking charges, is still sticking with another bad idea, the extension of double yellow lines. As the ruling Tory group in the council meets to choose a new leader, a report today suggests the lines cost more than £100,000.

Do the Standard really think the ‘extension’ of double yellows is still a ‘bad idea’, while they are simultaneously reporting that it is saving motorists money? I’m sure they don’t – or couldn’t maintain so, with a straight face, given their earlier rhetoric about the costs being imposed on motorists.

The only trick they have left, it seems, is to complain about the cost of implementation. But this is a deeply odd position to take when you are calling for the policy to be reversed, because restoring junctions to how they were previously  would, of course, cost almost exactly the same amount of money. It is, needless to say, a bit rich to complain about the Council spending £100,000 when you want them to spend another £100,000 for no apparent purpose, other than to increase the revenue accruing from motorists, which is what the Evening Standard are supposed to be against.

Embarrassing journalism.

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

5 Responses to The Evening Standard ties itself in double yellow knots

  1. What a monumental balls up by the Standard🙂 It’s making my head hurt just trying to follow the “logic” in their reporting you describe above…Mind you I think I’d have stopped following their reporting as soon as they spoke to the head of those “angels” of the road Addison Lee!

  2. And not mentioned anywhere of course is the fact that those drivers who parked in front of dropped kerbs were blocking pedestrians, in particulars those with reduced mobility, wheelchairs or prams. Surely it is a good thing that in such a pedestrian-heavy area of London parking is restricted?

  3. Paul M says:

    Tructh is of course that the whole parking campaign was the work of a couple of insanely wealthy retauratuers and a celebrity criper or two, who were incensed that their celebtrity clientele might not be able to park their Porsche Cayennes right outside the front doors of their establishments.

    As you say, the vast majority of copies of the ES are picked up by commuters – train, tube or bus passengers to you and me. How on earth Caring et al managed to hijack ES this way is beyond me, when surely advertisers would prefer a newspaper to reflect the concerns of readers, whose views of their ads determine what they are prepared to pay for the advertising space?

    To be fair, some ES journos are really quite sensible – Ross Lydall stands out for honourable mention – and in among the neanderthal rantings about who pays road tax, etc, quite a few of the usual suspects in the ES comment community gave them a hard time for flogging this particular dead horse.

  4. It wasn’t just the ES.
    Simon Jenkins (good on cycle helmets and HS2) in the Guardian freaked out about losing his free parking place. He doesn’t seem to get anything critical of mass car use, which, since he is head honcho of the National Trust and is supposed to be concerned about protecting the environment, is a bit strange.

    Then, for the ultimate in hysterical, self-aggrandising, entitled to do what she wants to do in her car, there was a piece by Mary Ann Sieghart in The Independent. Worth reading to understand how irrational car culture can make people.

    Of course, these are not Editorials. Mind you the ES did have an Editorial campaign for cyclist safety, which, er, seems to have fizzled out.

    Which The Times one may do as well.

  5. Pingback: Bike News Roundup: Seattle > Portland | Seattle Bike Blog

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