The County Council highways committee voted last week to pass a new policy on neighbourhood parking – to be precise, they passed half a policy. New types of permit will be available, including for tradespeople, doctors, carers, hire cars, etc. That’s most welcome; but the process Cambridge residents must follow to get new parking controls for their area will continue to be tortuous.
For people living outside the city, ‘residents parking zones’ look like they’re about city residents selfishly protecting their privilege. To some extent that’s true: but take the mother who got home from the supermarket with her four-month-old baby and found the closest she could park to her house was over half a mile away; all the closer spaces were taken up by all-day commuter parkers. If you were her, wouldn’t you want to change that?
But the real issue is much bigger: that baby is being exposed to life-threatening pollution. As are we all, especially when we sit in a car in a queue of traffic, when the air intake is right behind the exhaust of the vehicle in front. Over 5% of Cambridgeshire’s population mortality is attributed to air pollution (that’s a direct quote from a recent public health report).
To reduce pollution we need to reduce the number of vehicles sitting in traffic and being driven around in search of parking spaces. Widening roads has just made the problem worse: even more cars sit in queues. We have to provide convenient, safe and affordable alternatives to driving for many more people.
In the first place, that means redesigning bus services (quicker routes, higher frequency, longer hours, easier connections and simpler ticketing), running more trains (e.g. from Bury St Edmunds and March), building travel hubs (e.g. a bus station at Cambourne, a train station at Fulbourn Hospital, and a Park & Ride at the Girton Interchange), upgrading bus stops, and creating safer routes to walk and cycle into and around the city.
Once the City Deal and future mayor really deliver on that, then county and district councillors may feel more inclined to back extending parking controls in Cambridge.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 22 March 2017.