There’s finally a residents parking scheme in South Newnham. The hundreds of cars that used to park and be stored there are gone, and even with new double-yellow lines in the dense centre of the area, there is now room for residents, visitors and carers/tradespeople.
The hours are ‘part-time’, 11-2 every day, discouraging all-day parkers but giving flexibility and saving people money on permits. There are 30-minute bays by the local shops. Residents had to fight long and hard to get County Council agreement for these features; locals didn’t want 9-5, nor dozens of new poles and large signs in the Conservation Area, and they wanted to support local businesses.
It shouldn’t have to be so difficult – there’s a long list of improvements that could make the whole process more efficient and less time-consuming. But so far things seem to be working well, with just a few snags to be resolved, including confusing signage. In line with what has happened in other residents parking scheme areas, non-resident traffic has disappeared. But there’s a mystery: where did all those cars go?
Smarter Cambridge Transport believes that the issue of on-street parking is not just about residents being able to park close to their homes: it’s about safety, fair access to a limited communal asset, and the right to clean air. Free commuter parking contributes to congestion and pollution. It also undermines public transport, including park-and-ride and rural bus services.
If drivers had been surveyed before the scheme was designed and after it was implemented, we would be able to understand in detail a residents parking scheme’s effect on traffic congestion. Are affected drivers now using public transport, car-sharing, cycling or walking? If not, where are they parking now? The misery of one area largely just gets moved on to another, and we don’t have the data that could help inform schemes elsewhere.
The biggest disappointment of all is that drivers were not offered any new travel options in the more than three years it has taken to set up this scheme. What choice do some still have except to seek out streets that don’t yet have parking schemes?
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 23 October 2019.