Thursday 19 November 2015

Pavement Parking, Costa Coffee Tax Dodging

Pavement Parking

I was very glad to receive a letter from our MP, Daniel Zeichner, saying he will support the Pavement Parking Bill when it goes through parliament in a couple of weeks time. It's long been the bane of people's lives that some people choose to place their personal property in a position that will endanger other people getting about. From wheelchair users and parents with children in buggies being forced into the street to just anyone wanting to walk down the pavement, this is a positive move.

It may, I hope, give the local police force a bit of a kick in the right direction. With their spectacular social media backfire on #BadlyParkedBike campaign, where they failed to understand that a aesthetically displeasing position of a bike (which were most of their tweets) is nothing like as dangerous as a badly parked car. They even got confused what it was their social media campaign was trying to do, with the right hand thinking something different from the left.

I suspect the big issue is that the simple prevalence of badly and dangerously parked cars is so much that the police cannot even consider trying to tackle it. It'd be tantamount to stopping bees visiting a local meadow with one officer and a dog.

That's not a bad analogy as many people would get angry about it as well. "Why are you trying to stop me (the bees)?", "Why shouldn't I do this (the bees pollenate)?". It's so part of our national subconscious to "let ourselves off" when we have to do it as there is no alternative. It's mostly we haven't thought about how easy the alternative is. And the below brings this into sharp focus.

Unloading Rules

Anyhoo, it is one particular form of pavement parking that this is about, the unloading van. And in particular, a look at one specific nearby international chain shop.

Now the rules for where to stop for unloading are different [PDF] from general parking regulation. You can, for instance, stop on a double yellow line for a short period of time. Although with some examples, you'd had thought all regulations are moot. They aren't.

Sadly, I've watched as local parking attendants laugh and chat with people stopped in cyclelanes, specifically banned by law as noted in the Freight Trade Association guide [PDF]. This despite their being a legal place for them to stop just 20 metres away.

So, looking at the advice from the FTA, they give specific places where you cannot stop (and by using that wording it's matching Highway Code implying it's illegal, not just to be avoided).

That last bit, "causing obstruction" and giving the example of near a junction. And "dangerous position" as well.

Costa Coffee Breaking the Rules

So here's a Costa Coffee lorry. Note they are unloading, near a junction. Precisely what the FTA guide says not to do. On top of that, can you see the traffic lights on the left side of the road (different from the red light on the right)? No, they are obscured by the parked lorry. Surely this would also fall into the category of "dangerous position"?

From Cambridge CycleStreets

This picture shows how close to the lights anyone needs to get before they can see them. Also, please note that this isn't a different picture of the same parking offence, it's a completely different time. As are all the photos below (note the Co-op shop past the green lights, it comes up later!).

From Cambridge CycleStreets

I do note that Costa Coffee are not the only abusers here, however they are the most frequent and use heavier vehicles than any others.

Another example. Again, no traffic light visibility to people on the road.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

And yet another example. Again, no traffic light visibility to people on the road.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

I think you get the picture now. Unlike anyone on the road.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

Now this would be bad enough, but it gets worse. Sometimes the delivery driver doesn't get all the way onto the pavement. Ah good, lots of space for people walking. But that's not an issue here, and rarely is.

What has become an issue is simply space for traffic to pass. The junction has two separate light phases: one for straight on, and one much shorter one for turning right.

In the picture below, the stopped lorry is sufficiently in the road space that with right turning traffic stopped, there is no room for the Cambridge sightseeing bus to pass. Forgive me, but I think the tourists were a little less likely to want to see stopped traffic outside an international chain shop than the jems of the one of the top tourist destinations in the UK. Just look at the queuing traffic!

From Cambridge CycleStreets

This really does tick the "causing obstruction" box!

Here's another example, this time small traffic can just get past. What happens when a bus or lorry turns up?

From Cambridge CycleStreets

Now, one thing that Costa Coffee might say is "Well, where can we unload?". Here's where. Just 10 metres away. Note the double yellows mean it should be clear of parked cars.

From Google Streetview

Sometimes there's a variance from the above examples of illegal unloading. Sometimes the delivery drivers go on the other side of the street, in the cyclelane. Again, this is illegal. It's noted second from bottom on the FTA guide above.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

Tax Dodging

So, why am I bringing up the concept of tax dodging. Well, it simply comes down to two factors.

First, a company like this knew that they needed to take deliveries, they knew that they'd have to take up space to make sure their business can keep running. Remember the Co-op shop nearby? They have set aside space for delivery. That cost them money. They accepted this as a reasonable cost of them doing business here.

Have Costa Coffee done anything similar? No. Maybe they couldn't get space in the planned development. But howabout co-ordinating with the Co-op and giving them some money to use the space they have set aside?

Second, and this is where the dodge really kicks in and cost us. It's estimated that pavement parked vehicles do around £3m damage in Cambridgeshire annually (so £200-300m in the UK). We all have to pay for that (or accept the bills for not fixing it) out of our local and national taxation. Costa Coffee have passed on their cost of delivery to us. Yes, our taxes are used to pay for Costa Coffee's delivery process.

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

Vibrant businesses help our city. I don't want Costa Coffee and/or their drivers to be punished. I just want them to behave according to the law, their Trade Association advice, and in a socially acceptable manner.


  1. Do you have a source for the £300m damage figure?

    1. Thanks for that check, I'd forgotten to link to it! ;-)

      Interesting that the estimate comes from Cambridgeshire, so I've adjusted the text a little.

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